Green foods have recently become a focus of modern natural health practices across Texas and the United States. Juice bars and natural health food markets in Austin, Dallas, and Houston boast smoothies with spirulina, vegetable juices with chlorella, and power shots of wheatgrass. Naturopaths have been known to prescribe super green foods to aid in the treatment of diseases ranging from asthma, to HIV, to lupus. While the incredibly rich mossy color of these supplements don't always look appealing, most of us think, "Well, it's probably good for me anyway." But just how good may prove surprising. Better yet, you don't even need a health insurance policy to cover it.
One pound of wheatgrass is the nutritional equivalent of twenty-five pounds of quality vegetables. Blue-green algaes, such as spirulina, have not only high levels of vitamins and minerals, but, pound for pound, more protein than meat or soybeans, and in laboratory tests, have proven instrumental in increasing the survival rate of cancer-infected mice. Alfalfa, a common ingredient in livestock feed, actually contains all known vitamins. Most of the time, only a teaspoon or tablespoon is required to gain nutritional benefit, and, really, we're just starting to figure out the health benefits of these super foods.
While consuming these power greens may make our health insurance companies and spouses happy, most of us have trouble enough just pronouncing their names. It can be a bit confusing to figure out which green food does what. To make life a little simpler, here is a basic overview of some of the most popular super green foods, which can be easily located in the supplement section of any major natural health food market in Texas:
Some would argue that alfalfa, though a green food, is not a "super green food." Many practitioners disagree. This well-known, seemingly ordinary grass, often fed to livestock and horses across Texas, is one of the most mineral-rich foods on the planet. Its roots can grow as deep as 130 feet, and in addition to all known vitamins, contains chlorophyll (considered highly nutritious when processed correctly), calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. The minerals are present in a balanced form, which allows for maximum absorption.
Alfalfa is available in liquid, capsule, tablet, powder, and, of course, as the plant itself. It has been used to treat diseases ranging from arthritis to anemia, to bleeding gums, to cancer, and, like all other green foods, is still under study to discover the extent of its healing properties.
(2) Barley Grass
Containing iron, all essential amino acids, chlorophyll, flavonoids, vitamin B12, vitamin C, minerals, and enzymes, barley grass, too, is an often overlooked green food. It is highly nutritious, has been used to help treat stomach and intestinal disorders, and acts as an effective anti-inflammatory.
One of the few edible species of water-grown algae, chlorella is virtually a complete food in and of itself. Its massive quantities of chlorophyll and protein in ratio to its size make it a power-punch for those lacking protein, as well as a storehouse of nutrition, with high levels of all the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, amino acids, and rare trace minerals.
Chlorella offers more B12 than liver per serving, and speeds the cleansing of the bloodstream. Its high RNA and DNA content are also believed to be agents in the fight against the effects of ultraviolet radiation. A good chlorella source needs to be factory processed, however, as its tough cell wall makes it difficult for the body to access its nutrients.
Chlorophyll, while available in many forms as a separate nutrient, is also listed as a powerful component within many green foods. At first this may seem odd. After all, most in Texas and across the United States were taught that chlorophyll is a plant food, bound within a tough cell wall, and of little use to humans. And while it is true that chlorophyll usually needs to be processed in order to be more easily accessible to our bodies, research reports great benefits when properly consumed.
A better understanding of the cell structure itself has shed light on the situation. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells, whose central metallic atom is iron. The main, and quite simple, difference between a molecule of hemoglobin and a molecule of chlorophyll is that chlorophyll's central metallic atom is, instead, magnesium. The two may, in fact, be so similar as to someday justify treatments for certain types of anemia with chlorophyll; experiments on anemic animals reported a return to normal iron levels after four or five days of chlorophyll treatment.
Kelp may be a bit more familiar than other green foods, as it is a seaweed common in Asian cuisine, and is actually often used in toothpastes. It can be eaten raw, dried, granulated, or ground into powder. Granulated or powdered kelp is a tasty flavoring, and can be used as a salt substitute.
Like all green foods, kelp is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. It is especially useful for its high B-vitamin and iodine content, and has, consequently, been used to treat certain thyroid diseases -- possibly a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic seen in Dallas, Houston, and many other Texas regions. Kelp is thought to be additionally beneficial to brain tissues and their surrounding membranes, the sensory nerves, spinal cord tissue, nails, and blood vessels.
Iodine tablets are often given to those in high-risk jobs involving radiation to help protect against its effects in the event of an accident. Kelp, too, is believed to somewhat combat the effects of radiation, probably due to its high iodine content.
One of the first microalgaes to gain public recognition, spirulina is considered by many to be a miracle food. This is one of the most popular green food supplements seen in Texas and across the United States. At 60-70% protein content, it produces twenty times more protein than soybeans on an equal area of land, and is unparalleled by any single grain, herb, or plant for its high nutrient content. Among its top nutrients are gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), linoleic and arachidonic acids, vitamin B12, essential amino acids, nucleic acids RNA and DNA, chlorophyll and phycocyanin -- a blue pigment found only in blue-green algae and proven to increase the survival rate of laboratory mice with certain types of cancer.
Research is still underway, but many practitioners claim its power to enhance the immune system, reduce cholesterol, and aid in mineral absorption. With its high protein and nutrient content, spirulina is especially helpful to hypoglycemics and those who are fasting. The super food has been used to assist in the treatment of cancer and HIV, as well as many other serious diseases affecting nutrient absorption and the immune system.
Its name makes wheatgrass sound a bit like a genetically-modified new addition to the ever-growing scheme of biological experimentation, but it is, in fact, nothing of the kind. Popularized by Dr. Ann Wigmore, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute, wheatgrass is a growing international phenomena, with its great variety of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Doctors like Wigmore have been promoting wheatgrass for over a decade and, indeed, most would claim a definite boost of energy after a single serving. It has been used as an important part of therapies used to treat wide-ranging diseases, including cancer, immunological disorders, and mental health problems. Overall, it's just a great supplement for anyone, providing a healthy shot of much-needed vitamins and a kick of natural energy. Who needs coffee?
Green foods of any kind - be they kale, broccoli, or arugula -- are highly nutritious, highly beneficial, and do nothing but good things for your body. But this new era of discovering super green foods just may make nutrition on- the- go that much easier for super busy Americans, with little time to cook and prepare the nutritious meals we crave. The best recommendation is to start slowly. Mix a teaspoon of powdered super greens into a large, thick, sweet smoothie. This will help you acclimate to the taste while gaining that power-punch of vitamins. Or, like so many, just shoot it. Ask for a single serving of freshly juiced wheatgrass at your local juice bar, throw it down your gullet, and see what an energy kick you get for the day. After all, your nutrition is in your hands, and it may be just a teaspoon away.
What nutrients you put into your body will certainly affect your health as you age, and eventually your wallet as well.
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com