Super Foods – Greens
Welcome back to our discussion on super foods, this time concentrating on ‘Greens’ – leafy greens, wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella.
We’ll look at why they’re so beneficial for us and give you some recipe ideas too and would love to hear from you with your favourites.
What is a super food?
You may remember from our previous post on sweet potatoes 1, that this term has no actual scientific meaning but is widely accepted to include foods that are “nutritionally dense and will nourish, repair, rejuvenate and heal the body”. What I do know for a fact is how good I feel when I include these super foods in my diet. If you haven’t already done so, have a go and see how you feel.
Were our parents right all along?
Greens rightly take their position centre stage in this category:
- They have the highest concentrations of easily digestible nutrients, fat burning compounds, vitamins and minerals to protect and heal the body.
- They contain proteins, phyto-chemicals (which protect us against disease) and healthy bacteria all of which help to build cleaner muscles and tissues and at the same time aid digestion.
- Greens are a rich source of antioxidants (the chemical in food that protects against the harmful effects of free radicals which may cause cancer).
There is such an abundance of ‘goodness’ in greens that it’s easy to see why parents from all generations have instilled the need to include them in our diet.
What makes greens, green?
Greens are super rich in chlorophyll, which gives plants their green colour (they absorb all colours of the spectrum except green). The molecular structure of chlorophyll is similar to human blood and when digested, haemoglobin production is increased. This in turn means oxygen rich blood, which is vital for an energy efficient metabolism.
All of this equates to a body that is more efficient ie healthier.
What should we be including in our diet to achieve this?
Several vegetables fall into this category and I’ll share our favourites with you here:
- Spinach – Such are its nutritional benefits, during the First World War, injured French soldiers were given wine fortified with spinach juice to increase their blood quality. It contains vitamins B2 and B3 which improve energy and the nervous system; and is rich in carotenoids, which the body converts to vitamin A to boost the immune system. This helps in the prevention of certain cancers. The leaves contain iron and vitamin C, both of which encourage collagen production, keeping skin looking young. Spinach can also protect the brain from ageing because it stops the oxidation process which leads to dementia.
It’s best to eat spinach raw as you lose some of the nutrients when cooked. We love to add it to salads, or in your morning smoothie as follows:
- Simply add a handful to cucumber, avocado, apple, celery, parsley, lemon juice, coconut water and a teaspoon of Lucy Bee before blending. Feast your eyes on the beautiful green mixture and enjoy!
- Watercress – bursting with healthy Vitamins B3, B6, C, E, K, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and fibre. It’s perfect for strengthening the immune system and resisting infection; boosts metabolism; and detoxifies the body.
It has a fairly distinctive, strong flavour and makes a wonderful addition to salads. We love this soup recipe too, perfect if you’re feeling under the weather!
3 medium sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
1 onion sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tbsp Lucy Bee Coconut Oil
500ml vegetable stock
2 large bunches of watercress, chopped
- Sauté the sweet potato, onion and garlic in the Lucy Bee, on a medium heat.
- Add the stock and simmer gently until the sweet potatoes are cooked.
- Add the chopped watercress, cook for 3 minutes then blend together. Serve and enjoy.
- Broccoli – Originally from Italy, this nutrient rich vegetable is sometimes described as “one of the best weapons against disease”. Bursting with fibre which boosts the digestive system; vitamin C for the immune system; iron which helps make red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body; calcium for strong bones and teeth, regulates muscle contraction and aids blood to clot; and beta-carotene which turns into vitamin A and strengthens the immune system and aids vision,it’s easy to see why we’re recommended to include this into our meals at least 3 times a week. It’s great simply steamed or try this wonderfully simple, delicious soup, packed full of goodness. I was surprised at how tasty this soup was when I first tried it and now it’s a firm favourite:
1 onion sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1tbsp Lucy Bee coconut oil
1 pint vegetable stock
30g fresh coriander
1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the Lucy Bee until soft.
2. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and add the broccoli. Simmer for 4 minutes until cooked (take care not to overcook).
