With the last of winter's stormy weather now behind us (hopefully, maybe...?), many of us are feeling the urge to get back to healthier habits. Spring is a great time to focus on a little spring cleaning, and we're not just talking about window washing and dusting away the cobwebs. Supporting the body's natural cleansing cycle during the change of seasons can not only help improve immunity and lessen the chances of spring allergies, it can also support our energy levels and ensure we're looking and feeling our best by the time summer rolls around and we're ready to rock those denim cut-offs.
If you're looking to maximize your efforts to get healthy this spring, look no further than the plant kingdom, specifically the plants rocking the green color spectrum.
These foods tend to be loaded with minerals and phytonutrients, and even contain special compounds that help draw toxins out of the body, support healthy digestion and elimination, and help tone down any inflammation we may have going on.
Superfood algae powders (chlorella, spirulina, E3 Live)
Spirulina, chlorella and E3 live are all varieties of edible superfood algae that come in a dried form. Great for adding to smoothies, sprinkling on salads or popcorn, or mixing with juice. Algae is an exceptional source of complete plant protein (spirulina, for instance, has about 60% protein by weight!) - meaning it contains all essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. All three varieties also offer a wealth of vitamins and minerals – significant amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, beta-carotene, B vitamins, and iron. Not only that, but they are great aids for detox as well. Chlorella in particular helps to detox heavy metals from the body.
Barley grass juice powder
This superfood grass is rich with chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and fiber, all of which help stimulate the elimination of waste from the body. Barley grass contains a lot of the same nutrients as other green vegetables, but in a much more concentrated package – meaning you need a lot less to get the same nutritional punch. A typical .17 - .35 oz serving (5-10 grams) has, for instance, 1,750 IU of vitamin A, 11 milligrams of vitamin C, 280 milligrams of vitamin K, 18 milligrams of calcium, 3.6 milligrams of magnesium and 2 milligrams of iron. Its high antioxidant content makes it a great superfood for summertime, specifically for protecting the eyes and the skin from UV damage.
Matcha is not only a delicious way to get a little energy boost sans coffee, it also contains a wealth of antioxidants as well as a unique compound called L-theanine, an amino acid glutamate that helps boost our ability to think clearly, concentrate, and feel alert, while also still feeling calm and at ease. It is a much more grounded, sustainable energy boost, one that won't leave you feeling jittery or anxious. Drink it as a tea, turn it into a creamy latte, or add it to recipes.
Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract (CBD)
Hemp CBD is taking the wellness industry by storm right now. Wondering what it is exactly and how it differs from the hemp oil you put on your salad? CBD is actually an amazing green superfood extract derived from industrial hemp. CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of over 113 different cannabinoids which have now been isolated from the hemp plant. If when you think cannabinoid you think THC, don't get the two confused. CBD is completely non-psychoactive and effects the body in more health-oriented – holistic ways. Research has shown CBD to help support and regulate the central nervous system, immune system, and endocannabinoid systems, to name a few. It may help support the body's natural response to inflammation and stress, and support a sense of well being.
Moringa, often call “the miracle tree” or “tree of life” is a great well-rounded superfood for daily consumption. It's high in protein (has all 9 essential amino acids), vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and Vitamin C, and contains anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and antioxidant compounds. Just one small serving has seven times the amount of vitamin C in an orange, four times the calcium in a serving of milk, and four times the beta-carotene content of carrots. It's also a great superfood for hormone balance and digestive health and helps support the kidneys, liver, and urinary tract. Moringa has been used in traditional medicine practices like Ayurveda for over 4000 years, standing the test of time.
Sprouts offer a wealth of anti-aging phytonutrition to help support optimal cellular function. They're also an amazing source of enzymes to help aid in detoxification and digestion. When we flood the body with enzymes from fresh raw plants foods like sprouts, the burden is taken off of our digestive organs. This means more vital energy to divert elsewhere – to immunity, to cleansing, to healing, etc. As we age our enzyme production naturally declines, meaning sprouts are one of the best anti-aging foods around. Try growing your own broccoli, clover, or alfalfa sprouts at home in mason jars. You can also find fresh sprouts like pea and clover at many health food stores in their produce section, or even at the farmer's market.
Cilantro is one of the most easily accessible and powerful green superfoods around - you can find it pretty anywhere. These days most of us are exposed to some degree of heavy metal contamination, even if we do our best to avoid it. Cilantro to the rescue! This common culinary herb helps draw heavy metals out of the body. Cilantro is also a great source of dietary fiber, Vitamins A, C, E, K, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. If you're used to eating cilantro as a garnish, it may be time to get a little more hardcore and start adding it as a main component to salads, juices, blended green soups and green smoothies. For those of us that love cilantro, this won't be hard to do. If you're just not a fan of the taste, try adding a few large handfuls to a concentrated juice blend and drinking it like a shot of wheatgrass.
All hail King Kale. Kale is an incredible source of dietary fiber and contains a wealth of key nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, and folate. If your typical salad bowl consists of mostly lettuce, it's time to up your game and add in some kale to the mix. Pro tip: try shredding it very finely and mixing it with milder tasting greens such as lettuce and sprouts, or massage the leaves first with lemon, olive oil, and sea salt to soften the texture and pre-digest some of the cellulose.
Want glowing skin this spring? Eat more of this spicy, tender green. Arugula offers a great supply of antioxidant phytochemicals, and is a great source of the beauty mineral sulfur. This key nutrient is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, responsible for hundreds of physiological processes. For instance, sulfur actually synthesizes glutathione, one of the body's most potent antioxidants. Sulfur also helps promote strong, beautiful skin, hair and nails, making arugula a great food for promoting beauty from the inside out. Add it to your salads, sub it for lettuce in sandwiches, or sprinkle it over soups, curries, or even pizza.
Speaking of sulfur, asparagus is another amazing source. Have you ever noticed that eating asparagus can give the body (or urine) a more pungent odor? While not the most pleasant thing in the world, this is actually a by-product of an important phytochemical in this vegetable known as asparagusic acid. This compound is converted into sulfur-containing chemicals once digested that can, yes, definitely smell funny, but have great benefit to our health as noted above. Asparagus is also in season during the spring so will be more affordable this time of year!
As if we needed another reason to enjoy avocados beyond just taste...these delicious, creamy fruits offer the body a wealth of goodness from healthy monounsaturated fats that help protect our cardiovascular system and nourish our brains, to fiber for digestion, plenty of B vitamins, Vitamin K, potassium, copper, and Vitamin E. Avos are also a great source of folate – an important nutrient for cellular health and DNA production – especially critical during pregnancy. This superfood may be the easiest one to incorporate into your diet this spring – no one will complain about more guacamole and avocado toast in their life.