We all know organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables — especially green fruits and vegetables — are good for us. Yet some are far better than others. Fortunately, many of our all-time favorites are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and some even have protein. Not to mention, greens are very versatile and easy to incorporate into meals, snacks, and smoothies.
First, what’s so bad about conventionally grown and GMO foods? Genetically modified organisms or GMOs, are plants and animals that have been created by combining DNA of different species in a way that could not occur in nature or by traditional cross-breeding. No knows for sure what effect that will have on us in the long term.
What’s clear is that GMOs are bred to resist pesticides, which are used in ever greater amounts. Both GMOs and conventional produce are grown using a cocktail of chemicals including fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides. These eventually make their way into your body via what you eat. In fact, more than 90% of Americans have pesticide residue or its byproducts in their bodies, mostly as a result of the foods we eat.1
Because GMO foods currently don’t need to be labeled, you may not even know when you’re eating them. That’s why the best way to reduce the risks of ingesting pesticides is to buy organic, certified non-GMO fruits and vegetables.
Yet, organic produce has its drawbacks. It can be expensive, especially if you’re shopping for produce that’s out of season. Depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find at all. Because of the effort and expense involved in purchasing and cooking organic vegetables, I advocate focusing on the most nutrient-dense varieties. That’s what I did when I developed my Organic Greens powder!
So what are the best options? Are mustard greens, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, or dandelion greens the most beneficial, convenient, healthy, and delicious options? The answers may surprise you.
Today I’ll give you all the details about the top five healthiest green vegetables. Then, I’ll suggest a great way to incorporate more greens by using my Organic Greens for the best green smoothie recipes. It’s a key component of the smoothie I drink just about every morning!
5-Star Green Vegetables
These five greens can optimize your intake of essential vitamins and nutrients.
This leafy vegetable has a leg up with its hardy, green leaves. Unlike lettuce and spinach, kale is a cruciferous vegetable. Kale not only contains vitamins K, C, A and B6, and minerals including folate, fiber, and manganese, it also contains glucosinolates.
Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds. These are broken down into isothiocyanates and indole-3 carbinol when they’re chopped or chewed. Isothuocyanates and indole-3-carbinol support a healthy inflammatory process and help protect healthy cells from damage. 2
So what’s a delicious way to get all the health benefits of kale? Well, you can eat raw kale salad of course, but there’s an even better way! Combine kale with a splash of olive oil and heat in a pan on the stovetop which complements the slightly bitter flavor. The heat and olive oil help break down fibers and make the nutrients more absorbable.
When prepared properly, kale may even help balance cholesterol levels of LDL cholesterol in your body.
Cruciferous vegetables continue to top the list with broccoli sprouts. This immature broccoli, harvested when it is just 3-4 days old, offers more vitamins than its fully grown counterpart.
A 3-ounce serving of broccoli sprouts contains:
- 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C
- 10% of recommended vitamin A
- 6% of recommended calcium
- 4% of the recommended intake of iron3
- 2g of protein
- 4g of dietary fiber4
Broccoli sprouts join kale in containing glucosinolates. In this case, it’s sulforaphane. Sulforaphane can support your body in defending itsef from oxidative stress. It may also support a healthy digestive environment.5
Another great reason to include broccoli sprouts in your diet is their slightly crunchy texture and spicy flavor. Broccoli sprouts take your salad from ordinary to a deliciously flavorful side dish. I recommend eating them raw as cooking deactivates the enzyme that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates.
There is one downside to broccoli sprouts (even if you grow them at home) — they are fairly susceptible to E-coli. You MUST wash them thoroughly. If you ensure you’re properly cleaning them, broccoli sprouts are an excellent addition to your diet. The absolute safest way to incorporate them in your diet is through a supplement such as my Organic Greens.
