A Natural Nutrient Boost
Which is better for our health: fresh greens or “greenfoods,” dehydrated vegetables in powder or pill form? It’s up to us, as individual consumers, to learn more about the choices and make informed decisions.
Dr. Andrew Weil, who offers many nutritional supplements on his website, DrWeil.com, is a staunch proponent of eating fresh, green vegetables; he can be seen on television picking veggies from his garden. “Dark, leafy greens and green vegetables are full of natural agents that can protect health,” Weil advises. “They’re a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Some—including spinach, collards, kale and broccoli—contain antioxidants that help protect aging eyes from developing cataracts and macular degeneration. They may also protect against clogging of the carotid arteries in the neck and help reduce the risk of cancer.”
Weil notes that researchers are finding that some important vitamins and minerals protective against disease are required in amounts that may be difficult to obtain through diet alone. Many Americans don’t have the option of picking fresh vegetables, although more of us are picking up the next best thing from the local farm stand. Instead, most families purchase “fresh” vegetables from a supermarket, which typically stocks produce from distant, massive agribusinesses. Those veggies may have been harvested days or weeks prior to arriving at the store—and every minute a vegetable is exposed to air and light after harvesting diminishes its enzyme and nutrient values. Foods from local farm stands retain more nutrients, but availability is seasonal and limited to regional crops.
Gary Null, Ph.D., believes a more realistic answer to the dearth of green vegetables in the average American diet is greenfoods. This award-winning investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker, talk radio host and author of 70 books, leverages his considerable expertise advocating alternative medicine and natural healing (see ). Among the first to design a greenfood supplement, his version contains a mix of organically grown greens harvested fresh, and then juiced and immediately dehydrated at a low temperature to preserve nutrients. The resulting “superfood” powder can be easily added to foods and beverages.
Most greenfood preparations include immature, nutrient-rich grasses such as oat, wheat or barley grass; microalgae such as spirulina and chlorella; and chlorophyll-rich vegetables like parsley, broccoli and kale. Some formulas include fruit for extra antioxidant value and flavor. Greenfood preparations are designed to meet more of the body’s nutritional needs than the single salad and side serving of steamed vegetables the average American tries to consume each day.
Some greenfoods are even designed as whole food products for people who don’t eat fish, eggs or meat, because vegetarian diets are often low in protein, essential fatty acids and vitamin B12, all abundant in flesh foods. Spirulina, or blue-green algae, is a favorite of vegetarians, because it is high in protein. Many algae provide the B12 vitamin unavailable in other vegetables and are also a rich source of essential fatty acids.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, another national health advisor, , touts chlorella, a natural green algae found in many greenfood preparations. He credits it with strengthening the immune system and providing enzymes and intestinal flora that support digestion and elimination. Microalgae’s beta-carotene content also provides antioxidants. A paper he published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine further concluded that “Chlorella works to effectively filter out toxins from your body.”
Microalgae are high in chlorophyll, a common ingredient in all greenfoods, with chlorella offering the highest levels. Chlorophyll is chemically similar to human blood. Natural practitioners through the ages have used it to help rebuild human red blood cells, especially after blood loss due to injury or childbirth, and to freshen breath and bowels. Chlorophyll is considered an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and is especially high in magnesium. In addition, an article in Nutrition Research magazine writes that some studies “demonstrate that commercial chlorophyll… is strongly antimutagenic.” Thus, recent claims for its anti-cancer properties.
The medical science community of dieticians, government- and pharmaceutically-funded researchers and medical doctors mostly remains skeptical of claims about chlorophyll’s healthful benefits, because many studies have been inconclusive. In answer, the natural health community might argue that modern scientific researchers lack financial incentives to test traditional natural remedies fairly; the bigger money is in the drugs prescribed when nutrients become depleted in the human body, leading to illness.
Whole-food purists may prefer fresh vegetables and the medical science community may scoff at the value of greenfoods, but those curious about greenfood supplements still possess the freedom to try them. Because traditional health uses of natural products are strongly censored in the United States, the proof of their value is in the results obtained after trying them. If bowels function better, digestion improves, muscles become toned, energy levels rise and skin and eyes shine after consuming these products on a regular basis, then greenfoods may well be the superfood that their proponents claim them to be.
Dian Freeman is certified in clinical nutrition and holistic health with a private consultation practice in Morristown, NJ. She lectures widely and teaches health seminars, cooking classes and a nutritional certification course. Connect ator visit .