Greens Should Be the Powerhouse of Your Diet!

All foods get their calories from fat, carbohydrate, or protein. Green vegetables, unlike high-starch vegetables like carrots and potatoes, get the majority of their calories from protein. When more of your protein needs are met from green vegetables, you get the benefit of ingesting a huge amount of critical, life-extending micronutrients.

The biggest animals all eat predominantly green vegetation, gaining their size from the protein found there. Obviously, greens pack a powerful, nutrient-dense punch. Some high-green-eating animals—primates—have a very similar biology and physiology to humans. Based on genetic information, chimpanzee and human DNA only differs by 1.6 percent. The desire of primates for variety in their diet supports nutrient diversity that enables them to live a long life, free of chronic diseases. But, without an adequate amount of plant-derived nutrients, immune system dysfunction develops. The results of a compromised immune system are frequent infections, allergies, autoimmune disease, and often cancer. The micronutrients that fuel the primate immune system are found in nature’s cupboard—the garden and forest.

Now that you have delved this far into the field of nutritional medicine, you might as well invest a few more health dollars in your body’s nutrient bank account by focusing on your consumption of greens every day. Low in calories and high in life-extending nutrients, green foods are your secret weapon to achieve incredible health. Scientific research has shown a strong positive association between the consumption of green vegetables and a reduction of all the leading causes of death in humans.1 Cruciferous vegetables—in particular broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy, collards, watercress, and arugula, to name a few—are loaded with disease-protecting micronutrients and powerful compounds that promote detoxification.

To bring your body to a phenomenal level of health, my aim is to deliver these foods to your plate in a variety of ways that make them delicious and increase your absorption of their beneficial nutrients. Greens can be served raw in salads, steamed and chopped as part of dinner, and cooked in soups.

When we steam or boil vegetables some of the phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals get lost in the water, but when we simmer vegetables in soup, all the nutrients are retained in the liquid. Additionally, the liquid base of the soup prevents the formation of toxic compounds that are created as food is browned under dry heat. Many beneficial chemical compounds are more readily absorbed when the food has been softened with heat.2 You should incorporate larger quantities of greens in an assortment of delicious ways as you move up the stages of dietary excellence.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.

1. Steinmetz KA, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review. J Am Diet Assoc. 1996;96(10):1027-1039. Genkinger JM, Platz EA, Hoffman SC, et al. Fruit, vegetable, and antioxidant intake and all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular disease mortality in a community dwelling population in Washington County, Maryland. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160(12):1223-1233.

2. Bugianesi R, Salucci M, Leonardi C, et al. Effect of domestic cooking on human bioavailability of naringenin, chlorogenic acid, lycopene and betacarotene in cherry tomatoes. Eur J Nutr. 2004; 43(6):360-366.

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Stephanie - September 11, 2009 4:58 PM

I have a very pointed question:

I'm in college. I eat most of my meals in the dining hall. Cooking for myself is really not a realistic option, for a number of reasons. The food at my school, however, is pretty good. I have fruit for breakfast everyday, I can get big salads and use vinegar for dressing, etc. My question pertains to the cooked vegetables served in the dining hall. Sometimes the vegetables are simply cooked in water. But, probably more than half the time, they are cooked in either oil or margarine/butter. And occasionally they add sugar (to otherwise plain green beans, for instance). Usually it's oil. There are days where I can get veggies that are cooked only in water at both lunch and dinner, but sometimes days go by where the only options are the oily or buttery ones. The really nutritious vegetables, such as spinach and Swiss chard, are cooked in butter or margarine (when they're cooked at all)--they're certainly not cooked plain. I've put in suggestions to the dining hall, but it's unlikely that the staff will change much of this. In any case, my question is, essentially, whether it would be better to largely avoid these oily vegetables (even if it means not having any cooked vegetables for days at a time and reducing the variety of healthful foods in my diet) or if it would be better to eat them, despite the empty calories and animal fat?

Michael - September 11, 2009 10:17 PM

I would think it would be better to include them in your diet and try to remove as much oil as possible with napkins.

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