Why You Need A Greens Supplement
So why all the fuss about greens supplements lately?Does this mean we should all be eating everything green in sight? Like say, that juicy looking tree, or those freshly chopped blades of grass?
Admittedly, some of the ingredients in a greens supplement are actually grasses like wheatgrass and barley grass, however most of the “greens” I am referring to come in the form of green vegetables.
So let's find out if your mum really was right all along, should we be eating our greens?
Why Are Greens So Important In The Human Diet?
Greens or green foods are an important source of nutrients in a healthy diet because they contain chlorophyll (the stuff that makes them green). Chlorophyll can assist the body in maintaining a healthy pH level, as well as providing a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Some of the nutrients found in green plants and vegetables are not always easily found elsewhere in the diet.
Vitamin K, for example which is found in dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale is not commonly found in many other food sources.
Vitamin K is an incredibly important nutrient as it not only helps with the critically important function of blood clotting but it also helps to improve the absorption of Vitamin D in the body.
Greens are also an important source of fiber, which not only help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy gut bacteria balance but can leave you feeling more full after meals.
Most green vegetables are also a great source of B Vitamins which perform a variety of roles in the body from boosting energy levels, to assisting with the breakdown of food and the formation of new blood cells.
Green vegetables contain important antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, which can help to protect you against cell damage that may eventually lead to disease.
Green vegetables also contain important minerals such as magnesium, zinc and selenium, required in many important functions in the body from nerve function, to immune system and even hormone production.
Green vegetables are also a staple in the diets of those who want to look beautiful and young, as the B Vitamins, antioxidants and minerals are all very important when it comes to maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails.
What Is A Greens Supplement And Why Do They Even Exist?
A greens supplement is a concentrated source of green plants and other nutrients created to help supplement the diet of people who may not be eating enough green vegetables.
A greens supplement typically contains green vegetables as well as other “greens” such as wheat grass, barley grass and alfalfa.
If you’re lucky, the greens supplement you choose may also contain added bonuses like vitamins, minerals, superfoods and even prebiotics and probiotics.
By getting a concentrated source of nutrients in a greens supplement you are giving yourself a head start on hitting your nutritional requirements for the day.
Greens supplements have been popular with athletes and top performers in the corporate world for many years but now they’re starting to grow in popularity with the general public.
A greens supplement is not a complete replacement for eating fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet rich in fresh, whole foods is of course the foundation for living a healthy life.
However, if you’re busy and find that your greens intake varies a lot from day to day, you could benefit from taking a greens supplement.
How Many Servings Of Greens Do You Really Need Each Day?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that the average adult eat at least 3 cups of vegetables per day. This varies slightly with age, gender and weight but it is best to go a little over rather than under.
The USDA defines a cup of greens as a full cup of chopped broccoli, 1 cup of cooked spinach, or 2 cups of raw spinach as spinach tends to wilt and grow smaller as it loses its water content.
This is definitely not an unreasonable request and it doesn’t sound too hard to achieve each day.
However, when you look back on your own week, ask yourself: On how many days did I actually achieve this?
If you didn’t manage to hit the 3 cups each day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Unfortunately, most of us here in the western world do not consistently hit this amount each day.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.
This is definitely not an excuse to take the pressure off yourself. If you’re not hitting those numbers, get in there and be that 1 person.
But if you find that you are not hitting this amount consistently each and every day, this is where a greens supplement may be of benefit to you.
Now, what if you are hitting or even exceeding that USDA recommendation?
Are you definitely getting the nutrients you require?
You would hope so, but unfortunately there is another factor that we have not yet discussed...
Do The Greens You Eat Today Count As Much As They Used To?
I love talking about food with the people of my grandparent’s generation, they laugh at our obsession with organic food and say how back in their day it was just called “food”.
There weren’t any other options out there.
Thanks to improvements in science and technology we are able to produce many different kinds of products and call them “food” as long as they are generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
God Bless America.
However, the same pioneering spirit that has led to an increase in food production has also led to an undesirable side effect.
Thanks to intense agricultural practices and over-farming our modern soil is not quite as nutrient rich as it used to be.
This decreased quality is reflected in the vegetables we grow as a nation and they typically do not contain as many nutrients as they did back when our grandparents were eating them.
