The Complete Guide to Green Super Foods
Posted On By Elite Health
What are green super foods? Should I be taking them? And what are the benefits?
We love super greens here at Elite Health. From the grasses of wheatgrass and alfafa to spirulina algae, green super foods can have a powerful positive impact on your daily health.
Within this guide we aim to answer any questions you might have about green super foods. If we don’t answer question, feel free to drop up a comment and we’ll be happy to help.
5 Green Super Food Health Benefits
It is one thing to allege something is good for us because lots of people claim that they have personally benefited from eating it; it is another thing to produce peer-reviewed scientific evidence supporting those claims. In the case of green super foods, many studies have already been done and others are underway. The benefits stem from the nutritional density of the different grasses and algae termed green super foods and because they are all full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and trace elements which science has proved beneficial in themselves, such as dioxin which improves detoxification pathways. Let us look at the top 5 health benefits attributed to green super foods.
There is a growing body of work that points to green super foods being effective in helping to prevent cancer. They are full of antioxidants that combat cancer-causing free-radicals and other oxidants. The presence of chlorophyll, similar in make-up to haemoglobin, is key in this because it is very effective in fighting the conditions that cause cancerous cells to develop in the body as well as aiding blood-flow. Green super foods also promote the proliferation of cancer-fighting antibodies which also work against other chronic conditions Going back as far as 2004, Michael Donaldson’s paper, Nutrition and Cancer – A Review of the Evidence for an Anti-Cancerous Diet, draws positive conclusions. Carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are also found in abundance in super green foods and there is research which demonstrating how these also work against the development of cancer.
Green super foods boost your whole body, including your heart and circulatory system. In particular, phycocyamin, which is a pigment found in blue-green algae, helps to keep blood pressure under control. This is due to the positive effect it has on the endothelium, cells in blood vessels which regulate vascularity and oxidation. It also helps to keep LDL cholesterol levels low. This was demonstrated by a study conducted using rabbits, the results of which were documented in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. Working against bad fats in the diet reduces the build-up of plaque in the circulatory system which can otherwise lead to atherosclerosis. More research is underway to quantify the effect of green super foods on heart health, although some links are already well-established.
Improvements in Digestive Health
How efficiently our digestive system works is usually key to how well we feel more generally. The modern western diet, which for many people includes regular doses of junk food, sugary drinks and drugs taken for medical purposes, can all throw our system out of balance. It is difficult to ignore campaigns telling us all to eat more fibre, crucial for keeping the gut healthy. Fibre, together with the antioxidants in green super foods may play an important role in helping keep colon cancer at bay and promoting the right type of bacteria throughout the digestive system.
Inflammation is the way our bodies respond when they are out of balance. At its worst inflammation can have a deleterious effect on the functioning of cells, tissues and organs. Even less severe forms of inflammation manifests as a variety of aches and pains, such as arthritis, or other conditions, such as acne, IBS type symptoms, cancer and even heart disease. These are all things humans could well do without, even though sometimes our poor diets, irregular eating patterns, and consuming too much alcohol don’t help. Green super foods are rich in so many ingredients including very high sources of protein, calcium, iron and B vitamins, all of which work against the causes of inflammation.
Helping to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Work is still being done to establish the most effective way to use green super foods in a weight-reducing programme. However, because they control digestive enzymes and all the other things that make them nutritionally dense, they help to control the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates the hunger response. If a diet is deficient in the nutrients the body needs, it continually signals that more needs to be eaten. A diet which includes nutritionally dense green super foods curbs the hunger response and stops the cravings that cause us to eat more calories than we need. The role digestive enzymes play in promoting healthy bacteria could, as detailed in a report in Scientific America, help change for the better the way the body lays down fat.
What Are the Best Green super foods?
I have explained some of the health benefits green super foods provide generally. Each type of super green, irrespective of whether it is a grass or algae, has its own profile. Let’s look more closely at those green super foods regarded as being at the very top of the league.
All the following are high in fibre, aid bowel movement, play an important part in detoxifying the body and contribute to overall health. The nutritional information given below is approximate.
Before wheat develops seed heads and wheat germ kernels it looks like a grass. During this phase in its growth cycle its make up is more like a vegetable than a grain. It is 70% amino acid, rich in chlorophyll and with high quantities of vitamins C, B group and K. It also contains riboflavin and manganese. The chlorophyll wheatgrass contains makes it an effective foil against cancer cells. It also helps to promote blood-clotting and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
There is zero fat in 4 grams of wheatgrass, 15 calories, 1g of protein and 1 gram of dietary fibre. Key elements of its vitamin and mineral profile are as follows.
It also contains selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.
Vitamin B6 40mg
Vitamin E 320mg
Other vitamins present in amounts lower than the recommended daily amount include K, C and B12.
Barley grass is also high in amino acids, enzymes and vitamins C, E and K. It also has a mineral profile in which iron and calcium feature prominently and contains superoxide dismutase, which attacks free-radicals. Because it is a grass, people with gluten sensitivity should check with their doctor before supplementing their diet with it.
