Do you know people who think eating the limp piece of iceberg lettuce on their hamburger means they’ve eaten their veggies for the day? Folks sometimes get strange ideas about what constitutes healthy eating. I once knew a family that considered macaroni salad as their vegetable course. While you know the importance of eating vegetables, it can be a challenge to get them into picky kids-and adults. My sister-in-law found a creative way to bring green food in under the family radar. She blended zucchini into the spaghetti sauce they all loved and she was pleased that she could sneak something green into her particularly choosy son’s diet. It was a great idea-a first step in the right direction I would strongly encourage-but there’s a tasty blend of other possibilities that can transform your nutritional health.
Freeing the Green Goodies
The simple and delicious answer to getting more healthful greens into your family’s diet is smoothies. Yes, green smoothies. Too often, people throw out greens such as carrot tops, wrongly thinking they’re just for rabbits, but Victoria Boutenko in her wonderful book Green for Life explains the amazing health offered when you turn them into smoothies (see sidebar on pg. 5). But why blend them? Why not just eat them, rather than hauling out the blender? It’s because green foods have strong cell walls that hold in their valuable nutrients.
Although the walls can be broken down by cooking, heat kills the living, beneficial enzymes, and many vitamins and minerals are lost in the cooking water (that’s why you should always consume the water after cooking vegetables and greens, either as a drink or disguised in soup). You can also eat greens raw, but no matter how long and hard you chew, you won’t break them down into the 1-2 mm sized particles required to rupture all the cell walls. Blending releases all the stored nutrients without destroying any of the health-giving benefits.
The Greatness of Greens
Greens provide a two-fold magic not found in other vegetables: Greens assist the digestion of all our food, and they contain life-giving chlorophyll. In fact, greens are the only food group that helps digest other foods because they stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes.
We’re all born with a limited supply of digestive enzymes because the plan was that we’d regularly consume greens to re-supply them. Instead, we’ve generally abused our gastrointestinal tracts with processed foods, chemicals, and stress. Our birth supply of enzymes is exhausted, so replenishing with greens is desperately needed.
Hydrochloric acid (HCl), a substance our stomachs secrete to help digest food, naturally starts to diminish as we near age 40. Without HCl, stomachs are unable to break down and assimilate nutrients. You may have noticed that even folks with fairly good health habits develop gray hair as they reach middle age. This is because of nutritional deficiencies caused by reduced levels of stomach acid needed to release the nutrients in food. By blending nutrient rich greens, food is “pre-digested,” leaving less work for the stomach. Advocates of regular greens-blending report that some people have regained color in their white hair!
The other special property of greens is that they harness the sun’s healing energy in chlorophyll, a substance muscularly similar to human blood. By carrying oxygen throughout cells, it shuts down cancer cells, fungus, and pathogenic, “bad” bacteria since these enemies are anaerobic-meaning that they thrive in the absence of oxygen. Boutenko reports, “Abundant scientific research shows that there are hardly any illnesses that could not be helped by chlorophyll.” (And to be sure you get the most from your greens, also consume healthy fats as found in avocados, nuts, seeds and their oils, coconut oil, butter, and other animal fats. As Weston Price taught, your body needs fats to help it use minerals from the foods you eat.)
Some Juicy Tidbits
But what about juicing greens? Isn’t that just as good? While juicing is very beneficial for cleansing the body of sickness and toxic metals, for a busy family it has two downsides:
— Cost: It takes a LOT of produce to make a little juice.
— Time: Juicing is not a quick event, especially if you want to provide its health benefits for every member of a larger family.
Perhaps even more significant, though, when you blend the greens in a high-speed blender (Vita-Mix® or K-tec brands are highly recommended, but any durable blender will be better than none), you also give your body beneficial fiber to cleanse the walls of your intestines and to facilitate regular elimination of toxic waste.
If you can manage to buy organic greens, you’ll get more blend for your buck. Organic produce is grown in soil amended only by composted animal manures and naturally occurring rock minerals, so the roots soak up a full spectrum of essential micro-nutrients not available in synthetically fertilized, non-organic produce. Also, organic fruits, vegetables, and greens are not treated with toxic herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides which your body stores in fat cells-making more if necessary-in an effort to protect your vital organs from the toxins.
Although buying everything organic at the store is cost-prohibitive for our large family, we found a local food co-op through which to order organic produce in bulk, making it equal to the cost of regular produce from the grocery store. To find a similar resource near you, ask your local health food store or Weston Price Foundation chapter leader about the availability of co-ops (see www.westonaprice.org for chapter listings).
Another source for organic foods is local farmers who participate in community supported agriculture (CSA). As a CSA participant, you reserve a weekly box of organic, seasonal veggies and greens. The produce is fresh-picked rather than shipped a thousand or more miles, and you support local agriculture in the process-all for less cost to you than the grocery store.
Then, too, you can grow your own greens, either in a garden or by sprouting them in your house. Keep in mind that herbs are greens and are easy to grow indoors year round. Try to use open-pollinated, heirloom seeds rather than those that have been genetically modified.
The ultimate organic source is wildcrafting, the art of finding edible plants growing naturally since nature’s offerings are the most nutritious of all. If your lawn isn’t chemically treated, you’ll probably find an abundant source of plantain and dandelion greens out your front door, particularly in the springtime. Did you know, for instance, that a half cup of wild violet leaves contains the same amount of vitamin C as found in four oranges? It’s important to learn wildcrafting before you try it, though, to make sure you can accurately identify the plants before eating them (Google “wildcrafting” and browse the many online guides and book recommendations).
To get your green smoothie life started, pull out the blender and try one of these:
Raw Family Wild Banango
2 Cups lambsquarters (plantain, chickweed or other weed)
2 Cups water
Yield: 1 quart of smoothie
6 Leaves of red leaf lettuce
Bunch of fresh basil
2 Celery sticks
2 Cups water
Yield: 1 quart of smoothie
These are only two of the more than 20 delicious recipes in Victoria Boutenko’s book (available from www.rawfamily.com). Once you get going, you’ll also want to create your own. Vary them from day to day so you get the most well-rounded nutrition and keep your taste buds entertained. With yummy green smoothies, even the pickiest eaters will enjoy this change for the better.