Are you a kale fanatic who dismisses all other leafy greens as inferior? Do you chug down spinach like Popeye? If you buy only one or two types of greens on a regular basis, you are not only missing out on the health-promoting nutrient profiles of other plants, but you may actually be harming your health. Yikes!
Let’s take a step back. Eating greens is not bad for you, so don’t stop.
However, if you aren’t rotating the type of greens you consume regularly, you may be overloading your body with toxins. Greens are good for us, but they also come with a tiny bit of toxic stuff, too. It is a protective measure to ensure that the plant species does not get wiped out by any voraciously grazing species.
There are four main families of greens, and each one has a different type of protective toxin. Spinach, for instance, is high in oxalates, a toxin that can cause kidney stones if consumed in high enough quantities. Meanwhile, kale and broccoli contains goitrogens, which impair thyroid function.
It’s tough to eat too many greens if you’re just munching on them in salads and stir-frys. However, if you’re a fan of juicing or making green smoothies, you’re probably eating a lot more greens than the average person simply because you are able to pack more in.
Even still, if you eat a diverse range of greens, you’ve got no problems. But for those of us who are diehard spinach or kale fans, it is prudent and healthy to practice a little more diversity. While it is unlikely that eating huge amounts of certain greens will give you a disorder, health problems can arise when you have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to the effects of ingesting large amounts of mildly toxic plant compounds.
Meet the 4 Families of Greens
If you are prone to a health condition like a thyroid disorder, a lack of diversity in your greens can actually exacerbate it. Here are the four families of greens for you to rotate through throughout your month:
Including kale, collards, arugula, bok choy, mustard greens, these veggies contain glucosinolates, phytates, and goitrogens which can impair thyroid function. They are also high in anticancer compounds.
Spinach, chard, and beet greens are high in antioxidants, but also oxalates, which can cause kidney stones among other maladies.
Dandelion, leaf lettuce, romaine are high in vitamin C, calcium, and can lower cholesterol. Dandelion greens are especially nutritious and detoxifying (and free if you have a back yard!).
Carrot tops, parsley, and cilantro are powerful detoxifiers. Most people don’t subsist on these herb-like greens alone, so it is important to make sure you incorporate them into your diet regularly.
Don’t fall into the trap of buying the same greens week after week after week without any diversity. All greens are not created equal. It is important to mix them up to balance out the benefits and harmful compounds that are going into your diet.
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