3. Transfer to a blender, add the spinach and coriander and blend until smooth.
We love to add raw broccoli to salads, too, by chopping into small pieces.
- Broccoli Sprouts – these are young (3-4 days old) broccoli plants that taste like radishes. They are a strong antioxidant and have been popular since the mid 1990’s when an article appeared in ‘The New York Times’ extolling their virtues, so much so that there was a global shortage!
Broccoli sprouts contain concentrations of the compound glucoraphanin which is a precursor to sulforaphane. This boosts cell enzymes that protect against molecular damage from cancer-causing chemicals.
High in vitamins, you can grow your own quite easily since they need very little space or equipment2, or alternatively you can find them in your local health food shop.
Simply add these to your salad or sandwich for a crunchy texture, sprinkle over a jacket potato, add to your favourite stir fry (at the end of cooking) or munch on them for your afternoon snack.
- Curly Kale – in season during the winter months, with a strong, distinctive flavour. It has incredible immune boosting properties and because it contains glucosinolates (natural plant chemicals which block cancer causing substances) it is thought to be one of the most important plant foods in the prevention of cancer. Kale belongs to the same family as Brussel sprouts and cabbage. Being easy to grow, the population was encouraged to cultivate this leafy plant after World War Two during rationing because of its wonderful nutritional value. It contains Vitamins B2, B3, B6, C, E, K, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and fibre.
It’s easy to add this highly beneficial food into your diet by either eating it raw, lightly steaming it or a favourite with us is to add it to a smoothie. Kale crisps are really popular at the moment and make a quick, nutritious snack:
Handful of kale leaves (cut off the stalk)
1 tbsp Lucy Bee Coconut oil
- Melt Lucy Bee Coconut oil in a baking tray.
- Toss the kale leaves in the melted oil and sprinkle with Himalayan Salt.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 200 C
- Cabbage – this comes in a variety of types including savoy, white and red. Rich in iron, beta-carotene, Vitamins B3 and C along with glucosinolates and a wonderful source of fibre, it’s easy to see why cabbage easily falls into our super foods list. A powerful detoxifier too, in Ancient Egypt, cabbage was eaten at the beginning of a meal to reduce the intoxicating effects of any alcohol that was consumed.
So what are our favourite ways to eat cabbage? Well, first off, choose cabbages that look bright and crisp and avoid those with holes in the leaves as an insect may have burrowed its way in!
It’s thought that steaming cabbage is the best way to retain the fibre-related components so cut it into thin slices and steam for a few minutes until soft.
- 800g (1lb 12oz) savoy cabbage
- 20 juniper berries
- 50g Lucy Bee Coconut Oil
- Remove the soft outer leaves from the cabbage and discard.
- Cut the cabbage from the top in half
- Start slicing about 2cm thick and remove the hard central core and rinse in cold water
- Crush the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle
- Melt the Lucy Bee coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cabbage, junipers, little Himalayan salt and black pepper plus 3 tbsp water.
- Turn the heat down low, cover the pan and cook for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan vigorously every so often.
- Remove the lid, stir and turn up the heat to remove excess water
- Grind black pepper over to serve
- Rocket – this peppery flavoured salad leaf is packed with essential disease fighting nutrients. As an antioxidant it helps to prevent the body against toxins and boosts resistance to viruses. It is full of fibre and Vitamin C.
Rocket makes a wonderful addition to any salad. This recipe is not only healthy but eye catching too, definitely one to impress:
2 garlic cloves, crushed
110g flaked almonds
Handful each of rocket, spinach and watercress
2tsp Lucy Bee Coconut Oil
Himalayan salt and ground black pepper to season
- Place the feta in a dish, squeeze the lemon juice over, scatter garlic and leave to marinate for a couple of hours.
- Lightly brown the flaked almonds in the Lucy Bee.
- Toss together the green leaves in a large salad bowl
- Crumble over the marinated feta, scatter pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds. Season to taste.
