Spring is in the air!

Do you notice that you naturally crave lighter foods and more greens during this time of year?

Today’s Food as Medicine is all about Spring Greens. Not your regular, run-of-the-mill kind of greens, but some different kinds of greens, to spice things up.

And since food can either be your medicine or a slow form of poison, we talk about how all greens are not created equal.

Some need to be cooked to keep your thyroid functioning well and others need to be cooked so they don’t contribute to kidney stones. Also many are easier on the system when combined with high-quality fat.

Cooked or not, they should be eaten. Greens are the food most missing in the modern diet. Nutritionally, greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and Vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed with fiber, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.

Because of all their goodness, many people think “all things green” is the way to go, but make sure you learn how food affects you before you “go for it.”

As mentioned, different greens should be eaten in different ways.

Swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens are examples of greens that are best eaten cooked. These greens contain oxalic acid that can leach calcium from the bone. This then has to be processed through the kidneys and can sometimes contribute to getting kidney stones.

Just sautéing these greens with butter and adding flavor with different spices is an easy way to minimize oxalic acid from these greens, helping them to contribute to your mineral balance and therefore your kidney health, versus contribute to the formation of stones.

You always want to make sure you’re consuming enough Vitamin D3 when you are consuming high calcium foods since D3 acts as a transportation channel to deliver calcium into the bone. When calcium is delivered to the “wrong place,” we can also exacerbate our risk for kidney stones as well as stiffness because calcium can sometimes get deposited in the soft tissue vs. the bone without enough D3 to take it where it needs to go.

Okay, back to greens!

What about the thyroid you ask?

200 million Americans are dealing with hypothyroidism. If thyroid health is a concern for you, it’s imperative you prepare your greens in a way that will help your thyroid, not hurt it.

Raw green cabbage, for example, contains something called goitrogens, a naturally occurring component in food which can block thyroid function and thus contribute to hypothyroidism.

They do this by inducing antibodies that cross-react with the thyroid gland; others interfere with thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme responsible for adding iodine during the production of thyroid hormones. Either way, goitrogens block the thyroid from producing many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.

Other goitrogenic greens/veggies include:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese Broccoli

Collards – yes, collards. If you watched the video, you’ll see we made a mistake there not saying to blanch the collard first before using it as a wrap!

  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Watercress

The good news is the reverse is also true. If you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), you can use these foods eaten RAW to help regulate the thyroid down a bit (always get your lab values checked when it comes to the thyroid!).

With spring in full bloom salads and juicing are great ways to get in your daily greens.

Be adventurous, try new things! Spring is the season for Dandelion greens, which are great for flushing the liver.

Click HERE for some ideas for butter lettuce salads.

Juicing greens like dandelion greens can be a little bitter so pairing them with romaine lettuce and cucumbers or apple is a great way to balance that out.

Check out our recipe for Mean Green Juice.

Another fabulous and different green to add to your daily greens intake are micro-greens. Micro-greens are plants that are harvested in the first 10 to 14 days of sprouting and are often more nutritious than their mature counterparts. Sprinkling these on salads is a super-fast and yummy way to get your greens in!

When purchasing greens, you want to choose organic. Once they’ve been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals, there is no way to wash them to remove all the chemicals thoroughly, and that certainly affects their nutrient value.

Enjoy getting in your spring greens!