“Rabbit” by Teresa Shen is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to eat plenty of leafy greens (sorry to disappoint if you were hoping that I would suggest never eating vegetables again).
Here is why eating a salad of greens is not as nutritious as you may have thought:
Fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, contain cellulose. Cellulose is what makes up the plant cell walls. It gives the cell structure, and protects the nutrients and energy stored in the cell. In order to digest cellulose and access all those vitamins and minerals, cellulose must be broken down. Most herbivores have cellulase within their digestive system – an enzyme required to break down cellulose. Other animals, such as cows, also have more than one stomach to aid in breaking down cellulose. Unfortunately humans do not have cellulase or more than one stomach.
Therefore, humans cannot access the nutrients and energy stored in greens. The greens will only act as fiber, and pass through the body.
So why should we try to access the nutrients in greens? Well, they are super-foods – the vegetables that will give you “the most bang for your buck.” They contain vitamins A, C and K, magnesium, iron, and calcium. They remove free radicals in the body and decrease the risk of cancer. Leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and will reduce cholesterol.
There is hope! There are ways to break down cellulose. You can blend greens into a smoothie using a high-speed blender such as Vitamix or Ninja. Steaming or sautéing your greens can also help break down cellulose.
My favorite way to get more greens in my diet is by making a green smoothie. They are really really simple, and you can change the ingredients so you don’t get bored.
2/3 Fruits (I like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, mangos, peaches, apples, bananas, avocado etc.)
1/3 Leafy Greens (kale, spinach, collards, romaine, baby greens)
I sometimes add rice protein powder such as Metagenics or a large spoonful of cashew butter for protein
Blend with water and you’re done!
The sweetness from fruit masks the taste of the greens – definitely more yummy than a salad!
Word of caution: be prepared to get strange looks from people at work, asking why you are drinking something as green as Shrek.
So if you’re like me and don’t care for eating salad – don’t! Make a green smoothie instead!