Alternatively, you easily include rocket in a breakfast omelette:
2 eggs beaten
½ tsp Lucy Bee Coconut Oil
I tomato sliced
Small handful of rocket
Grated cheese (optional)
- Melt the Lucy Bee and lightly fry the tomato
- Add the beaten eggs and cook until firm underneath
- Sprinkle on the rocket & grated cheese if using, then flip the omelette to cook the other side.
- To serve tip the omelette onto a plate, tomato and rocket side up.
Here we’re looking at natural supplements. As always, here at Lucy Bee we advocate eating foods that are as close as Nature intended where possible. This is not to say we don’t enjoy treats, of course we do but we aim to focus on foods that are nutritionally beneficial to us.
When looking at green super foods, there are a selection of natural supplements that we think are important to include to optimise overall good health.
- Wheatgrass – have you tried this yet? It has a very strong taste and could be the ‘marmite’ of the green superfoods, ie you either love it or hate it! Such are the nutritional values of wheatgrass, it was recognised as a complete food during the 1930s. It is rich in chlorophyll, is a powerful antioxidant and makes for a wonderful detoxifier. It contains Vitamins A, B, C, E and K along with manganese, potassium, zinc and selenium. It is also thought to have antiseptic properties making it effective in healing ulcers and sore throats.
Wheatgrass is the sprouted grass of the wheat grain and despite its name, is wheat gluten free. It’s extremely alkalizing for the body and is available either as a juice, in powdered form, in frozen cubes, grow your own or you can cheat and buy it ready cultivated. We like www.wheatgrass-uk.com/3
You can juice your own with a special juicer or add a shot to your smoothie for that extra health boost. Definitely an acquired taste (!).
- Spirulina – some call this a ‘miracle plant’. It is a form of blue-green algae that springs from fresh water bodies and is a one celled organism. It has been living on the planet since life on Earth and is at the very beginning of the food chain. Unlike most plants that need cultivating and nurturing, spirulina is able to withstand extreme temperatures and neglect and still thrive.
Such are its nutritional values, some say you could survive on this alone. It is available as a tablet, flakes or in powder form.
This nutrient rich food source from the Aztecs, is similar to chlorella (see below) and is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids. It contains B Vitamins plus C, D and E and makes for an excellent source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and Zinc. It can help regulate blood sugars, too.
As a potent detoxifier, it’s best to slowly add spirulina to your diet (add it to smoothies or juices) to gauge how your body reacts to it. Avoid if you have a seafood allergy though.
- Chlorella – this too is a single celled algae but unlike spirulina, whole chlorella is completely indigestible by us so it’s hard outer wall needs to be broken down in order to benefit from its health boosting properties.
It contains vitamins, minerals, magnesium and iron, and is a wonderful source of plant-based protein.
Chlorella has incredible detoxifying properties and is particularly good at ridding the body of mercury (great if you have mercury fillings). Being super rich in chlorophyll, chlorella is great for all round body health (oxygenated blood makes for healthier organs, promoting growth and repair of tissues) and it cleanses the liver, kidneys and bowel. Chlorella will boost the immune system, improve digestion, regulate cholesterol, enhance the ability to concentrate and balances pH levels. Amazing right?
As with spirulina, each of us will tolerate its powerful detoxification differently so take care when adding it to your diet and introduce it slowly. If you’re taking the prescribed medication Wafarin, chlorella is NOT recommended.
Chlorella is available as a tablet or in powder form. As a powder, simply add to your juice or smoothie, sprinkle onto yoghurt or over your salad. To retain its incredible nutritional values, it’s best not to heat or cook chlorella.
Are you convinced?
A healthy body starts with a healthy immune system and super foods, particularly greens, perfectly support this. They are natural foods and work in harmony with the body, so encouraging good health. They add taste, colour and texture to your plate along with their health boosting properties. Generally eaten raw to obtain maximum benefits, green super foods can be steamed, juiced, blended and sautéed to suit your preference – what choice!
Super foods are both a food and a medicine and are some of the most nutrient rich foods on Earth, nourishing our body at the deepest level. What’s not to like?
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
Members of the Lucy Bee team are not medically trained and can only offer their best advice. Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Please note you should always refer your health queries to a qualified medical practioner.