Are you eating your greens?

News Written by Richard Harris

A quick introduction

As you may know by now, our products here at My Pinnacle Nutrition include only the highest quality, natural ingredients. This is especially the case for mygreens, which contains nothing but green vegetables, fruits, grasses and algae, contributing significantly to your overall health and wellbeing.

Why is it you may ask however, that we are always being told to ‘eat our greens’? After all, is it not just ‘rabbit food’?

Well yes, but why let the rabbits take all the credit!

What am I getting myself into?

How many words: around 2000. How long to read: 5 - 10 minutes.

The best form of defence is attack

Greens, specifically fruits and vegetables, are one of our strongest defenders against disease formation as well as promoting great overall health. But why? Have you ever asked what it is in these wonder foods that help promote a healthy lifestyle? Well, there are several buzzwords that are often thrown around, and we’ll start with one; Phytochemicals.

Before we really get started, it must be stressed that this article does not cover all the benefits of phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals as well as the other compounds discussed. Nor does it provide an exhaustive list of every phytochemical, vitamin etc. that exist.. you would be reading for hours on end if so!

Phytochemicals (Phyto: plant. Chemicals: molecules)

Phytochemicals, or phytonutrients as they are often known are defined as any biologically active compound found in plants. Phytochemicals are numerous and have been linked on several occasions to reducing the risk of major chronic diseases (1). Some phytochemicals are responsible for giving a fruit or vegetable its colour, whilst others are what we may class as natural medicines; vital nutrients for general health.

Our medicines

It is thought that over 5000 phytochemicals have been identified (1). Only 5000, I hear you say? It is also suggested that we currently only know the basic benefits of phytochemical ingestion from foods, and that further research could highlight even greater benefits for our health and wellbeing (2). It has also been highlighted that it is not a specific food per se that is responsible for promoting good health, but the intake of these phytochemicals from a wide range of different foods, hence the saying:

‘A balanced diet'

The most popular of researched phytochemicals (which you may have heard of) are classed as carotenoids and phenolics (polyphenols), of which there are several hundred varieties (2). Some of these are listed below and are found (not exclusively) in the foods noted alongside:

  • Carotenoids > Carotenes; often called ‘provitamin A’ compounds; they convert to Vitamin A; beta – carotene, alpha – carotene, beta – cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene; found in carrots, oranges, tomatoes, watermelon, dark leafy greens, red and orange coloured fruits, sea food. Carotenes have powerful antioxidant properties.
  • Phenolics > Flavonoids. Flavonoids are the most well researched phytochemical, and have several sub groups.
  • Flavonoids > Flavonols; Quercetin; found in onions, teas, apples. Kaempferol; found in broccoli, kale, spinach, teas. Both have shown anti – cancer properties.
  • Flavonoids > Flavanols; Catechins; found in various teas. The most potent catechin is Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) found in green tea. It can also promote fat loss depending on one’s caffeine tolerance.

Evidence suggests that among the various green fruits and vegetables, broccoli possesses the most potent phytochemical concentration, alongside spinach, kale and apples to name but a few. It is for this reason that we included these health promoting ingredients, amongst others, within mygreens. More on that shortly.

What are the benefits?

As we have mentioned, phytochemicals are thought to have anti – cancer and cardiovascular benefits, as well as helping with overall health. But how? How through eating greens do we improve our chances of developing such diseases? We have mentioned the word before, but these phytochemicals contain ‘antioxidant’ compounds. It is also important to note that fruits and vegetables for the majority are alkalising, something we’ll cover shortly.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body from excessive oxidative stress caused by free radical damage. It must be noted that free radical formation is a normal and important function of human physiology. The key in preventing the development of chronic diseases is balancing free radical production with abolishment.

What is a free radical?

