Doctor’s Tip: Your mother was right — eat your greens
Dr. Michael Greger is one of the foremost experts on nutrition in the world. Has a nonprofit, with no ties to big food, big pharma, big supplement or anything else. Even the profits from his books are donated to other nonprofits. He and his staff go through the tens of thousands of English language scientific papers on nutrition that are published every year, and he presents the useful information from the valid studies to lay people and medical professionals through his website nutritionfacts.org and the several books he’s written — the most well-known being “How Not to Die.”
The second half of this book is about what we should be eating every day, why and how much. He has his daily dozen, for which you can get an app for your i-phone. Greens are one of them, and Dr. Greger notes that “dark green leafy vegetables are the healthiest foods on the planet,” and “offer the most nutrition per calorie.” His favorite greens 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 will be covered in a future column on cruciferous vegetables.
Intense color in fruits and vegetables is associated with a particularly high level of health-promoting micronutrients. Chlorophyl, that gives greens their green color, reverses DNA damage in lab and in human studies, thereby helping to prevent cancer. Plant-based physicians tell their patients to “eat the rainbow,” and 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 is gone). In addition to cancer prevention, greens offer protection against other diseases, including a 20% reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes for every additional daily serving.
Dr. Greger recommends 2 servings of greens a day, a serving being 1 cup of raw or ½ cup of cooked greens. Sprouted greens have even more nutrients than the mature plants, although Dr. Greger does not recommend alfalfa sprouts due to 28 cases of Salmonella food poisoning in the U.S. linked to this food over the past 12 years (to put this in perspective, there are some 142,000 cases every year of Salmonella food poisoning from eggs).
What about greens for people on warfarin (Coumadin) to prevent blood clots? One of the many nutrients in greens is vitamin K, which reverses the anticoagulant effect of Coumadin. When someone on Coumadin suddenly eats a lot more greens than they usually do, the drug becomes less effective. Unfortunately, Coumadin patients are often told by providers they should avoid greens, which causes them to miss out on their health benefits. Therefore, Coumadin patients should be told to eat greens but about the same amount daily (talk to your provider before you do this, so they can adjust your Coumadin dose). Another strategy is to use another anticoagulant such as Eliquis, which is not affected by the vitamin K in greens.
Many of the nutrients in greens, such as fat-soluble vitamins, are absorbed better with a small amount of healthy fat, such as nuts, seeds and avocados. For many reasons, which will be discussed in a later column, it’s best to avoid oil, including olive oil. For a tasty, oil-free dressing from TrueNorthHealth Center in Santa Rosa, California, blend together the following:
2 tablespoons of almond meal
3 cloves of crushed garlic
3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons of white miso
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/3 cup of water
Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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