Greens – The Best Source of Vitamins and Minerals

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.

Beet Greens and Zucchini

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.

Interactions of Minerals in the Body

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.

Echinacea growing between two mints

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.

Norton’s Gold Oregano

Bibliography/Recommended Reading

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.

About Sarah Wadleigh

I am a Clinical Herbalist, Organic Gardener and Nutritional Consultant for people and companion animals. I live in Madrid, New Mexico with my wonderful husband, two little dogs and a big cat. My practice revolves around helping people create health through whole-food nutrition, nutritive herbs, lifestyle and self-awareness. With more than 20 years of experience as an animal nutritional counselor, I offer consultations to improve the health and well-being of our four-legged friends, as well as their humans. We can work together via Skype, in person,or over the phone. Let's create health for ourselves and our animal companions! Contact:
This entry was posted in Cats & Dogs, Food for Dogs & Cats, Health & Nutrition, Herbal Magic, Herbs for Dogs & Cats, Plants & Gardens. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Greens – The Best Source of Vitamins and Minerals

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  7. Marie Gagnon says:

    Hi Sarah, can you share with me the source of the Mineral Interaction Chart? Thank you very much for your help.

    • Hello Marie.

      The mineral interaction chart was part of a handout that I received during my clinical herbalism training. My notes are filed away, so I don’t have access to the handout.

      Sorry I can’t give you the specific source!

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