Going green can mean many things to many different people. When I was growing up, ‘going green’ meant that you sorted your trash and took your recycling to the depot yourself. After that, “going green” meant switching to unleaded petrol, then no longer using CFCs. This then lead to buying “green bags” with your weekly shopping at Coles or Woolies.
Going green, for so many people, has the connotation of helping and healing the planet; but what about ‘going green’ for your body? I often wish that people were as careful and selective about what they were putting IN their recyclable and reusable ‘green bags’, as they were in remembering and using these bags. Not only would they then be performing a service of respect to the earth, but also to their bodies.
“Because they’re good for you.”
I’m sure many ears heard this one growing up, usually in response to “why do I have to eat my peas and broccoli?”. Well, I hate to sound like your mum, but green veggies ARE good for you. Here are a handful of reasons you should have a handful of greens every day.
- Bitter – We are a generation and nation of people who don’t eat enough bitter foods. Other cultures traditionally serve bitter vegetables or teas as part of a meal to aid in digestion. Bitter foods, such as dandelion leaves or mustard greens, help to stimulate the production of bile. Bile is essential in digestion, it helps to break down fats and aids in accessing fat soluble vitamins,
- Magnesium – We commonly associate magnesium with muscle aches and cramps, but magnesium is required for a whole lot more than that. Magnesium helps in energy production, blood sugar regulation, and the synthesis of protein. Dr Axe has a great article all about Magnesium and its top ten food sources, check out all the greens on that list here
Greens are alkalising, and are also an excellent source of:
- Non-Heme Iron
Searching for the holy Kale?
The age old (well, at least since the start of the Noughties) debate: Kale or Spinach? So often in clinic, clients ask me which is better for them. Should they be putting spinach in their smoothies, or kale. Or, do I have any recipes to cover the taste of kale, because they heard its better than spinach, but the taste/texture is just too much for them. Fret not, when you break down the nutrient content of both spinach and kale, there is no clear stand-out winner. Whilst kale, per 100g, has higher Fibre, Calcium, and Vitamin C levels; spinach fights back with higher Iron, Magnesium, and Folate levels per 100g serve. My simple answer: two varieties of greens is better than one, and either type is better than none.
It’s not easy being green
To quote the wise Kermit the Frog, sometimes it feels really hard to bump up the green veggie tally in our meals, especially if you or your kids have Green Lachanophobia (fear of green vegetables!). For some children it’s a colour thing while for other sensitive people don’t like the bitter taste or flavour. Some individuals just might not have had enough exposure to the foods to develop a taste for them. In each of these scenarios, you have to train yourself, or your little one, to eat, tolerate, and eventually enjoy something green!
Are you ‘green’ at going green?
So you’re ready to boost your daily greens, but the idea of a big bowl of steamed spinach for breakfast isn’t inspiring you? Here are a few ideas to help boost your greens, or to aid in sneaking them into someone else’s meals!
- Zoodles – zucchini noodles. I got given a spiraliser for Christmas, and thought it would go straight to the back of the utensil draw – how wrong I was! Zoodles taste great with a yummy spaghetti bolognaise sauce, or even an Asian inspired stir-fry.
- Smoothies – scared to dive into the deep end with a spinach/kale/celery/mint combo? Never fear, adding a handful of baby spinach or kale to your berry and banana smoothie can help you level up in your smoothie game.
- Salad spin – are you an Iceberg lettuce family? Mix up your salad greens and boost the benefits. Try Rocket, Dandelion Greens, Watercress, or even a big handful of fresh herbs as the green base with your next salad.
- Meaningful mince – finely grating zucchini or shredding spinach can help to disguise it in mince for picky eaters. Try it in spaghetti bols, cottage pies, or even tacos.
Laires, M.J, Monteiro, C.P, Bicho, M. Role of cellular magnesium in health and human disease Frontiers in Bioscience 9, (2004) p262-276.
Nutrient Data Laboratory, ARS, USDA National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program Wave 10j , 2006 Beltsville MD
I am passionate about educating athletes and active people on how to get the most from their fuel so they can smash their health and fitness goals.