Seeing as it’s the last day March, the month of everything ‘green’ as well as the last day of national nutrition month, it only makes sense to do a post on the various greens available on the market.
I’m a huge fan of using real, whole green vegetables as much as possible, but I’m also curious about the potential benefits of using some of the powders that are becoming more popular.
There seems to be a new “super-food” popping up all the time – it can be hard to keep track of the new options available. Although there are many types of green powders out there, I thought it would be best to start simple with the three that I’ve personally starting integrating into my nutrition routine. I’ll provide a brief summary of each and whether I think they are a worthwhile addition to your diet!
MATCHA GREEN TEA
Matcha green tea is certainly becoming more mainstream with coffee shops selling matcha in the form of lattes and even local grocery stores and tea shops carrying the pure powder.
What is it?
Originating from Japan, matcha green tea is a young and delicate tea leaf high in amino acids, antioxidants and chlorophyll – hence the brilliant bright green colour! You will notice that matcha green tea is more expensive than traditional tea bags. This is because you’re actually drinking the whole leaf as opposed to the dried leaves being soaked in hot water. The extra labour and attention involved brings up the cost, but it my opinion, it is well worth it!
- Mood Booster! matcha contains the amino acid L-theanine which has been shown to have an overall calming effect, reduce anxiety and boost your mood (likely through the increase in serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and glycine levels in the brain).
- Pick-me-up! The combination of theanine and caffeine can also improve focus and cognitive performance, making it a great choice to get you through the work day. It contains less caffeine than coffee (~68mg per cup, vs. 100 mg in 1 cup of coffee), but still provides the energy boost!
- Cancer prevention: The abundance of antioxidants (polyphenols) in matcha make it a great addition to protect our cells from oxidative damage.
How do I use it?
Make your own tea by whisking 1/2-1 teaspoon of matcha powder with a small amount of hot water. Add more hot/boiling water or make it a latte by adding frothed milk or almond/soy/coconut milk. Sweeten with stevia, honey or maple syrup.
Matcha green tea is not only a perfect afternoon pick-me-up, but can also be used for smoothies and other culinary options such as muffins, popcorn, popsicles, energy balls and even overnight oatmeal! Store your matcha in a cool, dark place (like your fridge) to avoid unnecessary oxidation. The delicate tea is very sensitive to air, light and heat.
What is it?
Commonly referred to as a blue-green algae, spirulina is actually a unicellular cyanobacteria—one of the oldest forms of life. You’re probably thinking – eww gross…cyanobacteria, why would I ever want to use that in my smoothie?!?!
Sea vegetables such as spirulina have been eaten for centuries in some cultures, but have only been recently embraced in North America. Microalgaes are increasingly being recognized as superfoods, packing a lot of nutrition into a small amount of powder or tablets.
Trust me, I’m just as new to this as you might be. However, looking at the nutritional benefits, I’m willing to give it a try
Spirulina is a plant-based nutrient and protein powerhouse! A 100 gram serving of spirulina contains 57 grams of easily digestible, complete protein (more per gram than chicken, eggs or soybeans). Due keep in mind 100 grams is A LOT of spirulina (and nobody needs over 50 grams in protein in a meal anyways)! One serving is typically about 5 grams. Other nutritional highlights include:
- antioxidants, including phycocyanin, a pigment complex that is found only in blue-green algae.
- iron – 28mg / 100g
- magnesium 195mg / 100g
- vitamins A, D, E, K
- B vitamins
- essential fatty acids: GLA, omega 3’s and omega 6’s
This is not a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of how nutrient dense this stuff is. There appears to be an array of other health benefits such as: anti inflammatory properties, improved immune function, exceptional support for the liver, heart and kidneys along with promoting muscle endurance and reducing oxidative stress.
Where do I find it?
You can find spirulina in tablets and powder form in the supplement aisle of your natural health food store. It is also available as an upgrade or “booster shot” in many smoothie and juice bars. Spirulina is highly soluble in water, so you’ll notice if you add it to your water it will turn gloriously green. Local plant-based protein company Vega contains organic spirulina in the Vega One Nutritional Shake.
How do I use it?
- mix 1 tablespoon into your coconut water
- mix 1 tablespoon with 12 oz water to make green ice cubes
- spirulina energy globes
- Crystal’s own version of spirulina balls: pecans, peanut butter, spirulina, dates and vanilla – blended
By this point you’re probably done with the whole green talk, so I’ll keep this one brief. Moringa is the least well known of the powders and is just making its’ way onto supermarket shelves. I found this Moringa leaf powder on a recent trip to Mexico.
What is it?
Moringa is native to northern India, Pakistan, the Himalayan region, Africa and Arabia, but is now cultivated more widely throughout the tropics. The leaves of the moringa tree (also known as the drumstick or horseradish tree) are eaten as nutritious foods.Virtually all parts of the plant can be used, although the leaves seem to be getting the most attention.
Moringa appears to offer a range of healing benefits:
- reduced inflammation
- treating infectious disorders
- improved liver function
- enhanced milk flow in nursing mothers
- blood pressure and blood sugar management
- eliminating water weight
- lowering cholesterol
- anti-tumor and anti-cancer activities
- improved thyroid function
- anti-viral activity
- treating anemia (good source of iron)
We are just starting to see more research on plants such as moringa with a long history of usage in the traditional plant medicinal systems (such as the ayurvedic system in India).
- Try 1/2 teaspoon moringa mixed with 1/2 teaspoon matcha green tea powder in a tea latte
- Add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon to your green smoothie
- Add 1/2 teaspoon to soups, salad dressings or guacamole