Doctor’s Tip: ‘Eat the rainbow’ of nutritious foods

Dr. Greg Feinsinger

Dr. Greg Feinsinger
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The health tip columns the past few weeks have discussed Dr. Michael Greger’s daily dozen, foods we should be eating every day for optimal health, from his book “How Not to Die.”

Greens are another of the daily dozen, and Dr. Greger’s favorites are arugula, beet greens, collard greens, kale, mesclun mix (assorted young salad greens), mustard greens, sorrel, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip greens. Some of these have already been covered in the column on cruciferous vegetables: arugula, kale, mustard and turnip greens.

Intense color in fruits and vegetables is associated with a particularly high level of health-promoting nutrients such as antioxidants. We should be “eating the rainbow” every day to get the optimal benefits that plants have to offer. The green in greens is chlorophyll, and chlorophyll itself reverses DNA damage in lab and human studies, thereby helping to prevent cancer. But there are other colors in greens as well, masked by the chlorophyll (like the colors of fall leaves which become apparent only after the green chlorophyll dissipates).

In addition to cancer prevention, greens offer protection against other diseases, including a 20 percent reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes for every additional daily serving.

Dr. Greger recommends two servings a day of greens, a serving being 1 cup of raw or ½ of cooked. Sprouted greens have even more nutrients than the mature vegetable. Dr. Greger does not recommend alfalfa sprouts, however, because of 28 cases of salmonella food poisoning linked to this food over the past 12 years (to put this in perspective, there are some 142,000 cases a year of salmonella from eggs).

What about greens for people on Coumadin (warfarin)? One of the many nutrients that greens contain is vitamin K, which reverses the effect of Coumadin. The problem arises when someone is stable on a particular Coumadin dose and then suddenly eats a lot of greens.

It’s unfortunate that many providers tell their patients on Coumadin to avoid greens, which Dr. Greger calls “the healthiest food on the planet.” I tell patients on Coumadin to eat greens every day without fail, but about the same amount every day. The Coumadin dose then needs to be increased (do not try this without checking with your provider). Another strategy for people needing a blood thinner is to put them on one that is not affected by intake of vitamin K, such as Pradaxa.

Many of the nutrients in greens are absorbed better with a small amount of fat. A future column will discuss the problems with oil (even olive oil), so avoid dressings with oil. Instead, use fat-free dressing such as balsamic vinegar, but add a few olives, a small amount of avocado, nuts and/or seeds to your salad. A tasty dressing from TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California, is to blend:

2 tablespoons almond meal

3 cloves crushed garlic

3 tablespoons dijon mustard

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

2 tablespoons white miso

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1⁄3 cup of water

So your mother was right when she said “eat your greens.” Dr. Greger has some strategies to get kids to eat vegetables, which will be discussed in a future column. Mark on your calendar that Dr. Greger will be speaking in Carbondale on Feb. 9, sponsored by the Valley View Hospital Connie Delaney Memorial Library. My wife and I heard him speak at the Colorado Veg Fest in Denver on July 24, and he truly is the rock star of plant-based nutrition. His website is

Dr. Feinsinger retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician. He is available for free consultations. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at

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