Low in green, leafy vegetables and whole foods, the standard Western diet falls short in most key vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and nutrient requirements. It is also a diet high in fats, toxins and acidity, making it a perfect storm for health issues.
Even modern diets which include fresh store-bought fruits and vegetables are not fully nutritious, due to a lack of ripeness at harvest, lengthy storage and shipping times, and modern plant varieties.
It is because of these factors that green superfoods are an important addition to our modern diet.
Why Green Superfoods?
As a nation, we find ourselves suffering the ill-effects of poor nutrition, with diabetes, obesity, depression, high cholesterol and cancer being just a few of the risks we run through the adherence of a diet devoid of many key nutritional components.
Green superfoods are a viable solution to disease prevention and improved overall health, with nearly all of them performing exceptionally as nutritional powerhouses.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a superfood as "A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being"--a description green superfoods more than meets. It should also be noted that the term does not indicate any one type of superfood; but rather, a variety of nutrient dense foods coming from a multitude of sources, all of which are whole foods grown from the earth. This includes all forms of green superfoods.
Since green superfoods are most often available in freeze-dried, powdered form, they are not only more nutrient dense than grocery store produce, but convenient as well, since they require little or no prep time.
When adding green superfoods to one's diet, a variety of green foods is advised. While green foods are known for their high absorption rates of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it is nonetheless best for users to include multiple nutritional sources in their diet, making a combination of green superfoods--as opposed to choosing a single "best" one--a superlative approach to good health.
While there is a variety of green foods to choose from, some of the most nutritious include the following:
Spirulina is a blue-green micro-algae commonly found on freshwater lakes and ponds around the world. It is a potent source of proteins, nutrients and phytonutrients. Of note is the algae's 70% protein content--something which makes it an attractive addition to the diets of bodybuilders, athletes, or others needing additional proteins in their diet.
Until recently, spirulina was classified was as a plant, due to its high amounts of plant pigments and abilities of photosynthesis. However, spirulina has more recently been recognized as being of bacterial (probiotic) nature due to its "genetic, physiological and biochemical properties."
Spirulina also includes three species: Spirulina platensis (Arthrospira platensis), Spirulina maxima (Arthrospira maxima) and Spirulina fusiformis (Arthrospira fusiformis). Of these, all three are edible and contain high amounts of both nutrition, as well as therapeutic qualities, including evidence of improved heart health, heavy metal detox, cancer prevention and lowering of cholesterol. All three also contain high amounts of calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Used By NASA
Declared as one of the most important foods of the future in 1974 by the World Food Conference, NASA began utilizing spirulina in their space programs due to its high nutritional content, lack of bulk, and ease of use. This adoption as the main fixture in the diet plan of astronauts led to an increase in popularity, although it still took many years to fully catch on.
Color Source and Antioxidants
Spirulina has a deep, blue-green color coming from a pigment called phycocyanin, said to have the powers of fighting free radicals (oxidation) in the body. This is due to the many powerful antioxidants it possesses and is also an important factor in reversing health problems stemming from the SAD.
Unfortunately, most foods in the SAD are acidic, leaving our nation prone to a host of problems stemming from unbalanced PH. Since spirulina grows in subtropical regions in highly alkaline waters, it is a rich source of alkali, which is key for healthy and balanced PH levels.
Since our bodies pull alkalizing minerals, such as calcium, from our bones as a means of balancing our PH, a lack of PH balance can lead to weak bones and osteoporosis. By adding spirulina to our diets, not only can we achieve a balanced PH, but also add calcium, as opposed to depleting it, as dried spirulina contains about 120 mg of calcium per 100 grams of spirulina--or about the same as milk.
While there are similarities between chlorella and spirulina, there are also some key differences. For instance, chlorella is a single walled botanical organism with a spherical shaped cell and a nucleus, while spirulina is a spiral shaped and multi-celled organism with no true nucleus.
Also unlike chlorella, spirulina is not a true plant, but rather, a cyanobacteria, as well as a blue-green--rather than green--algae. This makes spirulina technically a probiotic.
However, both spirulina and chlorella grow in freshwater and contain a rich source of vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and proteins. Of the two, spirulina is known as a slightly better source of nutrition than chlorella.
Why Use Both?
Regardless, this does not mean chlorella should be overlooked, particularly since a balanced diet contains a variety of nutritional sources, and there are also advantages to consuming chlorella which other green superfoods may not fulfill.