Cruciferous veggies aside, spinach is the go-to powerhouse leafy green. The most common spinach variation in grocery stores, both fresh and frozen, is flat or smooth-leaf spinach. Other common varieties include savoy and semi-savoy spinach, which both sport a more wrinkled and coarser leaf.6
Spinach leaf greens contain ample amounts of nutrients including vitamins K, A, C, E, and B2. Spinach also has folate, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, fiber, and more. These nutrients are crucial for your body to function optimally. They support muscle mass, bone density, heart health, kidney function, and your body’s inflammatory response.
Spinach is also known for its high protein content. It contains a whopping 3 grams of protein per 100 gram serving of spinach.7 That might not sound like much when you compare it to peanut butter, with 25 grams per 100-gram serving. Then again, who puts peanut butter in a salad?
When you compare it to romaine lettuce’s less than half a gram, it stands up as a great choice. All that from a handful of leaves? Well, there are some caveats…
The nutritional value of spinach changes based on how you prepare it. Many vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and folate are lost when spinach is cooked. On the other hand, cooked spinach provides higher levels of vitamin A and iron than when it’s eaten raw.8 Additionally, one cup of cooked spinach contains 839 mg of potassium and 4 grams of fiber.
Surprise! This nutritious algae isn’t just for pretty, turquoise smoothies (while those are a good way to eat it). Spirulina is, in fact, one of the most impressive greens you can add to your diet. Studies show that spirulina can help support regular immune functions and a healthy balance of histamines in your body.9
However, I don’t expect most people will dig into a big bowl of spirulina. That’s why I included a certified organic powdered form in my Organic Greens.
In its powdered form, 100 grams of spirulina contains exceptional values of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Powdered spirulina is 60-70% protein depending on where it was harvested! It’s full of vitamin A as beta carotene, vitamin K, and a range of B vitamins as well.10 With just one serving of spirulina, you can hit nearly 50% of the daily recommended intake of calcium for women.11
Including spirulina in your diet can help support healthy cholesterol levels.12 Spirulina can also support the activation of antioxidant enzymes and the breakdown of important lipids. It can also increase the activity of cells that protect against oxidative damage.13 Now that you’re with me in your appreciation for algae, let’s move on to spirulina’s freshwater friend.
This freshwater algae is packed with incredible amounts of nutrients including protein, vitamins, minerals, and a large number of antioxidant polysaccharides. These are known to support many internal processes including the immune system and inflammation modulation.14
With these benefits, it’s no surprise that chlorella can help promote detoxification in the body.15 Studies even show that a daily dose of chlorella can promote a healthy blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels. Chlorella may also support wound healing and enhance immune functions.16,17
A single ounce of chlorella contains:
- Vitamin A—287% RDA
- Vitamin B2—71% RDA
- Vitamin B3—33% RDA
- Iron—202% RDA
- Magnesium—22% >RDA
- Zinc—133% RDA
Despite these impressive numbers, depending on how the chlorella crop is harvested, levels of these nutrients can vary. It’s best to find a reliable source of chlorella to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients. It’s also important to note that a daily one-ounce of chlorella is expensive. It’s way more convenient to find a greens powder like my Organic Greens that includes chlorella!
What’s the Best Way to Get All Your Greens?
I encourage you to include all colors of fruits and vegetables in your diet. However, I understand they are not always timely or appetizing options. Luckily, you can reap the health benefits from these five critical greens without the hassle of cooking.
My Organic Greens powder is a nutritional powerhouse! It makes it easy for you to add certified organic, plant-based nutrients to your diet. I get a jump start on my veggie intake for the day by starting my morning with an Organic Greens smoothie!
Add Organic Greens to your favorite green drink recipe with frozen fruit and protein powder. For an extra nutrient blast, pop in some red fruits and vegetables such as apples or beets. When you purchase Organic Greens, I even include a free eBook with lots of tasty recipes that makes it easy to try a new beverage every day!
An organic green juice is a great way to get amazing nutrients from green leafy vegetables. With these five veggies in your diet, you can make some giant leaps on your journey to optimal health and wellness.