There are 250 calories in 100g of Barley Grass, 28g of protein, 5g of fat, which breaks down into saturated and unsaturated, and 40g of fibre. The vitamin and mineral profile of barley grass is excellent.
Vitamin C 190mg
Vitamin E (IU) 6.8mg
Vitamin B2 2.40mg
Vitamin B3 6.00mg
Vitamin B6 1.30mg
It is also rich in free amino acids.
Alfalfa is a hay crop and is rich in minerals such as magnesium, potassium and zinc. In addition, because it is a legume, alfalfa is a great source of protein which comprises all 8 of the essential amino acids. It is also rich in beta-carotene and carotenoid phytonutrient, an antioxidant that helps to counter the effect of UV light, Alfalfa is also an anti-inflammatory.
Key nutritional ingredients of alfalfa are given below:
30g of alfalfa contains just over 7 calories, 3 of which come from protein, 2.5 from carbohydrate and the rest fat. It also provides 1.3g of amino acid.
Vitamin A (IU) 51
Vitamin K 10mg
There are other grasses too, such as Moringa and Rhodiola, which I will leave you to do your own research on.
Spirulina is blue-green freshwater algae. It grows in lakes in remote parts of the world such as Siberia. Spirulina contains 60% protein and more beta-carotene than carrots. It also supplies a potent dose of phycocyanin, a pigment protein, which reputedly fights inflammation, stops the growth of cancer cells, has a beneficial effect on digestive health, reduces the risk of heart problems and lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol. When choosing Spirulina, take care to make sure that it doesn’t contain any contaminants from sea water.
There are 325 calories in 112g of Spirulina, 157 of which come from protein, 94 from carbohydrate and just over 70 from fat.
Vitamin A (IU) 640
Vitamin K 29mg
Vitamin C 11.3mg
It is only in recent years, due to modern techniques in food processing, that we have been able to extract the nutrients contained in chlorella from its cell walls. This is certainly worth the effort because it contains essential fats, vitamins, mineral and other micronutrients and research is underway to substantiate a belief among users that it can help reduce the effects of fibromyalgia. More evidence is also being sought to test the idea that uniquely, as usually it is only found in animal sources, chlorella is a valuable source of vitamin B12.
There are 410 calories in 100g of chlorella broken down into 234 calories of protein and 92 and 84 carbohydrate and fat, respectively.
Vitamin A (IU) 51,300
Vitamin C 10mg
How to Get Your Daily Dose of Green Super Foods
It is possible to eat the super green grasses in their natural state, providing you can find somewhere to buy them, but do you really want to start chewing on a piece of wheatgrass? Probably not. You can liquidise grasses providing you have a juicing machine capable of handling the job. As for algae, these are cultivated in remote environments and even if you could get hold of some, you are unlikely to want to sit down with a knife and fork and start dining on what is essentially seaweed.
The most convenient way of including green super foods in your diet is in powder or capsule form. The natural ingredients are slowly dried and then powdered. Powders and tablets should be concentrated so that you derive the benefit from a large dose. It must be said that the taste of some green super foods, whilst not totally unpleasant, may take some getting used to. We are told, we eat with our eyes and sludgy green health drinks don’t look too appetising to some people. Super green tablets are far more convenient.
When purchasing your super green supplements, always buy the best you can afford from a reputable source where you can be sure that it contains exactly what is on the label. Powders and tablets labelled organic means that the green super foods they contain got the maximum goodness from the environment they were grown in, without the addition of chemicals and phosphates. Always check labels to see how much of the ingredients you are using for supplementation is in the product; it should be at least 50%. Stay clear of things containing artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours and other additives in favour of natural substitutes and make sure what you are taking has been rigorously checked for toxins and other nasties and is contaminant free.
If humans ever reach a stage where they no longer eat whole foods, it is a certainty that the replacement, whatever form it takes, will include green super foods. Today, Hollywood A-listers, major league sports stars and ordinary people are including these remarkable foods in their diets. There is certainly a place for them, even if you already eat plenty of the right type of vegetables. This is because, as David R Davis has shown there has been a decline in the quality of naturally grown foodstuffs, which means you may not be getting the vitamin and mineral profile you were hoping for. Supplementing the diet with green super foods helps to bridge that gap. Research conducted at University College London in 2014 concluded that people should aim to eat 10 portions of vegetables and fruit each day. Ten portions a day is some undertaking for most people and many simply won’t mange it. However, research has shown that people who eat at least 7 potions each day are over 40% less likely to suffer premature death than those who eat only one. If green super foods can help you reach that target, surely it is worth starting to incorporate them into your diet.
Every week more scientific evidence is published in support of the claims made for green super foods and the benefit they can add to one’s diet and health. In their natural state green super foods can be found in specialist shops. In the form of power or capsules, they are widely available in health food stores and over the Internet. Adding green super foods to your diet will make sure you get enough vegetables each day. You will soon come to appreciate the benefits as people see a newer healthier you. Don’t give up eating leafy greens, cauliflower, brussel sprouts etc. though, you need the benefits they bring too.