Fresh raw vegetables have life force. A life force that can fuel our own health and vitality. Pulling from the Latin vegetabilis (animated) and from vegetare (enliven), we can say that vegetables allow us to wake up and move both our body and brain.
Most vegetables are very high in water and necessary vitamins and minerals. They are a perfect compliment to animal protein meals to help supply the nutrients that aid in the digestion and utilization of those foods. Most vegetables are predominantly carbohydrate, with important fiber bulk to assist the bowels. But that is not all, vegetables are loaded with vitamins C and A, along with some B vitamins, trace minerals, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. The dark leafy greens, yellow or orange vegetables, such as squash, carrots and peppers, are all high in beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A in our body. Vitamin A helps to protect tissues during infections, repair tissues after injury or surgery, and promote rapid recovery. One important function of vitamin C is in the formation and maintenance of collagen, the basis of connective tissue, which is found in skin, ligaments, cartilage, vertebral discs, joint linings, capillary walls, and the bones and teeth. Vitamin C is also used to aid those withdrawing from drug or substance addictions like sugar, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. There is so much more to share, however for now we can simply say… GREENS HAVE IT!
Chlorophyll which is part of most plants and especially high in the dark green vegetables, has special healing properties. Where blood is the most basic component of the human body, plants have their basis in chlorophyll. Many studies have shown that chlorophyll extracts provide intestinal nourishment and has a soothing or healing effect on the mucous linings. Chlorophyll has been found beneficial to help detoxify or purify our system, the liver in particular, as well as healing skin ulcers. Anticancer effects have been given to the cruciferous family vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
The most nutritious way to eat vegetables is fresh and raw. However raw vegetables eaten in large quantities are harder for some people to chew and digest and can produce intestinal gas. Broccoli is one example of a raw vegetable with this quality. Light steaming of the broccoli (vegetables) will soften them without depleting much of their nutrients. Baked vegetables will also hold their nutrients. If we boil vegetables, many of their nutrients go into the water, so unless you will be drinking the water or making this into a soup, boiling is not ideal.
Keeping with a feeling of fresh, raw, or slightly steamed, leafy greens are probably the richest in nutrients of any food s in the animal kingdom. The greener they are, the more nutritious they are. [green = chlorophyll]
Dandelion greens are one of the richest sources of vitamin A around and are known to neutralize excess acids in the stomach and intestines. The healing properties of the leaves and root range from treating a variety of liver and gallbladder issues, breast diseases and water retention to easing joint pain, fever and skin diseases. In 1984 the USDA ranked dandelions in the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value. This power packed green makes a wonderful healing addition to a yummy summer salad.
Kale is a fairly tasty vegetable with a rich array of nutrients and can be found as lacinato kale and purple kale in addition to the curly kale common to most stores. The lacinato and purple varieties have a sweeter taste. Before you turn up your nose at this tasty delight, check out the nutrients in one cup of steamed kale. Note that one cup of steamed kale requires two to three cups of fresh kale so the following numbers are approximates.
* A little over 50 calories
* 10g carbohydrate
* 3-4g of protein
* 2-3g of fiber
* less than 1g of fat
* nearly 8000 IU’s of vitamin A
* between 150 and 200 mg of calcium
* 30 mg of magnesium
* 2mg iron
* 300mg of potassium
* vitamin C comes in between 100-150 mg
* traces of manganese, copper and zinc
* less than 50mg of sodium
* with 40mcg of folic acid
Can we say WOW, or Holy WOW. the Greens have it all. Here are a few more tidbits. Cabbage is a nutritious anticancer cruciferous vegetable that is low in fat and can even help reduce body fat levels. Red cabbage is higher than green in vitamins A and C, but lower in folic acid and chlorophyll. Fermented cabbage, called sauerkraut, is loaded with digestive enzymes and is a key player in killing off candida from the body.
Chard is a rich source of vitamin A, and has fair amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Regular or rainbow chard is good hot with a bit of melted butter or flaxseed oil. One of my favorite breakfast meals is 2 cups steamed chard with 6 egg whites and a tsp of Flaxseed oil. I feel very satisfied after eating this breakfast.
Steamed Collard greens are wonderful with sauteed onions. Collards are strong in folic acid, vitamin C and another rich source of vitamin A. Collards make an excellent fiber source and contain the minerals calcium, potassium, iron and zinc in plenty. Another wonderful recipe combination is sauteed onions + steamed collards + ground turkey + flaxseed oil on top. Yummy!!!
Green leaf, red leaf, butter lettuce and romaine make for wonderful salads. Remember those dark green in color are richer in chlorophyll, vitamin A and folic acid. Lettuces also contain some calcium, potassium and iron and are good fiber foods. We can toss spinach into this dark green leafy family as well. The Popeye tale brought spinach to the forefront with the saying that “Spinach makes ya strong!!!” One cup of uncooked spinach has nearly 2 mg of iron; 4500 IU’s of vitamin A and a healthy dose of vitamin C. The B vitamins are low except for folic acid. Potassium, magnesium and calcium are high with copper, manganese and zinc saying a healthy hello. Raw spinach does contain oxalic acid, which may bind some of the calcium and other minerals. Spinach is a good addition to a salad or can be used as a substitute for lettuce. Note: once fresh spinach is cooked or a can is opened, it should be consumed within the day and not stored, due to the potential oxidation of iron.
Watercress is a spicy green from the mustard family and used in herbology as to purify the blood. Known as an anticancer super food, watercress can significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells, when eaten on a daily basis. This spicy green makes a lovely addition to salads and contains high quantities of vitamin A and calcium. Traces of nearly all the B vitamins are present along with vitamin C, potassium, iron and magnesium.
My intention at this point was to add in a few recipe ideas. Google opened a huge portal of possibilities. I found Watercress Soup; Thai Grilled Watercress Salmon; Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts, Parmesan and Basil; Mushroom, Kale and White Bean Skillet…. and the list keeps going. So rather than pop in what is making ME hungry, head to your computer and do a search for what YOU are wanting.
Be creative as you explore these wonderful, healthy, healing greens that bring vitality to your plate.
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NADINE is a Naturopath and Holistic Nutrition Specialist with over 30 years experience in the Health and Fitness Industry and teaches her clients the Art of building and maintaining lean muscle tissue as they drop body fat in a unique program designed for them. Nadine has coached all levels and genre of people and has taught a variety of programs including but not limited to Personal and Sports Nutrition, Sports Psychology, and Weight Lifting/Bodybuilding. Nadine is available for seminars and workshops based on availability. For more information contact Dr NADINE at 970-443-2541, email: Nadine@CoachNadine.com or visit www.coachnadine.com