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The Importance of Eating Assimilable Greens

by Frederic Patenaude

Why are green vegetables important?

We know that increasing our intake of green-leafy vegetables is very important for several reasons.

Here are a few facts about greens vegetables:

  • They contain more vitamin A than carrots
  • They contain more vitamin C than oranges
  • They contain more vitamin E than whole wheat
  • They contain more vitamin B2 than milk
  • They contain quality proteins (with a good amino acid profile)

But there’s something more critical:

Greens provide essential alkaline minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are found in insufficient quantities in fruit, nuts and seeds, not to mention other more conventional, acid-forming foods.*

* Note by Healing Teeth Naturally: For more on alkaline minerals such as calcium and magnesium, see for instance Mineral- and trace-element-rich foods and for more on calcium, see Silica from horsetail a better calcium than calcium - is "biological transmutation" real?.

The Calcium/Phosphorus Ratio

Minerals and other nutrients interact with each other in a way that can affect their absorption in the body. We know for example that without vitamin D, calcium absorption is impaired. The same goes for a variety of vitamins and minerals.

One of those interactions that are rarely talked about is between calcium and phosphorus. The calcium/phosphorus ratio is mostly discussed in animal science, when designing diets for herbivorous animals, for example. It has been found that when domesticated animals and pets are fed a diet that is low in calcium, but high in phosphorus, they develop bone disorders and dental problems.

The theory is that if there is more phosphorus than calcium in the diet, the body will start to take calcium from its own reserves (the bones) to compensate. Over a long or short period of time, this may affect dramatically the bones in a negative way. That is why many nutritionists recommend a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio that is at least 1 to 1. This means there should be at least as much calcium as there is phosphorus in the diet. So if a person consumes 500 mg. of phosphorus in a day, there should be at least 500 mg. of calcium consumed too. This doesn’t actually need to happen in a single day, but on average in the course of a week, or a month.

Do fruits contain enough calcium?

Fruits do not contain enough calcium and other alkaline minerals to maintain proper health over the long term. Most commercially available fruits are very low in calcium. For example, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of bananas is 0.3 to 1, meaning that for 100 grams of phosphorus in bananas, there are only 30 grams of calcium. Even when we read, for example, that oranges or figs contain lots of calcium - we have to understand something. Usually, the high-mineral concentration is found in other parts of the fruit. For example, most of the calcium in figs is found in the tiny seeds that are not digested, even if they are eaten. The calcium in oranges is mostly found in the white pith, that is also usually not eaten, and when it is, it is likely not digested.

* Note by Healing Teeth Naturally: The case of a man who experienced dramatic dental deterioration on a raw vegan diet containing large amounts of fruit can be read on www.30bananasaday.com/forum/topics/3-years-and-8-months-811-raw-vegan-teeth-issues?commentId=2684079%3AComment%3A2657563 . While he had healthy teeth as a child his teeth literally hollowed out from the inside, developing massive tooth decay, on a (clearly unbalanced - for him) raw vegan diet.

We Need Greens

To provide enough minerals in the diet, we need a sufficient quantity of green vegetables. We need also a good variety of green vegetables - just celery and romaine lettuce might not be enough to provide to most people’s mineral needs. (For example, a huge head of romaine lettuce - one of the better lettuce - contains only about 200 mg of calcium. And we’re talking a huge head that weighs more than a pound!)

More importantly, we need to eat greens in such a way that the nutrients can be easily assimilated by the body. Salads are great, but often the tough fiber of greens is not chewed or broken down well enough in order for the nutrients to be well assimilated. This is in addition to the fact that most people’s digestion is not as optimal as it could be.

So the challenges we face are that:

  • Most people do not chew greens well enough, even when they think they do.
  • Eating a lot of salads all the time leaves little room for fruit. When that happens, you fall short on your caloric (energy) requirements, so you start adding more fat, nuts, and seeds to the diet - which eventually leads to a failure.
  • Most people do not eat a great variety of greens, and do not eat the most important greens (those that contain the most minerals).
  • Even organic lettuce is not as rich in minerals as we’d like to think.
  • Many people tend to avoid some of the best greens because those are often too tough and fibrous to enjoy raw. (Such as kale, broccoli, mustard greens, collards, etc.)

So we need to include green vegetables often in our diets in a form that is easily assimilable by the body - when the nutrients can be extracted from the tough fiber of vegetables. We also need to include the richer greens, those that contain the most calcium, more often in our diet.

So what’s the solution?

1- The consumption of green juices: Vegetable (or green) juices are a great idea, as they require basically no digestion at all. But usually, people who get into the discipline of making green juices every day rarely keep up for a long time, because it is very demanding: washing all the veggies, juicing (often hard work!), cleaning up the juicer, cleaning up the mess, etc. With juicing vegetables, it is important to choose the right juicers, because most juicers extract very little and create generate heat in the process. A good machine to buy would be the Green Star.

So I would recommend the use of vegetable juices in reasonable quantities (10 to 20 ounces per day), if you like them. Remember that carrot or apple or beet are only used as flavorings, not as the main ingredient.

