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Green Foods Supplements
by Dave Foreman
Don't Forget your greens!
Last year, as part of my 4 steps to building a healthier you, I mentioned using Superfoods as one of the four critical steps. Greens fall into this category, but I want to really bring out the importance of using greens as part of your everyday diet/supplement program to achieve optimal health. Greens could literally be the one critical component missing from your diet that is keeping your from getting better.
Greens are one of our most important foods because they provide us with all of the essential components of health. Remember the old saying, "let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food?" This saying couldn't be more accurate than when talking about greens. Greens can and will have a direct, positive impact on ALL of our health issues. Greens are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber, phytochemicals and more.
What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are chemicals derived from plants (phyto is the Latin word for plant). Phytochemicals can possess a variety of properties that support many different facets of health, including immune, cardiovascular, structural, neurologic, endocrine (hormonal), digestive and more. The phytochemical properties of greens are one of the biggest benefits of consuming them. Examples of phytochemicals are carotenoids, flavonoids, plant sterols, polyphenols and lignans.
What are phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are plant nutrients. Nutrients obtained from plants are better digested, absorbed and retained. I remember years ago while teaching a class on herbs for a community college in Virginia, I found a study that said 1mg of vitamin C from a red pepper was equal in potency in the body to 1000mg of synthetic vitamin C. Why? Because God created us to obtain our nutrients from food, not from a laboratory chemist. Since greens are generally high in minerals and other critical nutrients, using greens would be like consuming a whole-food multivitamin/multimineral. Cereal grasses are usually a primary ingredient in green food supplements. In addition to their nutritional value, these plants also contain chlorophyll, the life blood of plants. Chlorophyll is the substance in plants that helps accomplish photosynthesis. It is also responsible for their green color. Traditionally, chlorophyll has been used to improve bad breath, as well as to reduce the odors of urine, feces, and infected wounds. Chlorophyll has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and wound-healing properties. Another common component of green food supplements is spirulina. Spirulina is a form of algae (blue-green in color) that provides the body with protein, high levels of beta-carotene, B-12, iron and essential fatty acids. Don't forget your green leafy vegetables either. New products are emerging using more green leafy ingredients. In addition to the benefits listed above, green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin-two nutrients that are recommended by natural health experts to support eye health, primarily age-related macular degeneration. Lastly, alfalfa is also used in these supplements. I usually recommend alfalfaas a great food for people who are looking for a change. It could be one of the most nutritious supplements available. Its roots go deep into the ground and therefore provide other nutrients such as minerals that might not make it into the other greens listed above. Alfalfa contains many of the nutrients listed above and also provides vitamins D, E, K and B-complex. In addition, it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and trace minerals.
How do I pick my greens?
It depends on nutritional benefits you are looking for. The best approach is to read product labels to help you determine which one is right for you.
When you pop into your local Vitamin Shoppe, you should notice a large selection of greens to choose from. My personal favorites (I have purchased) are Green Vibrance, ORAC Energy Greens, Berry Green, Perfect Food, ProGreens, Greens+, Barlean's Greens and Vitamin Shoppe® Bio Greens...just to name a few. I LOVE greens.
Remember, you can use greens as part of your everyday diet. When traveling, I usually buy a superfood juice and add in a packet of my ORAC Energy Greens, shake well, drink and go for my breakfast. It is fast, nutritious and tastes great. One of my favorite recipies is to use 8-10 ounces of a superfood juice (pick one), 1 heaping serving of greens and one serving of Omega-3 liquid and one serving of protein powder. When you use this as a morning meal or lunch, you save money and get something much better for you than stopping at your local fast food restaurant or snack machine. Don't forget that using greens on a daily basis is a great way to slowly detoxify your body too. I compare using greens daily to dusting your house daily. If you don't dust daily, you will get an accumulation of dirt and dust that becomes so thick that it can impact the health of your home "Body." Gentle daily detoxification is a great way to achieve optimal health.
There are often added benefits to your green products such as probiotics, berry extracts and other nutritional supplements. For the product that is best for you, I suggest consulting with your Vitamin Shoppe Health Enthusiast for the one that suits your needs. By reviewing the nutritional components found in most green food products, you can see why supplementing with greens can be so beneficial.
When choosing a greens supplement, check the label for fillers. Fillers are ingredients in formulas that are used to either save on expense, or help the product blend in liquids. Lecithin, apple pectin, apple fiber, brown rice germ and barley malt are examples of common fillers. Some have health benefits and some do not. The problem with fillers is that they commonly make up too much of a formula, thus crowding out more beneficial green foods. Also, beware of the number of ingredients in your greens supplement. Long lists of ingredients don't necessarily mean the product is better for you. Oftentimes these lists are padded to impress you and get you to buy a product, but the amounts are negligible for health benefits.
Lastly, you want to make sure you have a good blend of green food sources in your supplement. As mentioned above, each possible ingredient possesses different nutritional value and therefore it is advisable to seek a combination of all of these greens.
Remember, you are what you eat, and with the poor diet and lifestyle we tend to have, adding in a healthy dose of mother nature's greens can give your body the extra boost it needs to deal with the everyday stressors of life.