If you knew there was one type of food that could promote heart health, reduce your chances of cancer, and build stronger bones, would you eat more of it?
Well, there is; it is green leafy vegetables, and I am not talking about iceberg lettuce.
The health benefits of leafy greens are endless.
#1. Kale is nutrient-dense thanks to its vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One cup of raw kale has 684% of the Daily Value for vitamin K, 206% for vitamin A, and 134% for vitamin C. In addition, it contains antioxidants, including lutein and beta-carotene, which prevent oxidative stress-related disorders. Cooking/baking kale can diminish its antioxidants and vitamins, especially vitamins A, C, and K, therefore, it’s best consumed raw.
#2. Microgreens come from vegetable and herb seeds. 1–3 inches. Since the 1980s, these cute little greens have appeared on your dish as a garnish or ornament, but they’re packed with color, flavor, and nutrients despite their tiny size. Microgreens contain 40 times more nutrients than mature plants, according to research. In addition, microgreens can be cultivated at home year-round, making them accessible. They’re tasty and full of C, E, and K. They’re related to kale and spring greens. The picture here is from a farmer’s market, where they will grow fun patterns with a variety of microgreens. I include microgreens every chance I get; grab a handful and put it on your salad or sandwich.
#3. Collard greens contain calcium, vitamins A, B9 (folate), and C. They’re among the greatest leafy greens for vitamin K. One cup of cooked collard greens contains 1,045% of the DV for vitamin K. Vitamin K clots blood. More research is being done on its bone-health benefits too. One study indicated that women with vitamin K intakes below 109 mcg per day had a higher risk of hip fractures, linking this vitamin to bone health.
#4. Spinach is a superstar among green leafy vegetables. This low-calorie food is full of nutrients that are good for your body in several ways, from boosting the immune system — your body’s defense against germs — to helping your heart and much more. One cup (30 grams) of raw spinach has 181% vitamin K, 56% for vitamin A, 13% for manganese, and calcium which are essential for healthy bones. During your life, your body continues to reabsorb old bone and create new bone. As a result, your entire skeleton is replaced about every ten years, though this process slows as you age. As long as your body has a good balance of new and old bone, your bones stay healthy and strong; if you don’t get enough calcium throughout your life, osteoporosis is higher. In addition, spinach is a vegetarian source of iron, a mineral you need to help red blood cells bring oxygen to different areas of your body. When you have too little iron, you may get iron deficiency anemia. Spinach can be used in soups, sauces, smoothies, and salads.
#5. Cabbage is one of the most popular vegetables in the world. There are many different types of cabbage, including red cabbage, green cabbage, savoy cabbage, and napa cabbage. Napa cabbages are often used for cooking because their leaves are so tender that they don’t need to be cooked first. Cabbage is also high in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. That makes it an excellent choice for your diet to keep you healthy, which is helpful if you want to lose weight.
#6. Beets, next time you buy beets, don’t throw away the leafy tops! Beet greens are edible. They’re rich in potassium, calcium, riboflavin, fiber, and vitamins A and K. One cup (144 grams) of cooked beet greens has 220% DV for vitamin A, 37% for potassium, and 17% for fiber. In addition, Beta-carotene and lutein may lessen the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Beet greens can be sautéed or used in salads and soups.
#7. Watercress can help support the health of your heart. Antioxidants (carotenoids in particular) have been linked to lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, and even a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. Watercress is a traditional herbal remedy. Test-tube research suggests it may help treat cancer, but no human studies have proved this.
#8. Romaine lettuce has dark leaves and a firm center rib. It’s a family favorite. One cup (47 grams) provides 82% of the DV for vitamins A and K.
#9. Swiss chard features green leaves and a red, white, yellow, or green stalk. It’s a Mediterranean staple and related to beets and spinach. It’s rich in potassium, manganese, vitamins A, C, and K, and has an earthy taste. Swiss chard includes syringic acid, which may help reduce blood sugar. However, these were small animal experiments, and human evidence supporting the notion that syringic acid may help manage blood sugar is inadequate. Swiss chard stems are crunchy and healthy, yet many people discard them. Instead, add all sections of Swiss chard to soups, tacos, and casseroles.
#10. Arugula is also called rocket. Its spicy leaves can be used in salads. It’s filled with pro-vitamin A carotenoids, B9, and K, like other leafy greens. It’s a good source of dietary nitrates, which the body transforms into nitric oxide. Some research suggests nitrates may enhance blood flow and reduce blood pressure by expanding blood arteries. In addition, vitamins and naturally occurring nitrates may lower blood pressure and increase blood flow.
#11. Endive is exceptionally high in potassium, fiber, and folate—three valuable nutrients for heart health. Potassium is a well-established blood pressure-lowering agent. In addition, it counters the effects of high sodium in the blood with urination and helps release tension in the blood vessels.
#12. Bok choy. Thick, dark-green leaves provide flavor to soups and stir-fries. Bok choy includes selenium, which aids cognition, immunity, and cancer prevention. In addition, selenium helps the thyroid function.
#13. Turnip greens are the leaves of the root vegetable turnip. These greens have more calcium, manganese, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K than turnips. They have a robust, spicy flavor and are usually cooked. Turnip greens are cruciferous vegetables that reduce heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. In addition, turnip greens include antioxidants that reduce stress in the body. Studies show they may reduce stress, heart disease, cancer, and inflammation.
#14. Dandelion greens are packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, and calcium, which help keep your bones strong. They also contain iron and magnesium, which support your immune system. And they’re a good source of folate — a B vitamin that promotes healthy cell division — as well as potassium and manganese. Dandelion greens can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you feeling full longer. Loaded with antioxidants like beta carotene, dandelion greens have been shown to protect against cell damage, which can ultimately help fend off chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. In addition, their rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin supports eye health, while their vitamin C and K content helps promote healthy bones. Yes, you can eat dandelions that grow wild in your yard. Remember, avoid any dandelions that have been sprayed with fertilizer or any other toxic sprays.
If you want to ensure your diet is heavy in leafy greens, there are a few ways to do it.
- Add them raw to salads or sandwiches.
- Add them cooked to soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Consider juicing them; the juice will contain more vitamins than the pulp does.
- I buy various leafy greens and mix them for an incredibly beautiful and healthy meal.
I hope by reading this article, I have inspired you to include other healthier greens into your diet. Remember, healthy eating is simple. Please look in my recipe blogs for delicious ways to incorporate these into your diet.