What is the big deal about greens? One word pretty much sums it up: phytonutrients! Phyto means “plant” – thereby the word “phytonutrients” defines the nutrients that are specific to plant life. They are some of the chemical constituents found in roots, leaves, flowers, fruits and vegetables that help create the vitality of plants, and, additionally, help protect them from predatory insects, fungal and viral infections, and even from UV radiation. Interestingly, when consumed, these same vitalizing, protective and healing qualities are passed on to the lucky consumer.
Yes, the phytonutrients in plants have amazing health-promoting properties, and what is even more incredible, these miracle chemicals are very easily digested and absorbed by our bodies – dogs and cats included. Why, it’s almost as if our bodies are craving phytonutrients!
Which nutrients are fundamental for maintaining vibrant health or for recovery from illness or injury? Along with phytonutrients, plants also contain micronutrients, namely vitamins and minerals, which are are crucial elements that fuel the healing and cleansing chemical reactions that happen in a healthy or healing body. Without all of the vitamins and minerals required by the body, the ebb and flow of healing enzymes and energy becomes slowed, and the body cannot process and release incoming nutrients to the areas that need rebuilding and repair. Mineral balance in the body is vital for efficient rebuilding and repair.
Lack of vital nutrients can allow a backlog of toxins from the environment, medications and processed food (damaged oils and proteins, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners) to accumulate and build up in the body. Over time, this buildup can create skin irritations, allergies, joint pain, and many other forms of inflammation, imbalance and discomfort.
To help keep the vital healing energy flowing in the body, an ongoing supply of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and protective phytonutrients is incredibly beneficial.
Following are nutritional profiles of some of my favorite herbs and foods. Each one contains many healing constituents. This list shows only the most plentiful nutrients in each food.
Barley Grass: nutritive, antioxidant; high in Calcium, Chromium, Fiber, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Selenium, Thiamine, Vitamins A and C.
Chickweed: beneficial for circulatory, respiratory, urinary, and digestive systems; high in Calcium, Cobalt, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin A and Zinc
Dandelion: nourishes the liver, kidneys, gall bladder, pancreas, and circulatory systems; liver tonic; high in Phosphorus, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C
Fennel: supports digestive, urinary and respiratory systems; antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial; high in Calcium, fiber, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Riboflavin, Selenium, Thiamine, Zinc
Ginger: helpful for digestive and circulatory systems; stimulating, anti-inflammatory; high in fiber, beneficial fats, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Potassium, Silicon
Gotu Kola: beneficial for brain and nervous systems, calming and nourishing, contributing to longevity, anti-inflammatory; high in Calcium, Fiber, good fats, Magnesium, Niacin, Riboflavin, Selenium, Thiamine, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Zinc
Hawthorn: affects and benefits circulatory and digestive systems; cardiac tonic, sedative; high in Chromium, Dietary fiber, Selenium
Irish Moss: benefits the digestive system; demulcent and healing, iodine source; high in Calcium, carbohydrates, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Selenium, Vitamin A and Thiamine
Kelp: nourishes and heals the digestive and thyroid systems; nutritive tonic and blood purifier; high in Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Vitamin A
Milk Thistle: supports and strengthens the liver; high in Chromium, good fats, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Selenium, Vitamin A, Zinc
Nettle: supports and heals the urinary and respiratory systems; high in Calcium, Chromium, Cobalt, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Vitamins A, C and Zinc
Oatstraw: general nutritive nervine tonic; high in Calcium, Chromium, fiber, Magnesium, Selenium, Silicon, Sodium
Parsley: benefits and nourishes urinary and digestive systems, including liver; high in Calcium, good fats, Magnesium, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Riboflavin, Vitamins A and C
Peppermint: supports and heals digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems; high in Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Riboflavin, Selenium, Thiamine, Vitamins A and C
Pumpkin Seed: supports and nourishes the digestive and urinary systems; high in protein, containing hard-to-find amino acids and myosin – a chief protein constituent of nearly all muscles in the body
Rosehips: a general whole body tonic; nutritive, antiseptic, antispasmodic; high in Chromium, crude and dietary fiber, Manganese, Riboflavin, Selenium, Sodium, Vitamins A and C; Natural source of vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, strengthening capillaries and connective tissue.
Now that you know how fantastically nutritious plants can be, incorporating them into your diet will allow you to experience the vital force and clarity that phyto- and micronutrients have to offer. The addition of greens can make a difference when no other changes are made to diet and lifestyle. Once the body becomes more well-nourished, it begins to crave healthier foods and change becomes more natural.
Next time, we will talk about the benefits of culinary herbs.
Bergner, Paul. The Healing Power of Minerals, Special Nutrients, and Trace Elements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub., 1997. Print.
Jensen, Bernard. Foods That Heal. Garden City, NY: Avery Pub., 1993. Print.
Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: Including the Nutritional Profiles of 106 Commonly Used Herbs and Foods. Bountiful, Utah (P.O. Box 761, Bountiful 84010): Pedersen Pub., 1987. Print.
Puotinen, C. J. The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care. Los Angeles: Keats Pub., 2000. Print.
Tilford, Gregory L., Mary Wulff-Tilford, and Mary Wulff-Tilford. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. Laguna Hills, CA: BowTie, 2009. Print.