Aine McAteer
Photo: Brian Mulvany
Growing up in Ireland surrounded by "40 shades of green," it would certainly not have been considered a compliment to be told "you're green." While that once only implied naiveté and lack of street smarts, green has now become the new black—it's sexy, cool and current to be called "green."

As a child in rural Ireland, green is indelibly imprinted on your soul, in every sense of the word. Literally, green was all around us—it was certainly the dominant color in the environment—and figuratively, we were also kept in the dark regarding many of the facts of life that are common knowledge among today's youth. (At 10 years of age, I still believed the doctor was delivering babies in his suitcase!)

In this world we lived in, we grew all our own veggies and fruits, which instilled an innate respect for the land, as it was the source of our nourishment. We fertilized with manure from the local farms, got our milk in cans from a local farmer and carried big straw shopping baskets to go grocery shopping. Our water came from pumps or the well, and we didn't have such thing as a rubbish bin or trash can—scraps of food were instead returned to the earth, where they completed the cycle to give life to new plants. Empty cans and bottles found other uses, as flowerpots, vases or crafting materials. We didn't call it "recycling" or think of ourselves as being "environmentally conscious." It was simply the only way of life we knew, and we took comfort in it.

The color green, therefore, is soothing, calming and balancing. It's the color of nature, the color of the heart chakra, the color of life and abundance. The foods that provide the best nourishment to our bodies are green, and these days, green is also the symbol for a new movement back toward the wisdom of more traditional ways of life.

Green is also the national color of my homeland, and in honor of this, I'm focusing on ways we can nourish our bodies, minds and souls by embracing all things green.

Learn the real reasons it's good to eat your greens
Eat Your Greens

We hear it all the time: "Eat your greens."

Most of us have no doubt in our minds that this has its benefits, but do you really know why?

  • Greens are a rich source of chlorophyll, which acts as a detoxifier in the body. Chlorophyll also helps the blood to deliver oxygen to all the cells of the body as well as helping to neutralize free radicals that cause damage to cells. If you suffer from bad breath or body odors, chlorophyll to the rescue—it is a natural deodorizer! Remember, the darker the greens, the higher the chlorophyll content, and to get the full benefit of the chlorophyll in greens, it's best to eat them raw or very lightly cooked.
  • Greens are alkalizing. The modern diet tends to lean more toward acid-forming foods like meat and carbohydrates, but in order to maintain health and balance, it's important to keep your PH at a healthy level. Vegetables, particularly greens, help to do this.
  • Greens are mineral-rich and supply the body with many vital nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins, including vitamins C, K, E and B.
  • Greens contain a variety of phytonutrients, which extensive research has shown protect the body against free radical damage, stimulate detoxifying enzymes, support the immune system and act as antiviral and antibacterial agents.
  • Dark, leafy greens contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for all body functions and protect against heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol.
  • Greens are powerful antioxidants, which are known to protect the body from damage from toxins in the environment and the foods we eat. Antioxidants neutralize these toxins and clear them from the body.

Don't like eating greens? Drink them instead
Drink Your Greens

Another way to get your daily dose of nutrients is by juicing. My Kale Lemonade is a delicious way to keep your body alkaline and get your daily dose of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

If you'd rather get the benefit of the fiber in vegetables, you can blend up a delicious and nutritious green smoothie made from a mixture of chopped leafy greens, a little avocado, some ground flax, sunflower or hemp seeds, a little almond or other grain or nut, milk or water. Season with some umeboshi plum vinegar or a pinch of sea salt for an irresistible finish. You can also add fruits such as apple or banana to give more flavor and creaminess. Other healthful ingredients could be added such as maca powder, soaked chia seeds, protein powder and soaked goji berries.

When I'm traveling and not in a position to eat my daily servings of greens, I'll always take with me a green powder like Green Magma, which is powdered young barley grass or spirulina. This way I can still get the health benefits of my greens to keep me clean and healthy while on the go.

Wheatgrass is also a powerful detoxifier and is high in chlorophyll, minerals and other nutrients vital to good health. It's an excellent way to cleanse the blood and support the liver. Many health food stores have a juice section where you can get fresh wheatgrass—start with a 1-ounce shot followed by some vegetable or fruit juice, and when your body is more used to the detoxifying effect, you can take 2 ounces. A word of caution: Don't take wheatgrass and follow with vigorous exercise—I did once and regretted it, as I felt nauseous throughout my workout session.

Learn how green helps your heart and your kitchen
Green: The Color of Love

Green is the color of the heart chakra, which is associated with compassion, love, romance, relationships and communication. When the heart chakra is healthy and balanced, you will be able to enjoy healthy, loving relationships. However, it's impossible to have healthy relationships with others until we first love ourselves.

The heart chakra is the center of love of self, which then emanates outward to touch those we come in contact with. To heal and balance the heart chakra, it's helpful to use green gemstones like jade, green aventurine and emerald. You can either wear them as a pendant that will fall around the heart center or lie down and place the gemstones over the heart center and visualize a green ray of light entering and opening your heart center.

The Green Kitchen

Apart from painting the walls kitchen green, there are many ways you can generate a calm atmosphere, open and nourish your heart and contribute to a healthier and greener planet right from you kitchen:

  • Support local farmers and CSAs. Find a local farmer's market where you can buy foods directly from the farmers—the fewer miles your food travels from farm to table, the better for the environment.
  • Grow something. If you don't have room to create an orchard or a vegetable patch, even a little plot on your lawn or a window box will give you the satisfaction of using foods that you planted yourself. Some cities and towns have community garden projects where people get together to grow fruits and veggies. If there isn't one already, take the initiative of starting one. This is a wonderful educational project to get kids involved in, as it gets them outdoors and connects them with where their foods come from.
  • Buy foods in bulk and have some good storage containers in your kitchen that will keep your staples fresh. This means less packaging materials and fewer trips to the store, not to mention it can also save you money.
  • Recycle. I once met a family in Australia that produces only one bag of garbage a year—what an inspiration! Find ways that you can avoid filling our already overburdened landfills.
  • Buy a water filter. This is one of the best investments you can make toward your own health and the health of the planet. Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, buy one water bottle and take your filtered water with you.
  • If you don't have a garden where you can use compost, find someone who does. My neighbors have a farm with chickens, and all my vegetable waste is used to feed the chickens or added to their compost. Get a little bin with a lid that you can keep by your food prep area and line it with a compostable bag, as this makes it easier to dispose of your waste.
  • Turn off your taps. I've been guilty of leaving my taps running while I'm washing a couple of plates or scrubbing a carrot.
  • Use utensils, cutting boards and other products made from sustainable materials like bamboo.
  • Opt for manual rather than electric kitchen gadgets.
  • Make your own kitchen cleaners: Combine 1 cup of cider vinegar with 1 cup of water to create a disinfectant, degreaser and general cleaner for household surfaces, including glass. You can put in a spray bottle for easy application. For cleaning stainless steel, pour soda water into a spray bottle, spray and wipe clean. A few drops of citracidal (grapefruit seed extract) in a spray bottle filled with water is another excellent natural cleaner and sanitizer that can protect against many common bacteria, viruses and parasites often found in homes.

To truly embrace the spirit of springtime and the traditions of my homeland, I invite you to join me in savoring a big bowl of my Luck of the Irish Soup, served up with some herbed Soda Bread Scones.




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