Author: Lisa Turner Source: Better Nutrition, Sep 1997 v59 n9 p32(1).
Green food can generally be divided into three categories: cruciferious vegetables, land grasses, and water greens. While each group has its own special attributes -- cereal grasses, for example, contain more fiber, and water greens are higher in protein -- all have the common characteristic of chlorophyll.
Other components also give green foods their well-deserved reputation as nutritional powerhouses. Most notable of these nutrients are enzymes, sufficient quantities of which are generally missing from the typical American diet which is rich in refined, processed, and hyper-cooked foods. Green foods are also high in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and amino acids, and contain calcium, protein, and fiber.
Since it's estimated that only about 10 percent of Americans consume the recommended three-to-five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, nutrient-dense green foods can fill in the nutritional blanks.
When green drinks first natural foods market, the reception was not universally heart-warming. But these natural algae and grasses have a long and illustrious history in the realm of health and healing.
The molecular structure of chlorophyll, the green pigment that supports plant growth, is virtually identical to the structure of hemoglobin -- the difference is that hemoglobin has an iron atom at its center, where chlorophyll has a magnesium atom. Chlorophyll was used as early as 1940 to treat conditions ranging from respiratory tract infections to cancerous lesions. This bright green liquid has also been found to offset the effects of radiation, boost immunity, prevent inflammation, detoxify the body, and speed the healing of wounds.
Barley grass. Barley is an old-timer in the grains category, cultivated as early as 3000 B.C. The juice from young barley plants is one of the most common green foods, and for good reason: it has been shown to provide benefits for a stunning variety of disorders, including asthma, obesity, skin disorders, anemia, arthritis, ulcers, gastrointestinal ailments, diabetes, heart disease, and hepatitis.
The proteins in barley grass can aid pancreatitis, stomach problems, dermatitis, inflammation in the oral cavity, and lacerations of the stomach and duodenum. Studies also report that barley grass may help with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, and may have a chemoprotective (cancer-preventive) effect. It's also high in antioxidants, including beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Wheat grass. Some studies hint at the chemoprotective effects of wheat grass: one researcher claims that wheat grass is high in laetrile, a cancer-preventive compound, while others have suggested that wheat grass can decrease the ability of mutagens to cause cancer by as much as 99 percent. Chlorella. This microscopic, single-celled green algae contains more chlorophyll than any known plant. Chlorella and "chlorella growth factor" -- extracted from the nucleus of the chlorelia cell -- may prove to be potent protective agents against cancer, heart disease, and immune disorders. Studies suggest that chlorella helps enhance immunity, lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, and prevent cancer.
Spirulina. This water algae is rich in a number of carotenoids, including phycocyanin, a pigment that's responsible for spirulina's blue-green tint, which has been shown to enhance immunity. It's also high in sulfolipids, substances which show promise in protecting against HIV, as well as phytochemicals that have been shown to prevent cancer, including chlorophyll, phycobilins, xanthophylls, and violaxanthins.
Alfalfa. Because the root structure of alfalfa extends as deep as 20 feet into the earth, this plant -- technically a member of the legume family -- is able to derive vast quantities of nutrients. Alfalfa has been shown to help treat stomach ailments, relieve gas pains, soothe ulcers, boost appetite, and act as a natural diuretic and laxative. In addition, it reduces cholesterol levels, controls bleeding disorders, and may have anti-tumor activities.
Lisa Turner is president of Moondance Healing Arts in Miami Beach, F7a. She is the author of Mostly Macro and Meals That Heal, and is working on a third book to be released this year.
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