So what can we do about this?
Well for starters we can increase our intake of fruits and vegetables to compensate.
But we can also look to fortify our diet with some additional nutrients from, you guessed it: A greens supplement.
What Deficiencies Occur From A Lack Of Greens?
So, we talked about the benefits of eating enough greens, but what happens if you don’t eat enough?
Some of the most common deficiencies you can develop from a lack of greens in your diet are as follows:
Vitamin K Deficiency:
A deficiency in Vitamin K can lead to irregular bleeding and the inability to stop the bleeding of a wound quickly and efficiently. If that sounds dangerous to you, it is.
Fiber plays many roles including improving digestion, helping you maintain healthy blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels and supporting healthy gut bacteria balance.
Interestingly, even in a healthy gut with more of the “good guys” than “bad guys” living in there, a shortage of fiber can not only lead to many of the bacteria dying out but may also lead to them eating your intestinal lining when there is no more fiber left to eat.
Does that sound uncomfortable? It is. It can cause bloating, discomfort and chronic inflammation.
Green vegetables are an important source of B Vitamins and a deficiency in these can cause a noticeable reduction in daily energy levels.
One particular B-Vitamin, Folic acid, is found in high amounts in greens, and a deficiency in this can eventually lead to a particularly troublesome form of anaemia resulting in severe fatigue.
Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women is also especially dangerous and can lead to birth defects.
Vitamin C Deficiency:
A word you may associate with sailors and pirates.
Once thought almost non-existent in the modern age in countries like the USA, this easily preventable disease is sadly making a comeback.
The cause of scurvy is a deficiency in Vitamin C.
Scurvy is very easy to prevent as Vitamin C is found in almost all fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, thanks to a diet of highly processed foods and a lack of fresh produce, some unlucky folk have recently developed a case of scurvy in the USA and other western countries like Australia.
If you do end up with scurvy you’ll know it, as symptoms include swollen and bleeding gums, severe joint pain and a shortness of breath.
Vitamin E Deficiency:
A lack of Vitamin E at first will result in an underperforming immune system and you may find yourself becoming sick more often.
It may also show in the form of poor skin quality, as Vitamin E is so important in maintaining healthy skin.
Over time a Vitamin E deficiency may appear in much more serious ways, such as eye damage and nerve damage.
A well known symptom of magnesium deficiency is muscle cramps, ranging from mild to more serious, like the dreaded “midnight calf cramp” which can strike when you least expect it. And trust me, it is NOT fun.
A magnesium deficiency can also lead to some pretty serious symptoms such as insomnia and even an irregular heartbeat.
A zinc deficiency can manifest itself in many ways.
One of the common signs of zinc deficiency is weak, cracking, white streaky nails.
A lack of zinc can also lead to thinning hair and poor skin quality, which can manifest itself in the form of acne, eczema and an impaired ability to heal wounds.
Zinc is very important for immune function and it is not uncommon for people who regularly fall ill to have low zinc levels.
Zinc deficiency in growing children can also cause impaired growth.
Some recent studies have suggested that low zinc levels may be associated with an increased likelihood of developing depression.
Selenium deficiency is quite rare in the western world, however, in parts of rural China with over-farmed, depleted soils, selenium deficiency is becoming increasingly common.
A selenium deficiency can lead to a weakening of the heart and a slowing of the metabolism.
In men in particular, low selenium levels may lead to a reduction in testosterone levels and the associated problems that come with that, such as reduced sex drive.
How Does A Greens Supplement Help Protect You Against Deficiencies?
By taking a greens supplement each day you are giving yourself some “nutritional insurance” and ensuring you are getting enough essential nutrients, especially on busy days where you may not eat quite enough vegetables.
If you do this consistently then it is very unlikely that you will ever end up with a nutritional deficiency.
Not only can taking a greens supplement help to protect you against deficiencies, it can also provide additional long term benefits such as increased energy, improved digestion, and a stronger immune system.
The best part is, the longer you use a greens supplement, the more benefits you will experience.
Like I always say though, the best way to achieve optimal health is to eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and real foods.
A supplement will not completely substitute for these things. There are still so many beneficial nutrients in plants that are yet to be discovered.
A greens supplement is there to assist you, not to replace real food.