Photo credit: NRCS Soil Heath
Have you ever experienced this super interesting phenomenon? The minute you make a healthy change in your life, everyone around you suddenly becomes a nutrition expert.
Cousin Joe, who never interested himself with your protein intake before is suddenly very concerned.
Your standard diet friend wants you to stay just the way you are, your paleo friend is convinced that she’s stumbled upon the holy grail, your vegan friend wants to you go vegan, and your vegetarian friend is positive you will wither away if you give up eggs and dairy.
Everyone thinks that they, and they alone, hold the key to the truth.
But are the health nuts actually healthy?
Funny enough, there are plenty of vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists, etc who think that they have the healthiest diet in the world, but they actually eat a ton of heavily processed or overly sweet junk food.
How do I know this?
I was at one time about the unhealthiest vegetarian you’ve ever seen, and I was convinced that I was eating quite the healthy diet, with my msg-filled meat substitutes and stir fried canola oil.
You may even get a similarly confuddling advice from your doctor, as different healthcare practitioners have widely varying opinions regarding ideal diet.
With the average medical school devoting somewhere around four hours total to nutrition, your MD may not know much more than Cousin Joe when it comes to what to put on your plate.
When just the mechanics of healthy eating are so difficult, all the conflicting advice can be paralyzing.
But the biggest reason I find this so frustrating, is because the advice slingers don’t actually listen to you.
They don’t see your unique challenges, where you are in the journey, and what is going to actually work for your lifestyle.
I, of course, have my own ideas about what to eat to support optimal health, and I am honored to have the special privilege of sharing some of those ideas with you.
But rather than making you fit into my box, I’m most interested providing simple, actionable advice that gives you a framework to decide what works best for you.
My goal is to help you cut through the confusion and each and every day take another step towards getting the results you deserve.
The best way to cut through the confusion? Go back to basics.
The basics are astoundingly simple. If you move your body and eat a whole foods diet with an emphasis on vegetables you will see results.
There is no disagreement about these foundational aspects of good health.
But while simple, following through is certainly not easy — and it’s definitely not as sexy as hopping on board with the newest diet trend, exploring cutting edge research, or trying out the latest superfood or supplement.
The danger of subscribing to a certain paradigm (whether vegan, vegetarian, or any other) is that it’s easy to hide behind a paradigm and trade doing the hard work for an illusion of progress.
What is the one thing that absolutely anybody can do to get the biggest immediate result?
So what is the one thing that all truly healthy people do?
Mom had it right all along. They eat their greens!
Want to take a step towards better health, but aren’t ready to go all in on a plant-based whole foods lifestyle?
Eat more greens.
Aren’t seeing results with your current plan and want an extra boost, whether to lose weight, have more energy, or just look and feel younger?
Eat more greens.
What I love about this is that it applies to absolutely everyone, no matter what their ideology or place in their journey towards health.
And I think it’s the one thing that absolutely anybody can do to get the biggest immediate result.
This common sense answer is not just anecdotal folk wisdom.
By dividing the number of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals) by number of calories, you end up with a value that represents the nutrient density of any given food.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls this the ANDI value (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index).
The typical fast food meal with a burger, fries, and a coke has an ANDI value of 24. A plant-based meal with salad, beans, rice, and carrot juice has an ANDI score of 1,093.
What tops of the charts of the ANDI scale? Greens, the only foods with a value of more than 1,000.
A universal solution
My friend Deej is Native American and has lost many close family members to diabetes. She reversed her diabetes through a whole, live food plant-based diet and wanted to help her brother transition.
You’ll never guess how she started…by adding some green powder to his diet coke.
We all start somewhere, and sometimes the easiest, smallest step is what we need to get headed in the right direction.
So no matter where you currently find yourself along the dietary spectrum, take a step back and focus on this big win. Just start!
7 surprising, fun, and easy ways to make greens a bigger priority on your plate.
Sprouts are the unsung health hero, and absolutely deserve top spot.
Sprouts are nutrient dense, high in protein, easy to digest, and can be grown inexpensively in your home in a matter of days.
Additionally they are versatile! Add them as a side dish, to a mixed greens salad, put them on a veggie burger, eat them on top of soups, lentils, curries. Every dish is better with sprouts.
You’re likely familiar with alfalfa sprouts. Clover, radish, broccoli, mung bean, sunflower, pea, lentil, and arugula are other delicious options.
2) Green Juice and Green Smoothies
Green juice is by far the best way to get your daily dose of greens.
Imagine taking several pounds of vegetables, concentrating them, and putting them into a form that is super easy for your body to absorb.
That is why I call it Green Gold.
Green smoothies differ in the fact that they are blended, rather than juiced. Juicing removes the fiber; blending does not.
There is a great debate about what is better, smoothies or juicing. Many choose the smoothies because they are quicker, easier, and less expensive than juicing.
Explore both! Check out this great guide(link is external) from Kris Carr and see what works best for you.
3) Green Powders and Superfoods
Green powders are the easiest (though not always the tastiest) way to add more greens into your diet.
You can mix them into a smoothie, add them to coconut water or another beverage of choice, or sprinkle them on a salad.
I recommend e3 Live(link is external), Vitamineral Green(link is external), Pure Synergy(link is external), or Spirulina(link is external) as a start.
4) Serve the Main Course on a Bed of Greens
Many foods can be served on a bed of greens.
From rice, to quinoa, lentils, pasta and beyond, try serving your main course on top of a bed of greens. I love the combination.
You can buy a ready-to-go bag of salad mix, spinach, or other mixed greens that is ready to go.
5) Hide Your Greens
If you are cooking rice, quinoa, lentils, millet, amaranth, or beans try adding in some greens to the mix.
Spinach and lentils are famously matched in the classic (and delish) Indian dish Spinach Dahl.
Spinach, swiss chard, and kale are my favorite greens to add to grains.
You can even hide greens in baked goods. I have a friend who gets her two year old to eat more veggies by adding broccoli to muffins.
6) Green Snacks like Kale Chips
You can even make your snacking veggie centric by choosing something like kale chips. Different veggie based snack options are becoming more and more widely available.
While they can be expensive and are not a substitute for a whole food plant-based meal, they are a great way to eat more greens. And you can make them at home!
Look for kale chips, just peas, zucchini chips and more.
7) Greens as a Cracker, Chip, or Tortilla Replacement
Remember the height of the Atkins diet craze when fast food restaurants were serving their burgers on a romaine lettuce “bun”?
Atkins may be long gone, but the giant leaves of romaine are still a great medium for your veggie burger.
You can also use collard leaves for wraps and leaves of spinach to dig into hummus or bean dip. (One of my favorite travel foods, no silverware required)
What’s your favorite way to get your greens? Any other tips or tricks? Let me know in the comments below!
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Matt Jager is a wellness activist, yogi and co-founder of True Wellth. His life mission is to transform the healthcare and food system in this country, so that every single person has access to the tools and support they need to look and feel their best, control their health, own their happiness and revolutionize their well-being.