The Power of Green
You have no doubt seen the disease-inducing Food Pyramid. A simple way to convert it to a basically healthy food recommendation is to replace "grain" with "green." That eliminates most of the issues with following the Food Pyramid. But, it also confers several more advantages.
What's so great about green? Before we get into that, let's be clear that the fix just mentioned isn't ideal. It's just a massive improvement over something that does a huge disservice to humanity.
Simply following a grain to green food pyramid isn't what this article is recommending. It is a good start, though, if you need a quick way to improve your present nutritional plan and you are doing anything resembling the Food Pyramid.
Let's take a closer look at the power of green.
One of the first things we need to do is define what we mean by "green." To many people, this means having an iceberg lettuce salad with a wedge of anemic tomato, some sliced carrot, and some kind of dressing that contains sugar and hydrogenated oil. That is not what we mean. In fact, don't even consider iceberg lettuce food. It's just about devoid of nutrition. That's why it keeps so well and why restaurants like to use it. But sawdust is similarly devoid of nutrition and keeps well.
The "Table of Selected Nutrients in Selected Greens" (Table 1, below this text) shows you the relative nutritional content of one cup of various greens. Take a close look at that, and think about your own diet. What are you missing out on?
Table 1 doesn't show all the nutrients. Green vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, are loaded with all kinds of cancer-fighting phytochemicals and various micronutrients. And let's not forget the cleansing chlorophyll and fiber.
Among the green vegetables, there is a group known as "the miracle vegetables." These are especially high in valuable nutrients. These aren't grouped together by accident. They are all members of the brassica family. The most famous of these is probably broccoli.
In addition to simply being chockfull of such nutrients as those shown in the table, they contain glucosinolates. These glucosinates are essentially worthless to the body, until they are acted upon by myrosinase. Myrosinase is an enzyme in your digestive tract. It converts glucosinolates into isothiocyanates, which have a direct affect on human cancer cells. They suppress tumor growth and they suppress the ability of cancer cells to multiply. They have other advantageous properties, as well (for example, they help the liver).
My favorite brassica is kale, primarily because it's so heavily loaded with calcium. This is especially true if you grow your own and manage the soil properly. You can add calcium to the soil by making a compost of eggshells and coffee grounds. Adding lime to kale beds is also very beneficial. Kale, like the other brassicas, contains the other nutrients (phosphorus and magnesium being the key ones) that your body needs to utilize calcium. Kale is an outstanding calcium source.
This brings up a side issue. Many people take antacids a way of getting calcium. This is a poor way to get calcium. Three reasons:
So, despite the hype from the makers of Tums, taking antacids as a calcium supplement is very, very dumb idea. Don't do it.
Other brassicas include broccoli (already mentioned) and its frequent culinary companion cauliflower. Cabbages are brassicas--eat a variety of cabbage colors (not just green) to maximize the variety of phytochemicals and micronutrients you are taking in. Brussels sprouts, arugula, and watercress are also brassicas.
For these vegetables to be of nutritional value, you must not overcook them. I prefer kale raw. I have tried raw Brussels sprouts and don't recommend that. Some "experts" recommend eating all food raw. But doing so wears the teeth down. Humans have evolved rather fragile teeth and consequently our diets need to be fairly mushy. Sociologists and anthropologists have studied remote cultures where there is no cooking and have found that most adults have wear their teeth down to nubs before age 30. So, some raw and some cooked is fine--but all raw is not good. You need to sacrifice a bit of nutrition to save on tooth wear.
Another reason to cook is the more bitter a green is, the more nutritional it is. This is why raw kale tastes terrible unless it's in something. I had it in salads for years and always liked it, but the first time I ate raw kale by itself, I found the taste disgusting.
Don't deep fry anything. High heat destroys vitamin C and may carmelize the plant sugars (carmelized sugar is carcinigenic). Microwaving typically destroys about 97% of the nutrients, so don't do that either. Stir-fry and steaming are both good--they soften the food slightly, with far less nutritional loss than other cooking methods.
Earlier, I mentioned the cancer-fighting properties of greens. Let's briefly return to that. You've probably heard that blueberries are potent sources of anti-oxidants. Coffee, chocolate, and green tea are also potent sources--coffee being king.
What do chocolate and broccoli have in common? The same thing coffee and Brussels sprouts have in common: very high levels of anti-oxidants. Just don't eat chocolate-covered broccoli--it probably would not taste good.
Chemists can rank the "power" of one anti-oxidant relative to another, via the use of a number called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). The higher the number, obviously, the more free radicals it absorbs. See Table 2 for a glimpse at this. Notice where my favorite brassica is.
A strong, healthy body needs a strong, healthy nutritional foundation. Color yours green, and feel the power.
Table 1: Selected Nutrients in Selected Greens
|Beta carotene (mcg)||
|Calcium (mg)||Folate (mcg)||
|Lutein+ Zeaxanthin MCG)||Potassium (mg)|
|Red leaf lettuce||2,098||1,258||1||9||10||39||483||52|
Table 2: Antioxidant
strength of various vegetables,
|Red bell peppers||710|
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