We are continuing with our ‘Eat a rainbow’ series and this week we are looking at the colour green! If you have ever wondered why plant foods look so colourful and appealing to the eye – it is due to the gorgeous pigments that they contain – no wonder they are so attractive to the bees and other pollinator insects! Some of these pigments also help to protect the plants from invaders too.
The health benefits from plants are from the phytonutrients which help protect the plant itself. Green plants contain a lot of these phytonutrients in the form of polyphenols, flavonoids, nitrates, folate, chlorophyll, phytosterols, catechins, isoflavones – that is just a few!
Some examples of Healthy Green Fruit and Vegetables for you to try
Broccoli, Kale, Romaine lettuce, Collard greens, Bok Choy, celery, Brussels sprouts, Green grapes, Green apples, Pears, Olives, Asparagus, Spinach, Swiss chard, Green beans, Peas, Courgettes, Kiwi fruit, Avocado, Edamame
How do Green Fruit and Veg help our general health?
Green coloured fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. They help support the immune system, help detoxify the body, restore energy and vitality and have been linked in studies to reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and mental decline. Greens have long been known to help with the formation of blood and the proper functioning of the circulatory system in the body.
And what about fertility?
Because they are low in Fat, high in Fibre, and an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, Potassium and Magnesium, Nitrates and Folate (an extremely important nutrient that you want to get as much of as you can when trying to conceive and when pregnant), greens are a key colour to include plenty of in your diet when TTC.
They are packed full of antioxidants which have an important role in the body as the zap free radicals (these are molecules which contain oxygen but have an uneven number of electrons, which makes them unstable. So, they travel around the body hunting for another electron to pair up with, making them highly reactive and leading to oxidation) that can lead to oxidative stress of cells including egg and sperm cells, leading to premature ageing of the cells. If your body has an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, then it is experiencing oxidative stress. If there are too many free radicals in the body this can lead also to chronic illnesses.
There is also increasing evidence from research to suggest that green vegetables, algae, tea, along with certain grasses and seeds (to name a few) are now linked to improving reproductive health. A study published in Nature Communications in 2013 found that fathers with a diet deficient in folate were more likely to have offspring with abnormalities of the head, face and sternum (breastbone) and a build- up of fluid on the brain. This study was conducted on mice but the importance of folate in preventing neural tube defects is well known prior to conception and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and is why women are advised to take a daily folate/folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms if planning to get pregnant. This is because the brain and spinal cord form in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The authors of the study say that the changes they found were specifically in the sperm epigenome – the chemical compounds that tell the genes which proteins to make and which to switch off. They concluded that this indicates that the diet of men may be as important as that of women in the months before conception. In addition, a study published in 2001 in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility found that low levels of folic acid in men were linked with low sperm counts and less active sperm.
The vitamin c obtained from green vegetables and fruit is important when it comes to male fertility as it has been shown in studies with sperm motility and quality (as it is an antioxidant it helps prevent damage to DNA). In females it is thought to help the endocrine system balance oestrogen and progesterone more effectively and so aid ovulation. Folate is important in preventing neural tube defects in the foetus (as mentioned above – please see our article on folate vs folic acid for more info on this), and iron helps to promote oxygen levels in cells, organs and the developing foetus.
Here are a few recipe ideas for you to try…….
Gorgeous Green Soup
Makes 2 portions
The consistency of this easy green nutritious soup can be adjusted accordingly to how you like it depending upon the amount of water you add and to make it creamy add a dash of coconut milk.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons diced onion
- 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 300g (4 cups) fresh broccoli, cut up into small pieces
- 225g (½lb) fresh spinach leaves
- 3 sticks of celery, chopped
- A handful of fresh chopped parsley
- Fresh water, adjust as required
- Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
- A splash of Lemon or lime juice
- Splash of coconut milk (optional)
How to make
- Using a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and stir in the garlic, onion, and ginger to. Next, add the chopped broccoli, spinach, celery and parsley, and stir. Add enough water to cover the vegetables.
- Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a medium simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Add a splash of coconut milk if desired.
- Use a blender/hand blender to purée the soup.
- Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon or lime.
The Gorgeous Green fertility Juice
Why not make this yourself a ‘Gorgeous Green fertility juice’ – packed full of anti- inflammatory ingredients, fertility and immune supporting nutrients and a good blast of those ‘B’ vits including folate. This juice not only tastes great but in addition will aid digestive transit too. Green drinks get their vibrant colour from chlorophyll, a nutrient-rich pigment found in all leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, celery and lettuce, that cleans the body of harmful toxins, oxygenates the blood and helps boost energy levels.
