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Great Greens!

Delicious ways to go green from the inside out.

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Delicious ways to go green from the inside out

If kale doesn’t call to you, and cooked broccoli offends your olfactory sense, no worries. You can still get all the health benefits of green foods, and in ways that may seem more palatable: via juices, tablets, powders, and even chocolate-covered patties. These are today’s versions of age-old spirulina, chlorella, and cereal grasses.

Why the emphasis on green foods? Studies have shown their healing properties to be astounding, impacting cholesterol, blood pressure, immune response, cancer and much more. Their common denominator is chlorophyll, the phytochemical that gives plants, leaves, and algae their green hue. This super-element is the equivalent, in the plant world, of hemoglobin in our red blood cells. Chlorophyll carries oxygen to our blood cells, helping fight off disease. Alkaline rich, it has anti-inflammatory properties that put the body in a state of ease. In cancer studies, it reduced carcinogens binding to DNA and diminished metastasis.

It has a critical antioxidant function, helping to keep cells clean. In the GI tract, it binds to chemicals and metals, prohibiting their absorption into the body.

Spirulina and Chlorella

So let’s take a closer look at green foods. There are two types: 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 (.3 percent) the chlorophyll of algae.

Which sounds like we should all go out and eat algae, right? In fact, humans have done so for millennia. The first recorded mention of it was by Cortes and the Conquistadores in Mexico in the 16th century. But we don’t have to gather spirulina from the surf like they did. It’s readily available in health food stores, and a number of companies offer spirulina patties enveloped in organic chocolate, peanut butter, and other enticing flavors.

The use of chlorella as a food is much more recent. Its cell walls are thicker than those of spirulina, making it impossible, in earlier times, for humans to absorb nutrients from the raw plant. According to Randall E. Merchant, Ph.D., professor of Anatomy and Neurosurgery at Virginia Commonwealth University, a relatively new development has been to change the atmospheric pressure around the chlorella so that its cell walls pop, freeing its nutrients. All the studies done on chlorella have used Sun Chlorella tablets, made by the company that developed this leading-edge process.

Chlorella and spirulina are whole foods. “We eat the entire plant,” Merchant says, “meaning you get every nutrient that it took to keep that organism alive. Chlorella [and spirulina] has been around for 540 million years—that’s pre-dinosaur! It has great qualities that have enabled it to survive so long.”

These two algae deliver immense benefits, though each is slightly different. Spirulina is high in protein, along with essential fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamins C, D and E, and calcium, iron, potassium and zinc, making it excellent for muscle building, weight loss, and disease fighting. Chlorella, which has many of the same nutrients, is a potent antioxidant and healer.

Wheatgrass and Barley Grass

Wheatgrass and barley grass are two of the most beneficial cereal grasses. A great source of beta carotene, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, they pack more iron than spinach. And wheatgrass offers no problem for those with wheat sensitivity. There are few differences between the two grasses, but wheatgrass is thought to have more antioxidant and disease-fighting properties, while barley grass is alkaline and helps balance pH levels.

“One issue to be aware of with grasses,” notes David Nelson, Ph.D., with the Center for Advanced Medicine, “is that juicing them [the freshest form] throws the fiber out, and you end up with concentrated sugars that can invite yeast growth, for example.”

Green Foods + Probiotics

Green food formulas with probiotics may address some of the juice concerns. Probiotics—literally, “for life”—are good bacteria that colonize our intestines and keep microbes from proliferating. Two strains are generally included in green formulas: L. acidophilus, which inhibits at least 23 disease-causing pathogens, and bifidobacteria, which researchers believe a lack of can mark the eventual onset of chronic degenerative disease.

“Essentially, the greener you are, the healthier you are,” says Nelson. So the next time you bypass spinach or kale, make the extra effort to go online or to the vitamin store for alternative forms of green foods.

Good Buys

sun chlorella from Chlorella pyrenoidosa, a nutritionally superior species of freshwater algae, provides all of the B vitamins, plus magnesium, zinc and iron, 18 amino acids and more.

greens plus wild berry burst mixes green superfoods with high-ORAC fruit and herbal extracts for more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.

Nutricology progreens blends organic green grasses, sea vegetables (seaweed), and algae with adaptogenic herbs, active probiotics, fiber, and other nutrient-dense superfoods.

paradise Herbs and Essentials orac-energy greens Just one tablespoon contains over 12,000 ORAC, the equivalent of 24 servings of fruits and vegetables in antioxidant capacity.