Our culture tends to “super-size” everything, especially food—often to the detriment of our health. But superfoods—foods that are considered nutrient dense—actually are super: they pack a strong nutritional punch and can give your health a jumpstart.
While many foods provide a complex range of nutrients, supergreens are considered one of the best sources of nutrition available. The supermarket is full of greens—kale, chard, spinach, lettuce—but the term supergreen typically refers to a small group of greens from the algae and cereal grass families.
Algae are among the most primitive life forms on the planet. Micro-algae such as spirulina and chlorella have been shown to contain high levels of chlorophyll and protein. Cereal grasses are the young grasses of common grain plants. Wheatgrass and barley grass are cereal grasses that are high in chlorophyll and protein and a range of other nutrients.
Those who tout the benefits of supergreens are most often referring to spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, and barley grass. But you don’t have to be a health nut to reap the benefits of these nutritious foods.
The research on supergreens is wide and varied. Some proponents make bold claims that supergreens are the magic bullet for health. Opponents say that supergreens provide no more benefit than your average supermarket spinach. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.
Supergreens are packed with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes that are easily absorbed by the body. They contain high levels of chlorophyll and antioxidants. Because of their highly concentrated nutrient profile, supergreens are believed to help boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, detoxify the body, and promote healthy digestion.
Some studies have indicated that supergreens may help regulate cholesterol as well as reduce the symptoms of arthritis. The key ingredient of these health benefits appears to be the chlorophyll, which helps lower the pH balance of the body, thereby making the body more alkaline and reducing the acidity that is associated with health problems such as arthritis.
The antioxidants in supergreens are a line of defense against free radicals, which contribute to disease and aging. The enzymes offered by the supergreens appear to aid digestion.
Without a degree in science or nutrition or an understanding of antioxidants, enzymes, and chlorophyll, here are some of the benefits that people who consume supergreens report: increased energy, reduced cravings for sweets, and an overall sense of clarity and well-being.
Down the Hatch
But who wants to eat algae and grass? Though nutritional powerhouses, the idea of downing these greens is unappetizing for many new to the idea. The good news is that adding these foods to your diet is actually quite easy; and because they’re so nutritionally dense, a little bit goes a long way.
Many people drink a 1-ounce shot of fresh wheatgrass juice, typically available at local juice bars. For those who don’t like the strong taste of green juice, there are other options.
Algae and cereal grasses are available in powdered and tablet form, and in fact they are often sold as a combination of many different supergreens. The green powder can be stirred into water, juice, or even a smoothie. Be sure to carefully check labels on these products to ensure that they contain the supergreens you’re looking for and do not include any extra ingredients and fillers that may not provide any health benefits.
Supergreens are whole foods, but they are most often consumed as a supplement to a balanced diet. Supergreens may not be a magic bullet, but they can be beneficial by providing missing nutrients.