A few months ago, I wrote about the difference between acute, local inflammation (first stage of healing: good) and chronic, systemic inflammation (body attacking itself: bad) and explained that the things you can do to optimise your system to reduce inflammation were to stop smoking, cut down on the alcohol, sort out your sleep hygiene, reduce your stress levels, drink plenty of water, eat well, and exercise in moderation with good movement patterns. We’ve been through sleep and stress in more detail – more recently I’ve been writing about about diet, specifically about omega-3 fatty acids , vitamins and minerals, and amino acids, and how they can affect inflammation. This week it’s time to look at the importance of eating (or drinking) your greens.
Get 10% off a tub of Lean Greens with discount code VICTORY10
If you’ve been following my posts on inflammation, you’ve probably got the idea now that what you feed your body is important. The right nutrients can form the building blocks of a healthy body and help you to perform at a high level and avoid injury and illness (or to recover more quickly, if you’ve been unfortunate); whereas consistently eating poorly will lead to you becoming malnourished, sick and at risk of injury.
A new and popular way to get your “five a day” very easily is using a super greens powder. Once the domain of tree-hugging hippies like my mum, and vegetarians, you can now find your super greens at Holland and Barrett, they’re on the shelf of your local supermarket and even on Amazon!
But why would you try a greens drink?
What are the benefits to mixing up a greens powder first thing in the morning? Why wouldn’t you just eat more veggies and have done with it?
Well, let’s have a look.
Firstly, what is a green drink?
A super greens, (or greens powder or greens drink) is made up of dehydrated, freeze-dried raw ingredients. Normally a blend of:
- digestive enzymes
- metabolic ingredients
In their powdered form, create a high density of nutrients in a very compact form. Most come in a tub or sachet, that is mixed with cold water, a smoothie or juice.
Are all green drinks created equal?
Not exactly! However, there are a lot of similarities.
The most common ingredients you’ll find in greens powders are:
- Barley Grass
- Apple Fibre
You’ll also find other special ingredients to help with metabolism and flavour, such as
- Digestive Enzymes
- Green Tea
- Siberian Ginseng
- Fruit Extracts
- Stevia Leaf
Whilst origin of the ingredients DOES matter, if you’re going to take greens drink on a daily basis, look for something with as many ingredients as possible, so that you get lots of different nutrients. You’ve also really got to find one that you can actually get down your throat, because most of the green drinks on the market taste pretty revolting, and if you can’t stomach the taste you’ll definitely not drink it for long enough to see any of the benefits.
For example, drinks that contain a lot of spirulina and alfalfa smell and taste really strong. My mum (an original hippy, bless her) used to snarf down the spirulina every morning, and it was horrible – even just the smell makes me gag. So why would you drink one (and why, having talked about the revolting taste that some of them have, do I actually drink a cup of greens every morning before work)?
Well, here are 8 good reasons.
1. They’re full of phytonutrients
OK, so what’s a phytonutrient when it’s at home? WebMD explains:
“Phytonutrients aren’t essential for keeping you alive, unlike the vitamins and minerals that plant foods contain. But when you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly.”
That sounds pretty important to me, and many of the ingredients in greens drinks are PACKED with phytonutrients. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, anti-oxidant (that’s a lot of ANTI’s), as well as great for immune health, and tissue regeneration (read on…)
2. They contain (some) fibre
Most Westerners don’t get enough fibre in our day to day diets. Fibre comes from many different food sources, but sadly it doesn’t feature highly in a heavily processed modern diet.
It’s important to be clear that for getting your daily fibre needs, nothing beats eating fruits and vegetables in their normal state. And the problem with freeze drying and dehydrating the ingredients in a greens powder is you’ll always lose some of their fibrous properties. So it’s difficult to say how much fibre is maintained in the powder (beware of brands that promise high fibre content!)
The key is to consume a solid diet of fruit and vegetables where possible and supplement with a greens powder to make up your nutrient count on days you can’t fit in your 5 a day.
