September 16, 2009

Greens for Breakfast

Today I'm pleased to have a guest post by Dr. Jennifer J. Casey. She trained as a Naturopathic Doctor and currently practices as a massage therapist in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She's started her own blog on natural health topics at her website, Hands of Gold. Here's what Dr. Jen has to say about eating greens for breakfast.

So often in the past, I was mentally stuck on the limited range of standard choices for breakfast. I would find myself thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want cold cereal for breakfast;” and I knew it would never stick with me for long anyway. It seems like so many of the standard breakfast choices are wheat based—cereals, breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, quiches, etc. And, the fruit or sugar that so often goes with them can send your blood sugar quickly spiraling upward only to lead to a crash a short while later.

Eggs make a tasty breakfast, but I found I only wanted eggs once in a while, certainly not every day. Breakfast seemed boring and limited, given the choices. Then it occurred to me, “Why not get outside that box and explore more nutritious possibilities for breakfast?” So I decided that sautéed greens might be just the ticket. Sure enough, the sautéed greens were immensely satisfying and had great staying power. I’ve since had them with leftover rice, with shiitake mushrooms, with onions, with red peppers, and with homemade bacon (yum!). They might even be good with leftover fried potatoes or with scrambled eggs on top. They’re great with a side slice of homemade cornbread too! The list of possibilities is endless!

Just what am I getting nutritionally when I long for greens for breakfast? The vitamins and minerals most prevalent in greens include vitamin A, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, manganese, potassium, folic acid, and PABA. Huh. Well, so what do those things do for you? Lots!

Vitamin A is needed for growth and repair of body tissues and it aids in formation of bone and teeth. It is essential to eye health and specific to epithelial tissues (skin, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, internal organs, etc.). Vitamin A plays a very important role in helping the body fight infection. It plays an important role in the development of sex hormones and has a significant relationship to reproductive abilities. Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining skin health and facilitates wound healing

Vitamin B6 plays a role in strengthening your immune system and the formation of red blood cells. It is a very important co-enzyme and aids in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism (the process of breaking these foods down to make the nutrition available to body cells and vital processes). The need for vitamin B6 increases during pregnancy and lactation, for those using oral contraceptives, and for the aged, those exposed to radiation (and there are many kinds of radiation—including tanning booth or excessive sunlight exposure). Vitamin B6 can produce rapid and dramatic improvement in symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Calcium is a very important mineral. It helps maintain bones and teeth. It is essential for healthy blood, plays a role in blood clotting, helps regulate the heartbeat, and helps prevent insomnia. It is an essential component in muscle, nerve and heart function. It plays an important role in muscle growth, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. It also helps regulate the passage of nutrients in ond out of the cell walls.

Magnesium is involved in many essential metabolic processes in the body. It assists the body in utilizing the nutrients derived from certain minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Magnesium is essential for proper nerve and muscle function, including those of the heart.

Vitamin C helps maintain the integrity of skin, ligaments, and bones. Vitamin C combats bacterial infections and helps reduce or prevent allergic reactions. It plays an important role in healing wounds and burns. It also plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and in preventing hemorrhaging. Vitamin C has many important relationships to other vital nutrients.

Iron plays a role in protein metabolism. It is necessary for healthy blood cells and promotes growth. Women who are menstruating should be sure to have adequate iron intake. Iron is combined with protein in the body and is found in every living cell. Iron is responsible for building the quality of blood and also increases your resistance to stress and disease. It plays an essential role in supplying vital oxygen to muscle cells. The need for iron increases during menstruation, hemorrhage, and during periods of rapid growth. Additional iron is required during pregnancy.

Manganese is important for normal bone development. It is involved in the maintenance of sex hormones. It also helps nourish the nerves and brain as well as playing an important role in thyroid functioning and sex hormone production. Manganese is an enzyme activator (virtually all body processes involve enzymatic reactions). It plays a role in protein, carbohydrate and fat production. Manganese has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of diabetes, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and in the general treatment of fatigue

Potassium is essential for normal growth, for nerve conduction, and for muscle contraction. It helps regulate the activity of the heart, muscles, nervous system, kidneys and ensures the health of the skin. It also plays an important role in helping to get oxygen to the brain.

Folic acid is part of the vitamin B complex. It plays a co-enzymatic role in metabolism and helps breakdown and utilization of proteins. It plays an important role in brain and nervous system function. It also plays a role in the production of red blood cells and in normal cellular growth and reproduction. It is very important for pregnant women to have adequate folic acid intake in order to prevent birth defects. Adding a serving of brown rice to the greens would increase the level and range B complex vitamins you would derive from this meal.

Vitamin K is an important factor in blood clotting. It is also important for normal liver functioning, well as being an important vitality and longevity factor.

PABA is an important part of the B complex vitamins. It functions as a coenzyme that assists in the breakdown and utilization of protein. It also assists in the formation of red blood cells and is important in the health of skin and the intestines. All the B vitamins can help by providing more energy and ameliorating fatigue. They can also help with insomnia and your ability to deal with stress,

When you read the list of nutrients shown on a box of cereal, you may think you are getting good nutrition. You probably don’t realize that all those ingredients have been synthetically created. The manufacturing process destroys the naturally occurring nutrients found in the food in the course of processing, which are later replaced with synthetic replicas. The synthetic ingredients are not absorbed or utilized in the same manner as the naturally occurring nutrients derived directly from food. Moreover, they lack the natural synergism found in the whole food, which can never be duplicated in any test tube.

Yes, preparing good food takes a little time but you will feel a great deal better for having taken that time. You might remember that the next time you’re down in bed, incapacitated with a cold or the flu. The time and energy it would have taken to cook nutritious breakfasts will seem very insignificant by comparison.


  1. I have greens for breakfast everyday :-) But I drink them down.

    I blend 2-4 giant handfuls of spinach with 1 banana and about 1 cup of almond milk in my blender and drink it. It is an easy and tasty way to get your greens - you CANNOT taste the spinach AT ALL!!

  2. I relayed your comment to Dr. Jen, and she says you'd be better off with chard for a raw veggie. Raw spinach contains oxalic acid, which interferes with the absorption of calcium. Spinach is actually more healthful when lightly steamed! You can visit her website at Hands of Gold and comment on this post on her blog to get more detailed information.

  3. Eggs may not be an everyday food for breakfast. If I do have eggs, I like to poached them and serve it over blanched or sauteed greens. I'm already happy with that. Maybe some firm polenta at the bottom of the greens or quinoa.

  4. Yes but would I taste the chard? I like how the spinach does not have a taste when mixed with a banana in a smoothie.

  5. I really don't know whether you'd taste it or not. I find that the leafy part of chard when raw is more green but less peppery than spinach.