Natural health: 'Superfood' greens

Megan Sheppard explains the reason why ‘superfood’ greens are so popular.

Q. I’m loathed to pay the money for powdered greens when they seem to be little more than dried grass and seaweeds. 

Are they actually worth the price, or am I better off sticking to regular vitamins and minerals?

A. The reason why these ‘superfood’ greens are so popular is because they are very nutrient dense, although they aren’t a replacement for vitamin and mineral supplementation or healthy balanced diets.

Spirulina, chlorella, and AFA blue-green algae are the most popular algae greens. 

These single-celled micro-algae grow in a fresh water environment and are all rich sources of easily digested protein. 

Since they contain all of the essential amino acids, they are a complete protein source, which is why the powdered greens are popular among vegetarians, vegans, and people who are wanting to increase their nutrient intake safely. 

All three are great sources of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals — including a number of trace minerals.

Spirulina is so-called due to the fact that it grows in a spiral formation. It is high in chlorophyll and the anti- oxidant phycocyanin and can strengthen the blood, protect against free radicals, and support immune function.

Chlorella is believed to contain more chlorophyll than any other greens available to us. It has been shown in studies to bind with heavy metals and other toxins and safely remove them from the body.

Chlorella is useful for those who are wanting to cleanse the bloodstream, and to support the organs of detoxification and elimination. 

It is considered to have potential in the repair and regeneration of tissue, possibly due to the unique ability of being able to quadruple itself every 20 hours.

AFA (Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae), contains over 64 nutrients — in particular two compounds that are believed to support the production of stem cells from bone marrow, support neurotransmitter health and development, and improve mood and clarity. 

The compounds are called phycocyanin (the same constituent responsible for the rich colour of spirulina), and phenylethylamine (PEA).

Sea vegetables and seaweeds have long been used in Asia and other coastal regions around the world as a source of nutrients, particularly iodine. 

There are three main types — red, green, and brown, with kelp being the most widely popular.

Kelp is an umbrella term used to describe a number of species of brown marine algae. Once again, this plant is abundant and grows at a very rapid rate (up to a metre daily). 

Kelp is rich in chlorophyll and has over 70 minerals — including potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium, along with the well-known iodine. 

Iodine is crucial in thyroid function, breast and prostate health, and protects the body against radiation damage. Kelp is also a good source of essential fatty acids, anti- oxidants, vitamins, and fibre.

It should be noted that individuals on thyroid or blood pressure medications should consult with their doctor before using kelp as a medicinal food.

Finally, we have the grasses. The most popular being barley and wheat grass that have been harvested as shoots when their nutrient and enzyme levels are at their highest. 

Once again, the rich green colour indicates an abundance of chlorophyll, making these grasses valuable for their purifying and detoxifying effect on the body.

Wheat and barley grass are fantastic sources of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, and enzymes. 

As a result, people often report feeling an increase in energy levels and clarity in thinking.

All of these greens are typically available as tablets, capsules, or loose powder. 

The powder is often added to juices and smoothies, and some people sprinkle them on salads and breakfast cereals. 

Barley and wheat grass can be grown at home in trays for juicing, although they are best juiced by hand using a manual auger juicer.

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