The more you search this crazily confusing world of nutrition, the more you realise that not everything is as it seems… certain “health” foods are less than healthy, and sometimes too much of a “good” thing is really not so great! And when it comes to greens this is certainly the case.
The whole green machine has really taken off over the last few years, with people seeking to alkalise, detoxify, increase nutrition in their diet, and really feel like they are doing something “healthy” for themselves – even if it means holding your nose, screwing your face up, and downing something that resembles a swamp in the process. However, could we have been misled? Or are we getting our facts slightly confused? In short… Yes and yes. So let’s go through our greens and make it all as clear as the freshwater lakes where spirulina grows 😉
Spirulina, Chlorella and Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA)
While each of these has slightly different properties, I have grouped them together because they are all blue green algae. These little superfoods have an incredible spectrum of nutrients including iron, vitamin B12, beta-carotene and many more. They are also a complete protein and have been boasted as a great vegetarian protein source, with more protein per gram than steak… HOWEVER! I would like you to note here that when you consume steak you would eat say 150 grams? While the serving size of algae is more like 5-10 grams… so the protein content is not really a valid comparison in my view. Blue green algae can help to support immune function, balance blood sugar levels, aid detoxification, improve energy and metabolic function, as well as support memory and cognitive performance. This is DEFINITELY one to include in your daily diet (preferably of the organic variety and with a broken cell wall if buying chlorella).
Wheat Grass & Barley Grass
These two beauties should also be considered as your daily greens. Grasses are fantastic sources of calcium, vitamin C, silica and enzymes. Although wheat and barley grass come from gluten containing grains, the grass itself is gluten free. Wheat and Barley grass, either juiced or in their powdered form, are very easily digestible, and surprisingly palatable when mixed with a smoothie, juice or even into water or coconut water. They are extremely alkalising, supportive of thyroid function and will also help you to gently chelate or neutralise heavy metals in the body (NOTE: If you have high levels of heavy metals, this is not really going to do the trick… you should seek professional advice).
Kale, Spinach & Collard Greens
Here is where we get a little confusing… don’t get me wrong. I LOVE green leafy vegetables. But this isn’t a situation where a bit of a good thing is good, and more is better. Too many green leafies… particularly when you begin juicing them and adding them to smoothies, can be detrimental. Yes it is true that they are high in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and iron, but they are also high in oxalates – a potential precursor to kidney stones and other stone formation in the body. If you look back at how traditional cultures consumed green vegetables, they were always as an adjunct to a meal, and usually lightly cooked. However, today, with the introduction of juicing, blending and the rise in popularity of raw food diets, we are consuming greens in a vastly different manner. Now it IS true that the body produces oxalates endogenously, however the oxalates coming from dietary sources should still be considered. For some people, they pose no issue whatsoever, however for others they can attribute to conditions such as kidney stones and urinary issues, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, candida, vulvodynia and autistic spectrum disorders. Not to mention the fact that stacks of bitter vegetables in your smoothies and juices don’t actually taste that nice! So while we have many other digestible, harmless and more palatable options, personally I would lean towards them.
Did you know that chlorophyll is effectively plant blood? It is identical in structure to human blood, however where we have a molecule of iron attached, the plant has magnesium. How interesting! It is not surprising then, that chlorophyll can help to build and cleanse the blood, improving energy and the circulation of oxygen. It also works as an internal deodorant, neutralising bad breath and body odour, is anti-inflammatory and again, is effective at alkalising and mildly detoxifying the body. However, like the other greens, it is important to keep in mind that you are consuming chlorophyll in relatively small quantities, so while it is a nice to have and a beneficial inclusion in your health regime, I personally don’t believe it will be THE ONE AND ONLY thing that will cure all ailments.
So how do I get my greens? Well, I do love a green smoothie in the morning or throughout the day, but rather than consuming masses of spinach and kale I prefer to use easy to digest and assimilate powders like Shakti’s Superfood Blend.
I do still love spinach and kale, but prefer to eat these lightly sautéed or dressed with lemon juice in salads. I also eat a lot of raw parsley (which I believe is a superfood in its own right!) and other herbs, and when I remember (which is not often!) will pop some chlorophyll into my water bottle.
Love your green smoothie, but want to try something new? Why not give my latest recipe a go! I would love to hear how else you get your greens, so go ahead and leave your recipe or tip in the comments box below 🙂