We all know that we're supposed to eat our greens, but many of us have a limited understanding of why we should—at least not beyond getting our vitamins and minerals and having regular bowel movements. While that alone should be enough to swap your morning eggs on toast for a vegetable omelet, it often isn’t. Convenience can take over, and before you know it, the only vegetable you've eaten is onions on a burger! This is why I look to WelleCo's SUPER ELIXIR Greens, a wholefood daily greens powder that is delicious and nutrient-rich making it easy to get your daily dose of immune-support.
The truth is that vegetables offer a whole lot more than just vitamin C, folate, and fiber. They also contain phytonutrients such as glucosinolates, flavonols, and carotenoids, which have powerful effects on the immune system, the gut microbiome, energy production, cognitive function, and even liver detoxification (just to name a few). In other words, eating vegetables isn't just a way to be healthy and maintain our happy weight; it's a way to take your cellular functioning, your endocrine system, your digestive system, your nervous system, and your brain function to the next level.
Five really good reasons to eat more greens.
1. Greens help your immune system do its job.
The mucus membranes found in the nose, mouth, ears, vagina, and small intestine are one of the body's primary defense systems. By secreting mucus, they help clear bacteria and other pathogens from the body. If the mucus membranes are disrupted, unwanted pathogens can enter the body and cause colds, flu, UTIs, and more. The mucus membranes are repaired with foods that contain carotenoids such as spinach, dandelion greens, broccoli, carrots, yellow bell peppers, papaya, and mango. Medicinal mushrooms like maitake, reishi, cordyceps, and shiitake help to activate natural killer cells to quickly fight off an infection. In summary, eat plants so your immune system can do its job.
2. Plants decrease bloat—and support overall GI health.
The polyphenols found in plants, particularly green and black tea, have been shown to inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and a type of yeast called Candida albicans. Polyphenols from berries, pomegranate, apples, grapes, and spinach have also been shown to support the proliferation of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. When the gut microbiome is replete with good bacteria (and few bad bacteria), it supports the removal of toxins from the body, thyroid function (30 percent of the thyroid hormone is converted to an active form in the gut), hormonal balance (bad bacteria can cause the reabsorption of sex hormones, like estrogen, back into the body), and help breaks down the fiber in legumes so you don't get gassy.
3. Greens give you energy.
In a groundbreaking study in 2014, researchers observed that ATP (your energy currency) could be created from light and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants. While this is the first study of its kind and requires more supportive research, you’ll likely experience this effect. So step into the sunshine, grab a green drink, and you'll feel invigorated.
4. Phytonutrients will make you smarter. (Yes, really.)
Phytonutrients—in particular curcumin (found in turmeric), capsaicin (found in red pepper), epigallocatechin gallate (found in green tea), and resveratrol (found in grapes)—have been shown to enhance cognition and increase mental agility. Several studies have shown that these phytonutrients also help protect against neurodegenerative decline. As your brain is 80 percent fat, the antioxidant power of the phytonutrients helps to prevent the oxidation of fats, thereby promoting a faster and more resilient brain.
5. Greens help you effortlessly maintain your happy weight.
There are two phases of liver detoxification. Phase one liberates toxins from the body, particularly from fat cells, and phase two helps to neutralize the toxins so they can safely be eliminated from the body. Both phases require carotenoids and sulfur-containing compounds like those found in broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. A body overloaded with toxins is sluggish and stores more body fat.
Five easy ways to get more greens into your day.
1. Green powder
Start your morning with an organic greens powder mixed into water. WelleCo’s SUPER ELIXIR Greens has 45 different whole food ingredients (all organic) including dandelion greens, spinach, broccoli, barley grass, wheat grass, papaya, apple, pomegranate, green tea, turmeric, maitake and shiitake mushrooms, and probiotics, checking off every function just discussed. It also tastes good! Far too many greens powders taste like a swampy pond because they contain too much algae. The SUPER ELIXIR Greens doesn't. Just make sure you use 2 teaspoons to get the right dosing of nutrients. I also like the SUPER ELIXIR Greens for an afternoon vitality boost, on the plane, and after an intense workout. There's something about refueling your body with a green drink after exercise that makes you feel even more virtuous (and, of course, your physical body loves it for all of the reasons above).
The ultimate way to disguise vegetables. Add ½ cup of frozen cauliflower to a berry smoothie paired with a plant protein (like WelleCo's plant-based protein powder). The cauliflower makes the smoothie extra creamy without a taste. Cauliflower is rich in indole-3-carbinol, which helps regulate estrogen levels, and it increases phase two liver detoxification. You can always add a handful of spinach, kale, or dandelion greens to the smoothie or another serving of greens powder.
3. Green juice
Not all juices are sugar bombs. Look for a green vegetable juice with no more than 100 calories per serving. By using this number as a guide, the fruit content (and thus fruit sugar) will be minimal. Or better still, make sure the fruit is at least No. 4 (or more) in the ingredient list. Remember, the farther down the ingredient list, the less of the ingredient used.
4. Blended soups
Making homemade vegetable soups is almost as easy as a smoothie. Even the most novice cook can create something. Dice ½ onion, add to a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 cups of one vegetable (like peas, zucchini, or cauliflower), then add 1 liter of vegetable stock. Cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Pour soup into a blender and puree. Season with salt and lemon. Serve in a bowl.
5. Vegetable crudités plate
As long as you have some olive oil and salt, vegetables taste good! Add radish, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, and sugar snap peas to a plate. Serve with a dipping sauce of olive oil and sea salt.
That’s how you get your vegetables in without thinking too much about them, and you'll be rewarded with an abundance of brain and body benefits. Eat your greens, beauty queens!