8 Benefits of Leafy Greens and Green Vegetables in Your Diet
Let’s take a look at the benefits of including green vegetables and other leafy greens in your diet.
Green Vegetables And Why They Are Terrific for Your Health
I grew up on a produce farm in Connecticut so I definitely have had my share of green vegetables over the years. Eating a good amount of green veggies, especially leafy greens, is a great way to boost your vitamin and mineral intake. They’re also great to eat if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight because they are so low in calories.
I always have a big bag of leafy greens in my fridge, and I mean a BIG bag. I shop produce for our local food pantry every week at a restaurant supply store. The smallest bag of mesclun greens is 3 pounds! Needless to say, I use them in a variety of ways. Here are some of my favorites:
- Saute them in a little olive oil with garlic and crushed red pepper
- Chop a big handful and toss them into a pot of soup
- I put a big handful on my favorite bread, add a few slices of avocado and tomato for a great sandwich
- Toss some into casseroles, etc
Additionally, there’s all the different salads you can put together by simply mixing up what you add to it. One of my favorite combos is the addition of thin slices of pear, dried cherries, a sprinkling of nuts, all topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.
Now let’s take a look at one of natures miracle foods, green vegetables!
Leafy green vegetables
There are so many I’m sure I haven’t mentioned them all. Grocery stores have really increased the variety of greens that they sell today. Most of those that I have listed are readily available. They are also fun to grow if you keep a garden.
Leafy green vegetables include:
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion greens
- Edible Green Leaves: red clover, plantain, purslane, watercress and chickweed
- Mustard greens
- Red and Green Leaf and Romaine Lettuce
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
Not so leafy green Vegetables
- Artichokes (fresh)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Celery (keep this one organic)
- Fennel (finocchio to me)
- Green beans
- Rapini (also known as broccoli rabe)
What makes green vegetables so special?
Mother Nature Knows How to Deliver
Often referred to as super foods, green vegetables have an abundance of vitamins and minerals. They also contain large amounts of carotenoids-antioxidants that protect your cells. These are all nutrients that our bodies needs. They help us burn fat, protect us from heart disease, prevent diabetes and even help you stay young because of their anti-aging properties. Kale is a perfect example. It’s great for weight loss and can supplement your diet with vitamins C, K and A. Plus, it’s high in Calcium and manganese for very few calories.
Green veggies are terrific for weight management
These vegetables have so few calories that they hardly even count and lettuce, kale and spinach can be eaten in abundance. These are also high fiber foods and so they keep you full longer and allow you to eat less. Another benefit of the fiber is that it helps to stabilize blood sugars, and that results in less out of control cravings for sweets and other junk.
Different leafy greens have different properties but all of them can be considered good for you. They contain vitamin K, which is essential in helping the body to properly clot blood. Vitamin K also helps prevent several conditions related to advancing age and can help prevent bone loss, arterial calcifications, kidney damage and heart disease. Just a single cup of most leafy green vegetables will provide you with more than enough vitamin K for your system per day. Kale is especially helpful, providing about six times the recommended intake of vitamin K.
You can actually lower your cholesterol by eating leafy green vegetables. The bile acids produced by the liver which help fats digest from the gastrointestinal tract are bound by the fiber in the leafy greens. The bile acids pass through the body along with the residue of leafy green vegetables. This forces the liver to use up even more cholesterol to make bile acids. It also reduces your endogenous cholesterol level. There was one study in the Nutrition Research journal that indicated that slightly steamed kale and mustard greens did the best job of binding bile acids.
Leafy green vegetables are good for the eyes. The best leafy greens to eat for eye health are mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens because they are high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids help filter the high energy light caused by sun and therefore prevent sun-induced cataracts. These carotenoids also improve overall visual acuity.
A cup of raw escarole can help your body by adding pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5. The B vitamins together help carbohydrates break down into glucose to be used for cellular fuel. The body cannot store B vitamins each day so you need to find a daily source for these vitamins. What better way than to incorporate escarole in your diet.
Green vegetables contain large amounts of calcium.
One of the main functions of Calcium in our body is to support skeletal structure and function. It’s recommended that women get at least 1000mg calcium every day. Green vegetables deliver big calcium. Kale has a whopping 139mg per 1/2 cup serving. Green vegetables like spinach contain as much as 99 mg of calcium in a single 1/2 cup serving. Dandelion greens contain 75 mg of calcium and mustard greens come in at 55 mg per 1/2 serving. Here’s an interesting fact>> Did you know that it’s the calcium in some green vegetables that are responsible for their bitter taste?
Considering that these are virtually fat free foods they give high fat dairy foods as a source of calcium a run for their money.