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Expand your heart with green foods

Anyone who has taken a cooking class with me, knows I'm in love with green foods. They are my warrior ingredients whether I'm teaching about detoxification, weight loss, cancer, brain health, or gut health. Recently, I discovered a whole new reason I steer toward eating so many greens. The color green reflects the qualities of LOVE: openness, expansiveness, nurturing, compassion, abundance. The impact of color in our diet and the way it influences our health comes from the work of one of my nutritional sheroes, Dr. Deanna Minich. I'm knee, or I should say heart, deep into her new course Rainbow Food and Supplements. After 15 years studying nutrition she is rocking the way I look at color in our diet. In light of spring, let's look at the color green or what she refers to as our "LOVE system".

Take a minute to reflect on how GREEN foods make you feel.

Think about how you feel when you work in your garden or take a walk in nature. Taking in the color green through your senses fills your heart with peace, and gives you a sense of being alive and in harmony with life. Similarly, eating green foods can have a strong sensation in the heart center. Some people claim that green foods makes them feel more vital. Others, have a hard time consuming green vegetables. There is no right or wrong feeling here. It is simply good information for your relationship with the LOVE system.

The LOVE system is associated primarily with the heart and lungs, along for the ride are the arms, hands, lymph and breasts. One of the ways we can extend our love is through cooking. The love in our hearts is expressed through our arms and hands as we chop, mix, plate, and serve. Our relationship to eating green foods can reflect the love we have for ourselves too. Do you look forward to a green leafy salad or does it feel like a chore to eat? Is green at the center of your plate or does it sit paltry on the sidelines?

Not surprisingly, the LOVE system is represented by vegetables and specific compounds called phytochemicals. The specific group of vegetables we're addressing as it pertains to the LOVE system are cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens. The cruciferous family refers to the stinky, sulfur-rich veggies that help detoxify: arugula, bok choy (and other chinese cabbages), broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, daikon, kale mustard greens, wasabi and watercress(1).

Leafy greens, like spinach, romaine, sprouts, watercress, dandelion, to name a few, all nourish the heart. All you have to do is closely look at a leaf of kale, or other dark leafy green, and you will see the connection between greens and the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The lines branching out from the center resemble our capillaries and circulatory system. Leafy greens contain nutrients, like Vitamin, K and folate, that protect the heart. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting in the event of injury to the blood vessels. Folate can protect us from high levels of homocysteine, which is associated with heart disease.

Beyond protein, fat, and carbohydrates are nutrition powerhouses called phytochemicals, or phytonutrients. Phytochemicals are what protect plants from disease and are often what give plants their color. There are three types of phytonutrients that relate to the LOVE system.

Chlorophyll is a building block of all green vegetables as well as alfalfa, barley, chlorella, spirulina, and wheatgrass. Chlorophyll is one of the great "chelators" in the plant kingdom, meaning it helps bind toxins for excretion. Phytoestrogens are recognized in the LOVE system due to their protective mechanisms on breast tissue and hormonal health. Foods that contain high levels of phytoestrogens include black beans, flaxseeds, chickpeas, lentils, oats, whole grains. Since these compounds in plants resemble estrogen, they have been controversial in women with estrogen dominance and estrogen-sensitive cancers. Phytosterols, resembles cholesterol in plants but do not exhibit the negative effects. They are found in almost all plant foods, with some of the highest levels in sunflower seeds, rice bran oil, and sesame oil (1).

What can green foods tell you about your own love for yourself and for life? Begin where you are. Whether you suffer with physical issues of circulation or are working on more emotional barriers of self-compassion, more GREEN in the diet may be a very healing factor.

The impact of color in our diets stretches further than the eye can see. It connects us with our health on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Each color has its own energetics, relationship to the physical body, life aspect, emotion, and specific foods. This is the reason I don't just look at WHAT you're eating but the HOW and WHY. I believe we make better food choices when we understand what most nourishes us. The color of food is a window into understanding this about ourselves.

1. Minich, D. Rainbow Food and Supplements. Conari Press, MA 2018.

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