2- The regular consumption of green smoothies as a way to increase the consumption of greens- As mentioned in the last e-zine in Victoria Boutenko’s fine article, a better way to increase your fruit AND green consumption is to start making green smoothies. A green smoothie is simply a fruit smoothie with green vegetables thrown in. Victoria Boutenko’s article, which contains many recipes, is available at: www.fredericpatenaude.com/green_smoothies.html

3- The use of blended salads or "raw soups" as an enjoyable way to eat vegetables - People call them blended salads, I prefer to call them raw soups. When made without fat, raw soups require very little digestion and will deliver more minerals, compared to eating and chewing the same amount of vegetables in a salad. The difference between the green smoothie and the raw soup is that the soup is savory, not too sweet. But to make a great raw soup, do not use really bitter greens. The greens of choice are spinach, lettuce, and celery. (I’ve got a book on the subject, "Raw Soups, Salads & Smoothies" that recently went out of print, but will be available soon as an e-book).

4- The use of steamed vegetables & steamed vegetable soups as an option in a high-raw (but not 100% raw) diet. That’s not a raw option, but can be very useful nonetheless, in my opinion. If cooked foods are eaten, why not go for the nutrient-dense green vegetables? By steaming vegetables you break down their tough fiber and make them easier to chew and often, to digest. The greens of choice would be all of those that are hard to eat raw: collards, kale, broccoli stems, etc. A good idea is to lightly steam those vegetables and then blend them in your Vita-Mix to create a tasty soup.

Greens to consume

Here are some of the greens we should consume more often that are highest in calcium:

Broccoli Raab: Also called rappini, this Italian version of our broccoli is worth discovering. It is more leafy than our broccoli, but also much richer in calcium. It is good in juices, added to salads, or lightly steamed.

Cabbage: Cabbage is an inexpensive vegetable we should eat more often. It is very rich in calcium and other alkaline minerals. Small amounts of cabbage can be added to juices - but it is not as enjoyable in raw soups and certainly not in smoothies. A good way to eat cabbage is grated in salads.

Celery: Celery is a vegetable of choice: it is very pleasing to the palate, easy to eat raw, and rich in calcium and sodium. Celery goes very well in raw soups, juices, green smoothies, and also salads, etc.

Chinese cabbage (Bok Choy): There are many varieties of Chinese cabbage. We are familiar with bok choy, for example. They are all extremely rich in calcium, and enjoyable to eat raw. Bok choy is especially good chopped in salads.

Collard greens: Collard greens are very rich in minerals, and can be added to juices. In small quantities, in is also enjoyable in raw soups. Lightly steamed, it is also excellent.

Kale: Kale is extremely rich in calcium, but its tough fiber makes it a poor choice for salads. Kale goes well in green smoothies, juices, and in small quantities, raw soups. It can also be steamed.

Arugula: Arugula, also called roquette, is fairly strong but is a nice addition to salads. It is very rich in calcium.

Escarole: This is a salad green that is often added to "spring mixes." It is rich in minerals, but a little bitter. It goes well with salads, chopped.

Turnip greens: Turnip greens are extremely rich in calcium. They can be juiced, or added to salads and, in small quantities, raw soups. They can also be steamed.

Mustard greens: This is one of the most alkaline greens, but a little strong to eat raw. In small quantities, it could be added to salads and juices. Otherwise, those who enjoy it that way can steam it.

Watercress: Watercress is quite strong, but very rich in minerals (particularly calcium). You can add it to salads.

Spinach: Spinach is rich in calcium and very enjoyable to eat raw, especially when the leaves are young. It is good every way: juiced, in salads, added to green smoothies or raw soups. It also contains oxalic acid, and apparently because of that little calcium is absorbed. But I think we can still benefit from eating spinach occasionally, but not every day.

* Note by Healing Teeth Naturally: Arguably the healthiest greens are found free in nature - wild herbs such as dandelion, stinging nettles and many others. Not only do they tend to provide higher amounts of nutrients than cultivated vegetables, they also have powerful medicinal properties. See e. g. Stinging nettle medicinal effects and Taraxacum (dandelion) medicinal effects.

Recipes

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GREEN SMOOTHIES

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The Standard Green Stuff

1 apple

1 pear

2 ripe bananas

1 1/2 cups kale

1 rib celery

Water

Blend

Tutti Frutti (almost)

1 frozen banana

2-3 mangoes

1 rib celery

Handful parsley

Water

Blend

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RAW SOUPS

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Tomato-Spinach Soup

2 tomatoes

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice

4-5 stalks celery

3 oz. baby spinach

Optional: 1/2 avocado

Optional 1 Tbs. kelp or dulse granules

Start by blending the tomatoes with lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar), and add the celery ribs progressively, and then the baby spinach. If a richer consistency is desired, throw in half an avocado. Season with kelp granules or dulse flakes (optional).

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GREEN JUICES

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Garden Juice

2 carrots

1/2 medium beet

1-2 cups kale

1 handful parsley

1 handful spinach

4-5 ribs celery

1/2 lemon (optional)

Juice all ingredients, except lemon. Mix well. Add lemon juice, if desired.

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COOKED GREENS

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The Steamed Green Soup

1 medium onion

2-3 cloves garlic (optional)

2 cups broccoli stalks

1 1/2 cups kale (stems included)

1 to 1 1/2 cups water

Boil all ingredients for 5-7 minutes. Quantities are approximate. Blend in your Vita-Mix with what’s left of the cooking water (but not more than 1/3 cup, ideally). No need to add salt or seasonings.

Addendum by Healing Teeth Naturally

People who consume lots of green smoothies, raw soups and similarly soft foods are among those whose jaws are likely to require more exercise to increase circulation to teeth and gums, one of the essential prerequisites for dental health. An outstanding tool that can provide this exercise is Mastic gum (resin), a healthy chewing gum alternative which additionally freshens the breath, fights bacterial plaque, helps whiten teeth AND offers unique medical benefits.

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