Friday, August 19, 2016

Dark Leafy Greens – Top of the List

Swiss Chard, Rainbow Chard

Chlorophyll is the king of all molecules, and it is considered a “super food” because of its abundance of phytonutrients and super high antioxidant content; the best way to get it is to consume plants rich in chlorophyll. Plants rich in chlorophyll will be rich in green color, since chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants. Thus, dark leafy greens and sea algae would be the best sources of chlorophyll. But for this article, we are going to focus on dark leafy greens.

Dark leafy greens are not only rich in chlorophyll; they are a power house of nutrition, abundant in soluble and insoluble fiber, and contain a variety of phytonutrients, including chlorophyll and carotenoids. Dark leafy greens are high in folate, amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids (both Omega 3 and Omega 6). They are also super high in antioxidants, and they are considered alkaline – all essential and necessary for optimal health. In fact, there is more compact nutrition per calorie in dark leafy greens than any other plant-based food. This is why dark leafy greens are at the top of the super food list.

Mixed Dark Leafy Greens
The physical and functional structure of a leafy green is very different from other plant foods. Leafy greens, typically being leaves or leaflets, are actually considered photosynthetic tissue due to the notably high levels of vitamin K, which is a key vitamin for the purpose of photosynthesis. They are the only plant-based food that is actually used to aid in the digestion of other plant-based foods such as fruits, other vegetables, seeds, nuts, and grains. There are so many varieties of dark leafy greens to try, and even unique ones from different parts of the globe. Dark leafy greens can be broken down into several categories, with examples of the more readily available common greens:
  • Lettuces – crisp and slightly bitter, rich in vitamins A, C, and K
    • Romaine
    • Green Leaf
    • Red Leaf
    • Arugula
    • Butterhead
  • Cruciferous Leafy Greens – rich in glycosylates, minerals such as magnesium, and considered the most nutrient rich of the dark leafy green categories
    • Kale
    • Mustard Greens
    • Collard Greens
    • Cabbage
    • Broccoli
  • Amaranthaceous – rich in iron
    • Spinach
    • Swiss Chard
    • Edible Green Leaves – also referred to as edible “weeds”, rich in a variety of phytonutrients
    • Dandelion
    • Red Clover
    • Watercress

One of the biggest challenges I find is how to consume enough greens on a daily basis. From all the research I’ve done, and from personal experience, most do not consume enough dark leafy greens for optimal health. I think this is partly due to the taste expectation, and the conditioning from society of how greens should be consumed – in a salad, or cooked to mush!

One great way to consume these amazing superfoods is by juicing and making smoothies. Green smoothies are becoming the “health-conscious” norm. Plus, when you drink your greens, if done right, you can get more nutrition in one glass with minimal calories, which is great for clean energy and weight loss. In addition, because of the high water content that fresh raw greens have, juicing helps with hydration.

If you find it difficult to consume greens regularly, then be sure to include a high-quality dark leafy green supplement, preferably the concentrated powder form that can easily be dissolved in water. It’s better than sugar-laden, processed juices. It’s also definitely better than soda and coffee, and it can act as an energy drink that sustains you for long periods of time. I have recommendations for various green powders at the end of this article. Some have been mentioned before in my previous article on chlorophyll. Also, be sure to try my green smoothie recipe and my power-house green juice recipe included below. Dark leafy greens are a super food that you shouldn’t be without! Keep these leafy greens at the top of your food list daily for optimal health and well-being.


Debbie’s Green Envy Juice
Debbie's Green Envy Juice
(previously published in Raw-Riffic Food’s 101 Super-Charged Juices, Shakes & Smoothies)

3-5 Kale leaves (with stems)
1 handful spinach leaves
3-5 thick sprigs parsley (with stems)
1-2 medium carrots (with leaves)
2 stalks celery (with leaves)
1 apple (recommend Red Delicious variety)
Purified water as needed

Clean all vegetables and cut into pieces that will fit properly into a good quality juicer. Turn juicer on, and add cut ingredients a few pieces at a time to properly juice. Once all ingredients are juiced, pour some purified water to remove the remaining fibers and nutrients from inside the juicer and add to the juice. Juice is ready to serve. Makes 1 to 2 glasses, depending upon glass size. Best served at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Basic Green Smoothie

1 cup purified water, or coconut water
2-3 large handfuls baby spinach
1 small banana (peeled)

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender, in the order listed. (For a colder smoothie add a few cubes of ice.) Blend ingredients on high till smooth. Adjust thickness by adding a little more liquid. Ready to serve. Makes about 1-2 glasses, depending upon size of glass.

For a variation: Add ½ to 1 cup mango chunks, or other fruit.

Basic Green Smoothie

Green Powder Supplement Recommendations:


Article References:

List of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, by Tanya Brown, Demand Media. Healthy Eating.

List of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, by Melanie Clatfelter.  Last Updated: Apr 26, 2015. Live Strong.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, posted under Health Guides. Updated 23 December 2014. Center for Young Women’s Health.

Guide to a Healthy Kitchen. Leafy Greens -- Ranked and Rated. By Cari Nierenberg. WebMD Feature. Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. WebMD.

Green for Life, by Victoria Boutenko. Raw Family Publishing. 2005.

12 Steps to Raw Foods, by Victoria Boutenko. North Atlantic Books. Berkley, California. 2007.

Leaf vegetable, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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