kale, Chantal Organics, Napier, New Zealand

5 POWERFUL GREEN FOODS

We all aim to include more green in our diets. Here are 5 nutrient dense green foods that will no doubt power you through the winter.

1. SEAWEED: WHOLEFOOD FOR WHOLE NUTRITION

Seaweed is extremely nutritious. This unique ocean dwelling plant has a whopping amount of vitamins and minerals. However, its true accolade is iodine. Seaweed is one of the best sources of natural iodine (with kelp at the top of the list) due to its ability to uptake large amounts of iodine from the sea water in which it soaks. Iodine is found in very few foods, yet is essential for a healthy thyroid, hormone production, a thriving immune system and proper brain function. Iodine’s magic doesn’t stop there. It also has potent anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. When deficient in iodine, a slew of problems can arise, including difficulty dropping extra weight, a feeling of lethargy, depression, general thyroid malfunction, as well as goiter and hypo- and hypo – thyroidism. And what’s more, seaweed is a wholefood, therefore naturally containing all the co-factors necessary for iodine absorption and utilization in the body; including the main minerals & vitamins: magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron, Vitamin A, B’s, C & E. Add to that, seaweed is alkaline, has a balancing effect that restores vital body functions and contains alginic acid, which has a cleansing effect for toxins.

2. KALE: THE QUEEN OF GREENS

Kale is a highly nutritious leafy green and an extraordinarily nourishing food. Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins A, C, and K and sulphur-containing phytonutrients; all which are linked to cancer prevention. Kale’s impressive concentration of nutrients also strengthens the immune system and fights viruses and bacteria. One cup of chopped kale contains 36 calories, 5g of fibre and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals: copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk and more iron than beef. It contains Omega fatty acids and a healthy dose of fiber.

Simply put… Eat More Kale

3. MICROGREENS

Microgreens are tiny edible greens grown from vegetable and herb seeds. They are harvested when very young, usually just 2-4cm long including the stem and leaves. These young plants may be tiny in size, but are huge on nutrition. Depending on which vegetable seed is used, microgreens generally have 4 to 6x more concentrated nutrients than their mature counterparts. In particular, research now shows Vitamin A, K, C, and E are 2-3x higher. There are endless varieties of microgreens to choose from, each with a wonderfully clear and unique tantalizing flavour. They add a touch of beauty to your plate with their delicate and often colourful appearance, so are often referred to as 'Vegetable Confetti'. Most often used to sprinkle on salads or as a garnish, they also are great added to sandwiches, soups and stir fries.

4. SPROUTS

Sprouts are the very young shoots of germinated edible seeds from vegetables, legumes, grains and some nuts, which increase its nutritional value. There are numerous benefits of eating sprouts; here are a few to savour:

1. Enzyme Inhibitors are neutralized. Soaking and rinsing the seed will remove any enzyme inhibitors, allowing for germination when it starts to multiply its nutrient content, resulting in a fibre-rich sprout packed with vitamins and minerals. Sprouting also neutralizes the phytic acid, allowing the body to assimilate more nutrients.

2. Sprouting Aids Digestibility. Soaking will also help to diminish some of the fat content and will help convert the dense vegetable protein to simpler amino acids for easier digestion. The complex carbohydrates start to break down into the simpler glucose molecules.

3. Sprouts are Nutritional Powerhouses; boasting higher amounts of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K (up to 12x the original content!), calcium, chlorophyll, iron, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, amino acids, folate, phytonutrients and trace elements.

4. Sprouts are Alkalizing. Sprouting grains and legumes increases their alkalinity.

5. THE ALMIGHTY AVOCADO

Just the facts…

• Avocados are very high in essential vitamins and minerals including fibre, vitamins K, B5, B6 and C, folate and potassium.

• One avocado can have twice the potassium of a banana, which helps to balance your potassium to sodium ratio.

• Avocados enable your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as alpha- and beta- carotene and lutein), in other foods eaten in conjunction.

• Avocados provide you with “good” monounsaturated fats. A medium avocado has about 22.5 grams of fat, two thirds of which is monounsaturated.

• Avocados have very little sodium and are low in fructose.

• Eating avocados helps maintain cholesterol levels that are already in the healthy range and lower your risk of heart disease.

• Avocados are high in unsaturated fat and contain a rich concentration of oleic acid, also found in olives and olive oil.