Great Greens
By Kim Erickson, photography by Pornchai Miittongtare, styling by Robin Turk, food by Leisl Maggiore
Greens aren't just good for your health—they're great. Green drinks, particularly, contain a healthy mix of nutrient-filled algae and grasses that offer detoxifying and alkalizing amino acids, minerals, and antioxidants

Green-drinksGreens are among my very favorite foods. Steamed, sautéed, raw—it doesn’t matter. Load up my plate and I’m happy. In fact, I’d eat them even if they weren’t so healthy! But I know that there are a lot of people who simply can’t stand the thought of eating kale, spinach, or broccoli. Here’s what you’re missing if you don’t eat greens:

  • Calorie for calorie, greens are the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food.
  • Greens can lower your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure.
  • Greens can boost your immune system.
  • Greens help protect against all types of cancer.
  • Greens enhance bone health and guard against osteoporosis.
  • Greens regulate inflammation and blood clotting.
  • Greens might even help prevent and possibly treat atherosclerosis by reducing calcium in arterial plaques.

Still not convinced? Well, what if getting your daily dose of greens was as easy as adding a scoop of powder to a smoothie or glass of juice or water?

Green Supplements
Supplemental greens can give you nearly all of the same benefits you’d get from eating your veggies. And since many supplements also contain water-based greens, you might be getting even more nutrition. Consider these:

Chlorella and Spirulina. There are two types of greens: those grown in water and those grown in soil. Chlorella and spirulina are algae—they grow in fresh water and, at 3 percent, they have the highest known chlorophyll content of any plant on earth. Foods grown in soil, including wheat and barley grasses, have one-tenth the chlorophyll of algae.

Chlorella and spirulina are whole foods that deliver immense benefits. Spirulina is high in protein, along with essential fatty acids; B vitamins; vitamins C, D, and E; calcium; iron; potassium; and zinc. This means it’s terrific for building muscle, losing weight, and fighting disease. Chlorella, which has many of the same nutrients, is also a potent antioxidant and healer.

Wheat and Barley Grasses. While you won’t often find them in your produce section, wheatgrass and barley grass are two heavy hitters in the world of soil-grown greens. Great sources of beta-carotene, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, they pack more iron than spinach. There are a few differences between the two, though. Wheatgrass is thought to have more antioxidant and disease-fighting properties, while barley grass is alkaline and helps balance pH levels.

The smartest way to get the most from these supplements is to pair them with a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. But even if you don’t, you’ll be getting much of the goodness greens provide. Look for greens in powdered drink mixes, capsules, tablets, or softgels. You’ll not only reap the long-term benefits, taking greens every day will give you more focus and more energy. Remember, the greener you are, the healthier you are. So the next time you bypass that spinach or kale, make the extra effort to take some supplemental greens.

The Perfect Pair: Green Food Smoothies
One of the tastiest and easiest ways to incorporate green foods into your diet is with a smoothie. It seems that these creamy concoctions have never been more popular. We came across several new books that are dedicated to (you guessed it) nothing but smoothie recipes. Here are three of our favorites. While they all taste great on their own, they’re equally delicious when adapted to include a scoop or two of nutrient-charged green powder mix.

Pomegranate & Strawberry Smoothie
Serves 1
Reprinted with permission from Green Smoothie Joy (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013) by Cressida Elias.

½ cup fresh pomegranate juice

1 banana

1 handful strawberries or mixed frozen berries

1 Tbs. crème fraîche, or plain, low-fat yogurt

1 tsp. honey, optional

1 cup water

Place all ingredients in blender. Add ice, if desired, and mix until smooth.

PER SERVING: 254 cal; 2g pro; 6g total fat (4g sat fat); 50g carb; 20mg chol; 22mg sod; 5g fiber; 35g sugars

Sassy Green Kick-Start
Serves 1
Reprinted with permission from 365 Vegan Smoothies by Kathy Patalsky (Avery, 2013).

1 cup chopped kale leaves

¼ cup green grapes

1 orange, peeled and segmented

1 banana

½ cup coconut water

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

2–3 pinches cayenne

½ cup ice

Combine all ingredients in blender, and blend from low to high until smooth.

PER SERVING: 281 cal; 5g pro; 2g total fat (<1g sat fat); 70g carb; 0mg chol; 33mg sod; 8g fiber; 40g sugars

Green Dew Mint Smoothie
Serves 1
Reprinted with permission from Skinny Smoothies by Shell Harris and Elizabeth Johnson (Da Capo Press, 2012).

1/4 cucumber, peeled

1 cup honeydew melon

1/2 cup pear juice

1 Tbs. fresh lime juice

⅛ cup fresh mint leaves

Place all ingredients in blender. Add ice, if desired, and mix until smooth.

PER SERVING: 136 cal; 2g pro; <1g total fat (<1g sat fat); 33g carb; 0mg chol; 45mg sod; 3g fiber; 27g sugars

Kim Erickson has been involved with the natural health and integrative health industry for more than 18 years. She heads up Better Nutrition's Healthy Living Guide booklet series and is the co-author of Living Lessons: My journey of faith, love, and cutting-edge cancer therapy (AIM, 2010). Visit her online at

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