Free radicals are defined as molecules containing one or more ‘unpaired’ electrons (4). Free radicals derived from oxygen are suggested to be the most important class, and perhaps the most dangerous. In human energy production, the electron transport chain (ETC) within our mitochondria* is where most of our energy is processed. It is from the ETC that some electrons can ‘leak’. Usually, electrons in the ETC contribute to the formation of water, through adding oxygen to a pair of hydrogen ions, hence water = 'H2O'. It is suggested that unpaired electrons cause excessive oxidative stress, and thus damage large biomolecules, including our DNA, which is thought to be a major contributor toward the development of illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease (2).

Fortunately, glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant compound, alongside other antioxidant compounds can help maintain an optimal balance between free radical production and abolishment through regeneration of other antioxidants; vitamins C and E, the carotenoids and phenolics discussed, as well as actively scavenging free radicals directly.

What about acidity?

A slightly less common topic related to our health is our acid base balance; how acidic or alkaline our body is. Typically, the human body has an optimal pH of 7.4, which is slightly alkaline (5). Traditional lifestyles and diets of the modern world; diets high in processed meats, high in sodium, high in sugar and processed carbohydrates; low in fruits, vegetables and fibre, tend to promote internal environments of an acidic nature. Such lifestyles have been shown to induce what’s termed acidosis**. Alterations in our acid base balance have been linked to an altering of molecular activity at a cellular level, potentially leading to tumour progressions (5).

Thankfully, some of the best foods to combat excessive acidity are green fruits and vegetables. The natural alkalinity of these foods help the body in its battle in balancing our acid base.

Phew!

Hopefully with this brief bit of science, you’re now beginning to understand why we’ve always been told to eat our greens!

Eat your greens…

…the reality is that most of us simply do not eat enough greens to take in the necessary amounts of nutrients to promote good health and wellbeing. We could be too busy, we may not like the taste. Whatever it is, mygreens can help.

Nutritional supplements are just that. Supplements. We are not recommending you take mygreens solely to replace your normal fruit and vegetable intake. However, just one serving per day of mygreens can provide you with all the nutrients necessary to promote and maintain great overall health.

mygreens

… is great tasting with a natural mango flavour. But what have we included in mygreens, you may ask?

Kale; 12.69 g per 100 g of mygreens

What?

Kale is one of several ‘brassica’ vegetables, along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts to name but a few. Kale flourishes well in rich organic soil and prefers cooler climates, hence it is grown mostly in the UK! It is in fact one vegetable that is produced nearly all year round, preferring the late autumn and winter months (3), which enhance its sweet – like taste.

Why?

Gram for gram, Kale will take some topping when it comes to nutrient density. As a raw ingredient, it is a very potent source of:

  • Vitamin K; a group of fat soluble vitamins; help with osteoporosis, cardiovascular health
  • Vitamin A; a group of fat soluble vitamins; important for maintenance of the immune system
  • Vitamin C; a water soluble vitamin; several roles, including acting as an antioxidant
  • Vitamin E; a group of eight fat soluble vitamins; collectively help with ‘antioxidation’ of the human body
  • Other carotenoids, including Lutein; vital for maintaining healthy eyes

Did you know?

Gram for gram, Kale has 17 times more Vitamin C than carrots (3)!

Research has also shown that kale contains 45 different flavonoids with a variety of antioxidant and anti – inflammatory effects. One such flavonoid we mentioned previously is Kaempferol, which is being regularly researched as an anti – cancer agent.

Kale is also a rich source of essential minerals; calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese.

Spirulina; 11 g per 100 g of mygreens

Spirulina is a ‘blue – green algae’, and grows in fresh water lakes around the world. Despite being algae, spirulina contains a wealth of health promoting nutrients.

We have previously written a brief article on spirulina, covering the what’s, why’s and how’s we use spirulina in mygreens. Have a read of that article here.

Spinach; 10.15 g per 100 g of mygreens

What?

Spinach is quite simply Popeye’s vegetable! On a more serious note, spinach is an edible plant from the family ‘amaranthaceae’. Like kale, spinach can grow all year round, however it prefers cooler climates and is widely available in the spring.