Ingredients – try to use organic wherever possible
3/4 pint glass of water
1 handful of grated carrot
1 handful of kale
1 green apple, cored and chopped
1 pear, cored and chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 piece of ginger (size according to taste)
3 sticks of celery
10 ice cubes
How to make:
Add the water, carrot and spinach to the blender. Blend until smooth.
Then add the celery, apple and pear. Finally add the ginger, lemon juice and ice cubes and blend together. Enjoy!
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
1 large potato (about 225-250g/8-9oz peeled weight), diced
225g (8oz) watercress, roughly chopped
450ml (16fl oz) vegetable stock
450ml (16fl oz) milk of your choice
Freshly ground black pepper or freshly grated nutmeg, to taste and garnish
- Heat a slash of rapeseed oil in a large saucepan; add the onion and leek and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the potato and watercress; cook for a further 3 minutes or until watercress wilts, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the stock and milk. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and tender, stirring occasionally.
- Remove pan from heat; cool slightly. Puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth; return soup to rinsed-out pan. Alternatively, use a hand-held blender to carefully puree soup in pan until smooth. Reheat soup gently until hot, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with black pepper or nutmeg. Serve in warmed soup bowls with a sprinkling of coarsely ground black pepper or freshly grated nutmeg to garnish.
Avocado and pomegranate Guacamole
Avocados are amazing! They help balance hormones, contain beneficial fats including oleic acid and alpha-linolenic (an omega 3 fatty acid), and contain over twenty vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients including vitamins B, C and E. They are also a great source of magnesium and potassium. They also contain many phytonutrients including carotenoids, flavonoids and phytosterols. Avocados are fruits and are also known as ‘alligator pears’ due to the texture of the skin and being shaped like a pear!
Mash up 3 ripe avocados and combine with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a finely chopped chilli (optional). Sprinkle with the seeds of a fresh pomegranate and combine! Enjoy as a dip or on toast.
Go for Green with this Energy and Immune system supporting Green Shot
Green apples– packed full of plant chemicals, including the flavonoid quercetin which has anti- inflammatory action. Apples are low in calories, a great source of vitamin c and potassium and also contain pectin, a ‘soluble’ fibre that can help to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol
Mint – contains antibacterial properties and is also a good source of vitamin A, iron, manganese and folate.
Cucumber– Cucumber is great for hydration and also contains a fantastic amount of antioxidants including vitamin c and also a number of other nutrients including manganese, potassium, vitamin k, magnesium, potassium and fibre.
Celery- Celery contains a plant compound called apigenin, which has been found to possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral properties. It is great for hydration, low in calories and a great source of vitamin c, potassium and calcium.
Lime– Great for your immune system as well as your skin! Limes contain vitamin C and flavonoids, the antioxidants that strengthen collagen. They also provide small amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, thiamine and potassium.
Ginger– Great for giving shots a kick but also to help alleviate gastrointestinal issues, plays a role in reducing inflammation in the body, boosts the immune system, rejuvenates skin and increases energy levels. It also contains anti- microbial properties. Ginger contains many important nutrients and vitamins including vitamin C, B5 and B6, along with a good amount of the minerals potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
Spinach – what can I say?!….just look at all of these nutrients that it contains! vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, selenium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of fibre, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin E. What’s not to like?
- 1 bunch of mint
- A handful of spinach, washed.
- 3 green apples cored and cut into smaller pieces
- 2 cucumbers peeled and cut into smaller pieces
- 2 inch ginger root peeled and cut into smaller pieces
- 3 stalks of celery cut into smaller pieces
- The juice of 2 limes
Place all ingredients into a juicer and juice well. Store in the fridge in a jug covered and have a shot served in the morning with breakfast! Enjoy!
Please note: ‘Greens’ often contain a good amount of vitamin K – please check with your healthcare provider if you have blood clotting issues before taking in too much vitamin K.
Want to read more?
Lambrot, R., Xu, C., Saint-Phar, S. et al. Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Nat Commun 4, 2889 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3889
I.M.W. Ebisch, C.M.G. Thomas, W.H.M. Peters, D.D.M. Braat, R.P.M. Steegers-Theunissen, The importance of folate, zinc and antioxidants in the pathogenesis and prevention of subfertility, Human Reproduction Update, Volume 13, Issue 2, March/April 2007, Pages 163–174, https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dml054