Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Power of Green

By Gail Davis

OCTOBER 25, 1999:  During the past few months, my frustration level has risen as I've watched jackrabbits and cottontails devour the nicest looking plants in my garden. Rabbits are smart. They know the power of green foods. Green vegetables and cereal grasses (oat, wheat, barley and rye) are excellent sources of iron, calcium, protein, fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins C, E, K, and B. These nutrients, along with chlorophyll, provide a variety of health, growth and fertility benefits. The most concentrated sources of these nutrients are in the cereal grasses. That's why people shell out $1.39 or more for a one-ounce shot of wheat grass juice.

Here is a brief rundown of the nutritional benefits of green vegetables and cereal grasses:

· The dairy industry has us convinced that its products are the best source of calcium and that women in particular must get at least 1,200 mg of this vital mineral daily from milk, cheese and yogurt or eventually succumb to crippling osteoporosis. In countries where women consume little or no dairy, and their daily intake of calcium is only around 400 mg, osteoporosis is relatively unheard of. Better sources of calcium include figs, almonds, calcium-fortified orange juice, soy and rice beverages, and, of course, green vegetables.

· One of the first questions a vegetarian is often asked is, "Where do you get your protein?" Obvious vegetarian sources of protein are nuts, seeds, beans and tofu. But did you know that on a per-calorie basis, green vegetables are excellent sources of protein? Broccoli, for example, is 45 percent protein!

· Iron is found in every living cell on earth and is also one of the most abundant elements in the earth's soil. Green vegetables, along with grains and legumes, are excellent sources of iron.

· The benefits of dietary fiber are many, but principally they are: blood sugar regulation (blood sugar does not rise or fall sharply), satiety (makes you feel full, so you eat less), bowel function regulation (may help prevent colon cancer), and blood cholesterol regulation (may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease). Animal products contain zero fiber. Dark leafy green vegetables and cereal grasses are excellent sources of fiber.

· Vitamin A is essential for its role in vision and bone growth, and it also has antioxidant properties. The best sources of vitamin A come from plants: the beta-carotene found in carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, collard, kale, mustard greens and cereal grasses.

· B vitamins, essential for human health, are abundant in vegetables. Folacin, for example, is an important part of red blood cell development, and a deficiency of folacin can lead to anemia. All of the B vitamins are abundant in the cereal grasses, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and turnip greens.

· Vitamin C is not only a powerful antioxidant which may enhance the immune system, but it also helps make the collagen protein that strengthens our muscles, bones and skin. Meat does not contain any vitamin C at all. Citrus fruits, strawberries and green vegetables are all rich sources of vitamin C.

· Vitamin K (potassium) is primarily known for its role as one of the factors necessary for blood coagulation after an injury. It can be manufactured by bacteria that commonly live in the human intestine. However, people who are on antibiotics (this may include anyone who eats factory-raised animal products) often destroy, at least temporarily, the bacteria that manufacture K. In this case, K must be consumed. Green leafy vegetables are good sources; cereal grasses are even better.

Tips for Getting Your Greens

· Instead of using iceberg lettuce on your sandwiches and in your salads, substitute fancier lettuce varieties and dark, leafy greens like collard. These will add more flavor and have greater nutritional value than iceberg.

· Lightly steam broccoli, kale, asparagus, spinach and other green vegetables until they are bright green in color. Greens that have been overcooked not only lose their flavor and eye appeal, but most of their nutrients as well.

· To create a side dish that is tasty and nutritious, shred dark leafy greens into small pieces and mix into grains like rice, barley, quinoa, amaranth or couscous.

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