Greens for Immune System Health
You probably know that green leafy plants are good for you. As you’re about to learn, greens are the food group that most completely matches the nutritional needs of humans and eating more greens can have a profound effect on your immune system health.
Why are Greens so Unpopular?
Most diet plans and food pyramids hardly mention greens. Even vegetarian and raw food diets give little attention to green leafy plants. And it’s hard to find much nutritional information on greens too.
Greens are usually lumped together with roots (beets, carrots, etc.), flowers (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and non-sweet fruit (tomato, cucumber, etc.) and called “vegetables”. In fact, greens are not vegetables at all. It would be more accurate and less confusing to put greens into their own food group.
One of the most common reasons for the unpopularity of greens is that many people think they taste bitter. In today’s society, most people’s taste buds have become accustomed to and actually crave the artificial flavors and sugar found in processed foods. The other reason greens are unpopular is that they are the most misunderstood of all the food groups.
But as you’re about to read, greens are perhaps the most important food group – and there’s a way to eat greens that actually tastes great.
What’s so Great about Greens?
- Protein. Contrary to popular belief, greens are one of the best sources of protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and they are abundant in greens. In fact, eating a variety of greens in your diet will cover all of your essential amino acids in abundance. For example, one pound of kale contains similar or larger amounts of protein and essential amino acids than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The protein in greens is simple, in the form of the individual amino acid building blocks. This makes it much easier for your body to build the exact proteins that it needs starting from the basic raw materials. In contrast, the complex proteins found in meat and animal products are hard to digest and break down and can actually contribute to food allergies, immunological disorders and other health problems.
- Fiber. The abundant insoluble fiber in green leafy plants is a critical component of your body’s waste and toxin removal system. Insoluble fiber acts like a sponge and can absorb many times its own weight in toxins and help your body eliminate them. And getting lots of fiber is one of the best ways to boost your immune system, since most of your immune system is located in your digestive system.
- Vitamins and Minerals. Greens are rich in vitamins, including vitamin K, E, A, C, and many B vitamins. Greens also contain a wide variety of minerals and important phytonutrients. Calorie for calorie, greens are the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. The greens of plants usually have much higher vitamin and mineral contents than the roots. Carrot tops, for example, have several times more nutrition than carrot roots, but the tops are usually thrown away. Each type of green has its own unique nutritional profile. If a nutrient is low in one type of green, it is usually abundant in other greens. Therefore, consuming a variety of greens in your diet is the best way to maximize the nutritional benefits of greens.
- Enzymes and Digestion. Unlike many vegetables which can cause fermentation and gas if eaten with fruits, greens actually aid digestion by stimulating your body to secrete digestive enzymes. So greens can be successfully combined with any other food.
- Greens Boost your Immune System. It you take a look at any acid-alkaline food chart, you’ll see greens are one of the most alkaline of all foods. And raising your body’s pH by eating an alkaline diet is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. So adding more greens into your diet will not only boost your nutrition, but also boost your immune system.
How Should I Eat Greens?
Eat organic greens to get the highest nutrient contents and avoid extra toxins. Fresh non-wilting greens are much more nutritious than greens that are past their prime. Growing your own greens or buying locally is the best way to ensure freshness and maximize the nutrients in greens.
Eat greens raw. Cooking breaks down and destroys nutrients in food. And the hotter the cooking, the more nutrition is lost. That being said, low temperature cooking, such as steaming, preserves much of the nutrition in greens. Adding greens to soup or stew toward the end is another great way to preserve much of the nutrition while cooking.
Eating greens raw and uncooked is still the most nutritious option. Although salads and wraps are good, there’s another way to eat greens that provides much more nutrition and tastes great too.
The Green Smoothie Miracle
Plant cells are made of cellulose, a hardy and difficult material to digest. The tough cellulose has to be ruptured in order to get the nutrients out. You rupture the cellulose cells walls in greens when you chew them.
However, most people have weak chewing muscles and also have chronically low stomach acid from eating processed foods. The combination of tough cellulose cell walls and the reduced ability to chew and digest greens means that most of the nutrients in greens are never even absorbed by your body.
So how do you get all of the nutrition out of greens?
The answer is to blend them – and there is a secret to doing this. Using a blender breaks up the greens into very small pieces that require less stomach acid to digest and get all of the nutrients out. And blending leaves all of the nutrients intact.
The secret to blending greens is to blend bananas and other fruit together with the greens into a smoothie. The combination of greens and fruit creates the perfect balance of taste: not too sweet, not too bitter, with the pleasant smell and taste of freshness.
It’s important to use a good blender for making green smoothies to break the greens into very small particles (less than a millimeter). High power blenders specially designed for making smoothies work best. The ultra high speed Vitamix blender is the top of the line for making smoothies. You can also get good results with the Cuisinart Smooth Operator blender, so long as the blades are kept sharp and you finish blending with the high speed setting.
Many people have had amazing health testimonials from adding green smoothies to their diets. Green smoothies provide many times more nutrients than simply eating raw greens. Your body is designed to come into balance and regain its health if your give it all the raw materials it needs.
Because green smoothies are such a powerful source of nutrition, it’s important to start out slow and give your body time to adjust. If you begin eating too many green smoothies to often, the bacteria in your gut can produce extra gas until they get used to things. And your body may begin to “clean house” and release long-held toxins if you begin getting better nutrition. So start out with a small green smoothie each day and after a few weeks, increase the size of frequency slowly if you like.
Delicious, Healthy and Simple Green Smoothie Recipes
Below are a few green smoothie recipes. You can substitute other greens or make your smoothie thick or thin by using more or less water. You can even add a few ice cubes to make a cool smoothie. Add a drop or two of essential oils, like peppermint, for a twist. Be creative and experiment.
Cool Blueberry Bonanza:
2 leaves of kale
2 leaves of collard greens
1 leaf of red chard
1 cup Italian parsley
1 cup spinach
1 cup blueberries
2 cups filtered water
1 cup ice cubes
Blend well. Makes 1.5 quarts of smoothie
8 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 cup red grapes
2 cups filtered water
Blend well. Makes 1 quart of smoothie
2 cups lambsquarters
2 cups filtered water
Blend well. Makes 1 quart of smoothie
To learn more about how green smoothies can change your health, including testimonials, recipes and green smoothie case studies, we highly recommend the book Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko.