Green Leafy Vegetables: Health Benefits And More
Nobody can testify better to the power of green leafy vegetables than Popeye. And if you’ve seen him in action, then you know it too. So, what do these greenies really do?Green leafy vegetables are great in improving your digestive health, reducing the risk of cancer and keeping heart diseases at bay. Since they are loaded with fibre, they help to keep your weight in check. Being low in fat they form an integral part of a weight loss diet plan. They are a powerhouse of fibre, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, folic acid as well as phytochemicals like zeaxanthin, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene. Greens also help to boost your metabolism, help in keeping your energy levels up and improve your brain function.
Varieties of green leafy vegetables:
Nutritionally dense, easy to grow, and pretty versatile in nature, some of the top varieties of green leafy vegetables are:
- Cabbage (purple, Napa, and Chinese)
- Romaine lettuce (green and red leaf lettuce)
- Spinach (large-leafed and baby spinach)
- Beet greens
- Turnip greens
- Swiss chard
- Dandelion greens
Recommended serving size
Depending upon how you consume them – raw, cooked, steamed, stir-fried, or sautéed, its serving size might differ. When eating raw dark green veggies, 1 serving equals to a cup; and when consuming cooked dark green veggies, 1 serving size equals half a cup. This is simply because as you cook them, the size of the vegetables decrease.
How much is really enough? While the daily recommendation may vary depending upon one’s gender, age, and type of daily activity level, it’s observed that adults should consume a minimum of 2-3 cups of vegetables on a daily basis. Even though there is no specified minimal amount as such, nutritionists recommend half to 1 cup of raw leafy greens in a day, such as mustard greens, watercress, broccoli, spinach, and turnip greens, along with a variety of other colourful vegetables.
If you are not particularly fond of its taste, it’s advisable to start slow and ease yourself into it. Get accustomed to them with one-fourth cup in a day, and then slowly but gradually, work your way up to 1 cup to help maximise your nutrient intake.
Potential health benefits
Dark green leafy goodness is calorie for calorie, and is perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. Here’s how they keep you healthy:
- They help you lower your risk of cancer, thanks to folate, fibre, and antioxidants, including carotenoids and flavonoids, found in them.
- Rich in vitamin K, they help in preventing certain age-related lifestyle conditions, such as blood clotting and bone fragility from osteoporosis. They also help reduce atherosclerosis by reducing calcium in arterial plaques, and aid in kidney clarification.
- Because of a number of phytonutrients present in them, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, they also help in maintaining and preserving optimum eye health by reducing the risk of cataracts and increasing how far you can see.
- By keeping cardiovascular diseases at bay, the raw version of these nutritious vegetables aid in fat digestion by using up more cholesterol to make bile acids.
- They also help in providing your one-tenth requirement of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which helps in converting the carbohydrates in food to glucose, which, as a result, fuels the body to produce more energy.
Increase the amount of green leafy vegetables you eat by adding chopped green to soups, pastas, or casseroles; by sautéing greens with olive oil and garlic for a lip-smacking side dish; by using iceberg lettuce as a replacement for bread in sandwiches; or by using darker lettuce, parsley, or rocket leaves with lemon, garlic, black-eyed peas, and sweet onion sauce as a quick salad.