3. They contain digestive enzymes
Gut health is something many people don’t consider when it comes to general day to day health. However, without your digestive system working effectively, you might find it hard to absorb the good healthy foods you’re consuming – and digestive enzymes are essential for breaking down and absorbing the foods you eat.
Get your digestion right and it’s not just your tummy that feels good, everything from your skin condition to your energy levels will rapidly improve.
Thankfully many high quality super greens contain a range of digestive enzymes to help your body absorb the goodness of the other ingredients found in greens.
4. They *may* help you if you’re trying to lose weight
Greens drinks do not help you lose weight on their own, but they can be part of the process that enables you to shift some flabby bits. For example there is some research reported in Scientific American, that supports the link between gut bacteria and how we store body fat.
Also when you take a greens drink, it can help eliminate cravings, and naturally suppress your appetite. This makes will power less vital, because if you provide your body with a wide variety of nutrients from a greens drink, your hypothalamus stops sending you hunger signals.
And if you have fewer cravings, and lower appetite, you’ll consume fewer calories which has the knock on effect of helping you lose weight.
5. They are an efficient way to get vegetables into your life when you’re busy
One of the things we will ask you when you come to an assessment in my practice is “do you eat dark fruits and dark, leafy veg every day?” – and it’s amazing how many really sorted, grown-up people with important jobs and mega salaries will mumble and look sheepish. For some of them, whole weeks can go by without a single vegetable passing their lips!
It wasn’t until early 2016 that I discovered greens drinks, and their incredibly easy method of adding vegetables to your diet – and now, lots of our patients are reaping the benefits.
6. They give you a natural energy boost
We’re all energy junkies! We live in a world of instant quick fixes, energy drinks, highly caffeinated, overly sugared foods and drinks that promise to perk us up and give us wings.
But when the effect wears off we crash big time, leaving us desperate for our next fix.
We all need energy to survive our day at work, or with the kids, or our ever demanding bosses – but rather than opting for coffee and biscuits, think about having a greens drink instead. The natural slow release carbohydrates and proteins in many of the greens powder ingredients provide you with a consistent supply of energy throughout your day.
7. They help to reduce bloating
Earlier we talked about digestive enzymes, both naturally occurring in some green ingredients but also the added enzymes you’ll commonly find in a greens powder supplement.
When your digestive system is compromised, your gut struggles to properly deal with the good and bad foods you eat.
For those with IBS type symptoms trying to figure out what your trigger foods are can be a minefield, and a never ending battle. Some of the obvious ones like bread and pasta can cause acute onset of extreme bloating, also known as a food baby.
However, if supply your tummy with a steady supply of digestive enzymes, your gut will handle those situations better, with significantly fewer bloating episodes, if at all.
8. They help you to be more regular
It’s not a subject we talk about much (although I’ve known a couple of physio colleagues who couldn’t stop… you know who you are, ladies!)
However, “cleaner” toilet habits certainly make us all feel happier with our bodies right?
Once again that magical chlorophyll comes to rescue, found in most of the common greens juice recipes. Chlorophyll is perfect for cleansing the liver. And with a liver and gut working better, a more consistent and healthy stool can be achieved.
So, after all that, what do we recommend? Well, there are lots of good options, there really are. But the greens drink I have every morning is Lean Greens, because it has a load of different ingredients and it doesn’t taste as awful as the rest. I’m totally used to the taste now, and even quite like it; but when I first started taking it, I used to mix it with apple juice (yes, it contains a bit of sugar, so that’s not ideal, but it’s better than not having the greens at all). If you’d like to try it (and hopefully I’ve convinced you that it’s not a terrible idea!) then head on over to Lean Greens and use the discount code VICTORY10 to get 10% off your order. Or, if you want to go straight for a recurring order, which is what I do, you can get an extra £2.50 off your order if you go to the Lean Greens subscription page and use the discount code VHPSUBS.