Like spirulina, chlorella is known to rid the body of heavy metals and other impurities, and this detoxification is a key reason chlorella is looked upon as having cancer-fighting properties. It also contains high concentrations of antioxidants, which further the cancer-fighting assets.
Studies have shown evidence of chlorella aiding in the reduction of blood pressure, as well as reducing aminotransferase liver enzyme levels in patients of hepatitis C.
Rich in vitamin C, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, chlorella also benefits glowing, healthy skin. Chlorella may help increase our body’s production of collagen—a protein produced by the body, and necessary in skin elasticity. A 1% solution of derma chlorella—a type of chlorella which benefits the skin—has been shown to increase the skin’s tone and firmness during clinical trials.
Additionally, chlorella may help in reducing the effects of psoriasis, rosacea and other skin problems due to its formulation of new blood cells.
- Barley Grass
Barley grass is another rich source of vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and other nutrients. In particular, the fiber in barley grass holds a key benefit in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as supporting healthy gut bacteria and digestion.
Fiber has an indigestible nature, frequently playing a role in weight management due to its propensity for indicating fullness.
Barley grass is high in beta carotene, pantothenic acid, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12, folic acid and amino acids; and magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and phosphorus also have a strong presence, making barley grass a potent natural vitamin and mineral source.
Anti-ageing properties of Supergreens
Cell rejuvenation properties can be found in barley grass, with such vital building blocks as chlorophyll, B vitamins phycocyanin and iron available. This combination helps support white blood cell production in bone marrow, as well as aiding in healthy aging through the rejuvenation of aging cells.
Enzymes in barley grass also aid in digestion, which in turn, helps in maintaining clear, youthful looking skin, as well as other synergistic benefits of healthy digestion.
A major benefit of barley grass is its ability to provide cell protection from radiation and other cellular damage. This is particularly good for inhabitants of cities, x-ray techs or other persons prone to high radiation stress, and it can add therapeutic relief of damaged cells through the presence of superoxide dismutase enzymes.
As with other green superfoods, barley grass can aid in the balancing of the body's PH, due to it being a source of alkaline. This is important, since an acid-alkali imbalance can lead to sleep disorders, constipation, fatigue, weak fingernails and chest pains.
The Importance of Digestive Bacteria
The soluble and insoluble fibers found in barley grass are an important part of digestive health, since gut bacteria need fiber to thrive. With the SAD offering little in the way of fiber content, many are left constipated, tired, under-nourished and in some cases, with a leaky gut.
The fiber in barley grass and other green foods may help reverse this, and it is recommended that anyone with symptoms of low gut bacteria consider adding this key nutrient to their diet.
One of the most commonly known green superfoods, as well as one of the most beneficial, a 2-oz portion of wheatgrass juice has about the equivalent nutritional value of 5-lbs of fresh produce. This makes it one of the most nutritionally dense superfoods available. Wheatgrass is also a rare vegetarian source of complete protein (contains all key amino acids), with 20% of its calories coming from protein.
Health Benefitsof Chlorophyll
As with other deep green superfoods, wheat grass is loaded with chlorophyll--a pigment in green plants which helps turn light into energy. Chlorophyll is a strong source of vitamins A, C, K and E, can neutralize odors, is anti-fungal, and can aid in detoxing the body.
Studies show us that wheatgrass can reduce the number of blood transfusions for those with the blood disorder thalassemia.
Chlorophyll can also help build red blood cells, although it has not been proven to reduce blood transfusions.
Regardless, these findings lead us to believe that wheatgrass may benefit those at high altitude, blood donors, or anyone suffering oxygen depletion.
Another benefit to the consumption of wheatgrass is its aid in increased red blood cell production. This is an important aspect of immune health, as well as with the body's increased oxygen uptake. Along with the increase in red blood cell production is wheatgrass’ vitamin C content--a tandem of which can help us avoid illness, particularly during cold and flu season. Antioxidants found in wheatgrass also help fight free radicals in the body which diminish immune health in the short run, and also lead to early aging, fogginess, and even cancer.
Wheatgrass also contains selenium--a mineral necessary in maintaining a healthy thyroid gland. Since the thyroid is one of the body's essential weight management tools, adding selenium to our diet can help guard against irregular thyroid production, and aid in weight loss.
This is also something the soluble and insoluble fiber found in wheatgrass can play an essential role in, since healthy gut bacteria and digestion both require adequate fiber, and both can lead to healthy weight management.