Eat Your Leafy Greens
Vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, oh my!
Leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse. They contain too many nutrients to list, but let me name a few … In the vitamins and minerals category, you have: calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, folate, vitamin K and magnesium.
What’s the big deal?
Calcium helps build strong bones. Iron helps make a protein called hemoglobin which helps your blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Vitamin A is important for vision, your immune system and helping your organs work properly. Vitamin C is necessary for healthy skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. Folate helps your body create DNA and healthy new cells. Vitamin K is crucial for bone development and blood clotting. Magnesium is vital for hundreds of chemical reactions in your body, for heart health and diabetes prevention.
And then there are the phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, indoles and isothiocyanates. These phytochemicals protect against cellular damage in your body and slow the effects of aging. They stimulate your immune system, fight inflammation and help fight cancer and other chronic diseases.
Still need more convincing to eat your leafy greens? These vegetables are high in fiber and water and have very few calories: the trifecta for weight management. Try a leafy green salad to start off your meal and you will get a boost of nutrients and a calorie reduction!
Okay, okay, how much should I eat?
Aim for 4-6 servings of vegetables every day, and include leafy greens as some of those servings. One serving = 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked. The USDA recommends including at least 3 cups of raw leafy greens per week (or 1 ½ cooked).
What are my options?
- Think beyond the iceberg for your salads. Iceberg lettuce is okay to add some crunch, but it contains relatively few nutrients compared to the dark green varieties. Next time you’re making a salad, try some Romaine, escarole, frisee, spinach, kale or butterhead.
- Toss some bok choy or broccoli into a stir fry.
- Add some leafy greens to an omelet or soup.
- Add some layers of lettuce or spinach to a sandwich, or skip the bread and make a wrap with large lettuce leaves.
- Try a smoothie with kale or spinach.
For more recipe ideas, check out: “19 New Ways to Eat Leafy Greens.” Cooking Light Website. http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/leafy-greens-recipes
- Cox J. How to get your kids to eat dark leafy greens. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eat Right. Nov 9, 2017. Accessed Feb 28, 2017.
- Craig W. Health benefits of green leafy vegetables. Vegetarian Nutrition Info website. Accessed Feb 28, 2017.
- Phytochemicals: The cancer fighters in the foods we eat. American Institute for Cancer Research Website. Accessed Feb 28, 2017.