Why?

There was a reason spinach was Popeye’s vegetable of choice. It contains a mass of healthy nutrients:

  • Vitamins A, C, E, K
  • B vitamins; water soluble; important for key metabolic processes
  • Several carotenoids; beta – carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
  • Minerals; especially manganese, magnesium and iron; essential for growth and repair, energy production and red blood cell formation

Did you know?

Spinach was chosen by Popeye as his vegetable of choice due to its Vitamin A content (or so it is believed)!

Broccoli; 8.46 g per 100 g of mygreens

What?

Broccoli is perhaps the most popular green vegetable. Like kale, broccoli is a member of the brassica family of vegetables, and also prefers cool – weathered conditions for optimal growth.

Why?

Broccoli contains a plethora of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Among the most common known to broccoli however is a compound called sulforaphane. Early evidence has highlighted sulforaphane as an anti – inflammatory agent, helping prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. It is also a potent antioxidant, preventing excessive oxidative stress as discussed previously. It should be noted that sulforaphane levels within broccoli are susceptible to heat. Boiling broccoli can reduce levels of the compound by 50% in just 10 minutes. Fortunately, you don’t have to cook mygreens!

Did you know?

The word broccoli is derived from the Italian plural of ‘broccolo’, which means ‘the flowering crest of a cabbage!’

Broccoli is also one of the best sources of the vitamins C and K. It is also important to note that broccoli is low in oxalates, a compound which can reduce the absorption of essential minerals such as iron and calcium. This therefore should give peace of mind that the minerals within broccoli are more than likely to be fully absorbed and utilised by our bodies.

Apple; 8.46 g per 100 g of mygreens

What?

The humble apple is probably the UK’s most favoured fruit. The old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctors away’ may be evidence of that. The fact our nations favourite smart devices are also named after this fruit may be further evidence of its popularity!

Apples begin life in a tree. Apple trees originated in central Asia thousands of years ago. 

Did you know?

There are over 7000 varieties of apples existing in the world today, from braeburns to golden delicious. Sadly, we’re only exposed to around 12 in the UK.

Why?

Apples contain a wealth of phytochemicals, the most popular being quercetin. Quercetin is the most well researched of flavonoids, and like other phytochemicals, has antioxidant properties as well as anti – carcinogenic (cancerous) and anti – atherogenic (blood vessel health) benefits. As well as containing other flavonols such as catechins, when eaten alongside drinking teas, apples increase the absorption of catechins within teas, especially the flavonol we mentioned earlier; EGCG, found in green tea. Yep, you’ve guessed it. We also include green tea within our mygreens!

Safe to say

The discussed list contains just 5 of several ingredients included in mygreens. We will be writing about the other ingredients within this product in the near future, so do keep your eyes on our news page!

For now though, hopefully you have a better understanding of why you’ve always been told to eat your greens, rather than just thinking ‘because they’re good for me’.

We also hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If so, please do share with your friends.

Thanks for reading!

Team MPN

 

*Our mitochondria are our cell powerhouses; it is in our mitochondria that the fuel of our cells; adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is produced.

**Acidosis occurs when the kidneys and lungs can no longer maintain normal acidity levels within our blood and other fluids.


References

  1. Liu, R.H. (2003) ‘Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78 (3 supp), pp. 517S – 520S.
  2. Liu, R.H. (2004) ‘Potential Synergy of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention: Mechanism of Action’, The Journal of Nutrition, 134 (12 supp), pp. 3479S – 3485S.
  3. http://www.discoverkale.co.uk/what-is-kale/
  4. Valko, M. et al. (2007) ‘Free radicals and antioxidants in normal physiological functions and human disease’, The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 39 (1), pp. 44 – 84.
  5. Robey, I.F. (2012) ‘Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer’, Nutrition and Metabolism, 9 (1), p. 72.
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