Are you making your wellness too hard? Let’s get back to basics for a minute.
I had a first call with a new client last week, let’s call her Mindy.* Mindy was telling me that, while she reads a lot about health and wellness, sometimes she feels confused about what to do to feel her best. (That’s why she hired me. Helping you sort through the endless noise and conflicting information about getting health and happiness and feeling fabulous is what I do.)
She said, “I get paralyzed when I think about what to eat, what not to eat. Should I be doing gluten-free or is that just a fad? Should I avoid dairy or should I have it for the calcium? What if I just drink some cream in my coffee? Should I give up coffee? What about supplements? What about whey protein? What about juice cleansing? What about intermittent fasting…”
I had to interrupt. “Slow down, Mindy! Let’s just keep it simple and start on Page 1. Are you eating your vegetables?
“Sometimes,” she said. “Not as much as I should, I don’t think.” She paused a moment and then started off with a load of questions about vegetables: Weren’t they high in carbs? What about oxalic acid? What if she couldn’t find organic?
I interrupted again. (I get enthusiastic when the answer is a simple one. ) I said, “This week, try adding more leafy greens to your plate. Cook them well most of the time. Try it and see how you feel. We’ll get to the next thing next week.”
Now, adding more greens to your plate may sound overly simplistic if you are a health-savvy person like Mindy. (And if you’re reading this, you probably are.) But adding greens is an easy first step to achieving vibrant health, one that is so simple that my analytical clients often overlook it.
Green vegetables are the foods most commonly missing in modern diets. Learning to incorporate well-cooked dark, leafy greens into the diet is essential to establishing good, strong health. When you nourish yourself with greens, you may naturally crowd out the foods that make you sick. Greens help build health and strengthen the blood and respiratory system. Leafy green vegetables are also high-alkaline foods which may be beneficial to people exposed to higher amounts of pollution in urban areas. The alkaline minerals in our bodies are used to neutralize acidic conditions caused by the environment. Green vegetables will help to replenish our alkaline mineral stores and continue to filter out pollutants.
Greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. Although choosing organic is recommended, eating non-organic greens is still preferable to not eating any greens at all. The Environmental Working Group has a handy app and list of the best foods to buy conventionally-farmed if organic is expensive or unavailable.
Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming dark leafy greens are:
• Blood purification
• Cancer prevention
• Improved circulation
• Strengthened immune system
• Promotion of healthy intestinal flora
• Promotion of subtle, light and flexible energy
• Improved liver, gall bladder and kidney function
• Cleared congestion, especially in lungs by reducing mucus
There are a wide variety of greens to choose from, so try to find options that you will enjoy and eat often. If you get bored with your favorites, be adventurous and explore new greens that you’ve never tried before. Like broccoli? Who doesn’t. It is usually very popular among adults and children. Also try to include bok choy, napa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, dandelion and other dark, leafy greens. Green cabbage is great cooked or raw, or in the form of sauerkraut. Arugula, endive, chicory, lettuce, mesclun and wild greens are generally eaten raw (with an acid-oil dressing for maximum nutrient absorption), but you can make it any creative way that you enjoy. Spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens are best eaten in moderation because they are high in oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of the calcium these foods contain. However, rotating between a variety of green vegetables shouldn’t cause any nutritional consequences in regards to calcium. Just eat most of your greens well-cooked, and enjoy.
Try a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, sautéing in oil, water sautéing, waterless cooking or lightly pickling (as in a pressed salad). Boiling helps greens plump and relax. You can also drink the cooking water as a health-giving broth or tea if you’re using organic greens.
If the weather isn’t cold and your digestion is strong then some raw greens occasionally can be tasty. Raw salad is an easy and tasty way to get your greens in. It’s refreshing, cooling and supplies live enzymes, and it makes a great base for sauces and stews if you are avoiding grains and tubers. (I’m not saying your should avoid grains or tubers necessarily, but I know some of you do.)
Simple? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. For most people, adding more greens is an easy way to get strong bones, glowing skin, and a better overall health. So, here’s to that wilted kale salad or fresh arugula with watermelon. Keep it simple!
*I always change client names when I write about them. This week I am eagerly awaiting Mindy Kaling’s new season on Hulu. The suspense is torture.
Kirsten Quint Fairbanks is health coach and holistic living expert who loves offering real-world holistic coaching for mamas who want to consciously cultivate big lives that get them totally fired up. Kirsten lives happily, works gratefully, dances inexpertly, paints badly, cooks traditionally, and rocks a tiny homeschool in the San Francisco Bay Area. She believes that connection can change your life. Read more about her here.