Guidelines for Glorious Greens

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Arame Eggs & Avo & VeggiesI believe that the three, most important, first steps toward establishing great health are: 1) getting enough water daily, 2) getting enough dark leafy greens daily, and 3) quitting refined sugars then eating low glycemic. Last month, I shared strategies on how to get enough re-mineralized water daily. So, this month, I’ll share the healthiest ways to prepare all kinds of greens (including the Asian Greens!); why some leafy greens are best for the body when eaten raw, and why some are healthiest when at least lightly cooked. Yay!

Whether it be a big pile of steamed dino kale drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, or a huge green salad with chopped dandelion greens, I feel so alive, so alert, and so much energy just from eating my greens daily! In fact, eating way more greens was the very first step I took about 15 years ago, when I had no energy and several health issues. When I simply started eating a big spinach salad every day, my energy level shot up by about 50%! Wow! “Greens, Glorious Greens! Life-Giving Sustenance!”

All greens have tons of fiber, minerals, and chlorophyl. Chlorophyl mirrors human blood almost exactly in it’s molecular structure, so it helps cleanse and re-build the blood. Live green salads are alkalizing to the body’s pH, and they’re full of fiber and living enzymes, both of which aid digestion. Greens rejuvenate us, period.

It’s important to maintain the body’s naturally alkaline pH balance to maintain good health, energy, stamina, and general vitality. I remember one of my teachers saying, “…disease cannot take root in an alkaline environment.” He recommend eating an 80% alkaline-forming diet, and limiting acid-forming foods to less than 20% of the diet. Acid-forming foods include: all forms of sugar, alcohol, commercially produced meats, refined salts, white flour products, pasteurized dairy, and packaged/processed/restaurant foods in general. When we eat mostly whole, alkalizing foods like seasonal vegetables, beans, millet, quinoa, nuts, avocado, pasture butter, organic eggs, and grass fed meats, there’s less room in our stomachs for the refined, acid-forming foods, which makes the gentle transition to a whole foods diet way easier than most people think!

Dark leafy greens are a big part of what’s missing in the Standard American Diet. The cruciferous (broccoli family) dark leafy greens like kales of all kinds, collard greens, Brussels sprout greens, broccoli greens, cauliflower greens, and cabbages are 1) very alkalizing to the blood, 2) contain potent anti-oxidants, and 3) are brimming with bio-available, food-state vitamins and minerals. The darker the color of the greens, the more minerals they have! I believe that these cruciferous greens are absolutely the most nutritious of all the greens because of their density of minerals, and their strong, anti-cancer properties. I’ve experienced that the crucifers are easiest to digest when eaten at least lightly steamed (or rubbed with coarse sea salt and olive oil). These methods help to break down the copious amounts of sulfur they contain, as sulfur is very difficult for the body to digest.  

Raw, green lettuces are also very alkalizing to the body, contain minerals, and have a cooling effect on the body. So, raw greens are best eaten more often in the spring and summer (the time of year when lettuces naturally grow), or when you’re feeling too warm. These types of greens don’t contain too much sulfur, so they’re easy to digest when eaten raw: all lettuces, baby spinach, turnip and radish greens, dandelion greens, baby bok choy, baby tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and watercress.

“What about beet greens and chard?”, you ask. There’s a substance called oxalic acid that’s found in large amounts in mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard. There’s a sensation associated with eating oxalic acid heavy veggies; it’s a feeling like the enamel is coming off of your teeth (similar to when you bite into a lemon). When these types of veggies are COOKED, oxalic acid binds with minerals in the intestine, and inhibits their absorption. If these types of veggies were cooked and eaten daily, they’d eventually contribute to mineral depletion. The great, recent news on this subject, is that when eaten raw, the living enzymes in the plant’s tissues help break down the oxalic acid, which leaves the minerals free to go to where they’re needed in the body. So, eat mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard RAW. Other than eating these types of greens raw, there are two more ways oxalic acid can be neutralized: 1) by cooking these vegetables with kombu sea vegetable for at least 20 minutes, and 2) by fermenting (culturing) these vegetables in beet kvaas, sauerkraut, or kimchee.

A wonderful new addition to my health-arsenal of greens, are the Asian greens! Va and Ivorrie at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, and Tou at the Saturday morning market in SLO, bring a beautiful, varied selection of Asian greens to us, such as Kang kong (water spinach), bittermelon leaf, amaranth greens, basil, long bean, daikon radish, singua, okra, shanghai bokchoy, lemon grass, dill, and yam leaf.

Their booths are in the North West corner of each market. I asked them which types can be eaten raw vs. cooked, and started including Asian greens in my salads ands stir frys. The yam leaf, amaranth greens, and water spinach are super mild, and will disappear into salads without a clue from picky eaters. The okra greens are mild too, and they have a slightly slippery texture (mucilaginous), just like their fruit. Turnip, radish, and mustard greens are slightly spicy, and the more mature (bigger they are), the spicier they get, so watch out!

For a full color guide to all the Asian greens including:
Latin name, also known as names, flavor, texture, how they’re best cooked, when they’re available, and where to find them, check out:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/asian-green-guide.html

Here’s a brief summary of which types can be eaten raw, and which types should be cooked:
Asian Greens which can be eaten raw OR cooked
yam leaf, radish greens, turnip greens, amaranth greens, fava greens,
malabar spinach, mizuna, snow pea shoots, water spinach, napa cabbage, BABY bok choy, BABY tatsoi, BABY yu choy, & BABY mustard greens

Asian Greens which need to be cooked
chrysanthemum greens, chinese celery, chinese broccoli, AA choy, kokabu greens, bitter melon vine (bitter melon vine is usually made into a medicinal tea for diabetics who are NOT on blood sugar lowering drugs)