When was the last time a leafy green vegetable made it onto your plate as part of a meal? According to WebMD, most Americans are not consuming these types of food nearly enough, eating leafy greens only once or twice a week.
Unfortunately the leafy green that Americans eat most often is iceberg lettuce; it’s watery crunch might seem satisfying, but it indeed is almost equivalent to consuming a bowl of water.
While other more nutritious types of lettuce, like Romaine or red and green leaf, are the second most commonly consumed leafy green, most people are still not incorporating vegetables like kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, or spinach into their diets regularly.
Not only are they missing out on experiencing the delicious flavors of these foods, but are also missing out on the multitude of health benefits of eating leafy green vegetables. Here are some of the wonderful things these powerful veggies can do for you:
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1) Act as a Supervitamin
Imagine if someone told you that there was a special kind of vitamin you could take that would boost your immune system, help keep your eyes and heart healthy, give you glowing skin, and maintain strong bones for years to come.
It would take a whole handful of vitamin supplements to attempt to do all of these things – or you could just eat a bowl of leafy green vegetables.
Leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy eyes, especially healthy retinas. Vitamin A is also known for its immune system boosting properties, and is a necessary ingredient for cell regeneration.
Leafy greens get greater immunity boosting powers from their high levels of vitamin C. This particular vitamin helps the body fight off damaging free radicals, also causing the side effect of clear, smooth skin.
The vitamin E that leafy green vegetables contain further helps remove free radicals from the body, allowing the vitamins A and C to protect the immune system to their full potential. The vitamin E also helps to lower bad cholesterol, keeping the heart strong and healthy.
Leafy greens are great sources of vitamin K, which aids the body’s anti-inflammatory processes and helps preserve bone density. If osteoporosis runs in your family, this is why it is crucial to make sure you are eating enough of these vegetables.
They are a great source of calcium, which also helps to prevent osteoporosis, as well as iron and folate. Best of all, your body will reap greater benefits from eating delicious leafy greens instead of taking a bunch of vitamin supplements. The vitamins and minerals are all right there already in perfect proportion in the leaves, and are able to be more completely digested and utilized by the body.
2) Prevent or Lower Risks of Cancer
This is still a newer area of study, but doctors and scientists have already discovered that eating leafy green vegetables on a regular basis can prevent formation of cancer cells and even halt the growth of already existent cells.
Leafy green vegetables are loaded with carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. When free radicals enter the body, they can cause cells to mutate, creating cancer cells. These carotenoids are extraordinarily powerful antioxidants, eliminating free radicals before they even have a chance to do this.
Free radicals also get a double whammy from the other vitamins in the leafy greens, like C and E, which also have antioxidant properties.
The folate found in the vegetables is needed for the DNA repair of healthy cells. Therefore, eating greens discourages cell mutations (cancer) while encouraging healthy cells to multiply and thrive. If you know that there is any type of cancer in your family medical history, your chances of someday having that type of cancer too increase.
A diet rich with greens makes a wonderful as well as tasty preventative measure. While leafy greens cannot fully eliminate established cancer cells from the body, scientists have discovered that they inhibit the growth of cancerous cells on the skin, in the breast, lung, and various places inside of the digestive system. When combined with other treatment options, these vegetables can be an effective aid in the fight against cancer.
3) Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Leafy green vegetables like kale, arugula, collard greens, spinach, mustard or turnip greens, and Swiss chard are all excellent food choices if you are looking to lose weight or simply nourish your body at its already healthy weight.
Green leafy vegetables are jam-packed with fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer. The soluble and insoluble fiber in the greens require more work for your body to digest than breads and starches. Greens though are a healthy type of carbohydrate that will give you energy after you eat it, but without the crash later.
These vegetables are also naturally low in sodium and help to lower your cholesterol. Best of all, leafy green vegetables are incredibly flavorful, much more so than iceberg lettuce for example. If you are trying a new healthy diet and are dreading seemingly boring meals like salads, replace the lettuce with chard, spinach, or arugula.
Leafy green vegetables are incredibly versatile. Enjoy cooked and seasoned collard greens or mustard greens. Add greens to sauces or smoothies. Having such freedom to be creative can make healthy eating fun, interesting, and a lifestyle that you will want to maintain.
The benefits of eating leafy green vegetables probably go beyond being able to maintain a healthy weight, helping prevent cancer, and providing an excellent source of essential vitamins. Researchers are still working to discover new chemical compounds found in these vegetables and always find that the compounds do some other amazing thing for our bodies.
If you are a person who rarely or never eats his or her greens, research some recipes, make a trip to the grocery store, and try some of these delicious vegetables for yourself. They are so affordable that you really have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
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