What’s in Season: Leafy Greens
We all know we should eat our greens and they are among the healthiest foods one could eat. So, what makes a vegetable a “powerhouse” vegetable? According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control, a powerhouse vegetable supplies on average, 10% or more of the daily value of 17 qualifying nutrients per 100 calories. The top-rated green powerhouse vegetables are watercress, chard, beet greens, spinach, and chicory. But, other vegetables are also strong contenders including Chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, and leaf lettuce.
Leafy greens including kale, spinach, arugula, and chard are undeniable superstars in the world of nutrition. Low in calories, yet high in fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients, the benefits of leafy greens are incredible for your health in more ways than you would even suspect. They also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Furthermore, greens have very little carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol. Dark greens supply a significant amount of folate, a B vitamin that promotes heart health and helps prevent certain birth defects. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, and it is a key nutrient in many dark green vegetables. It is recommended to eat three cups of dark green veggies per week to help improve your diet.
A study found that people who ate the leafy greens each day had slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who ate the least. In fact, the leafy green-eaters had the memory equivalent of someone 11 years younger.
Beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A, is the plant pigment that we normally associate with carrots and other yellow-orange veggies. It is also hiding in leafy greens. Beta-carotene can support a youthful glow in your skin and even works from the inside out as a natural sunscreen, protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Kale is one of the best sources of beta-carotene.
Supporting a healthy inflammatory response is essential to reduce your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collards are high in vitamin D, which promotes the formation of T-cells responsible for accurately differentiating between outside invaders and your body’s cells.
Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating happy hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Additionally, the magnesium found in leafy greens can help support cardiovascular health.
Ways to Enjoy Leafy Greens:
Keep salads interesting by varying their colors, textures, and varieties. Perk them up with small tender leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, and arugula mixed with different kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots.
Make a wrap with tuna, chicken, or turkey, and add romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, and other veggies for some extra flavor.
Add greens with larger, tougher leaves such as collard greens, kale, or mustard greens into your favorite soup.
Add chopped spinach, bok choy, or broccoli to chicken or tofu stir-fried with olive or canola oil with some garlic, onion, or ginger.
Steaming collard greens, mustard greens, kale, or spinach until they are slightly soft.
Add steamed broccoli and/or spinach to an egg-white omelette for a vitamin and iron-rich meal.
Now that December is over and life has calmed down slightly, it’s time to focus on YOU and healthy lifestyle choices. The anticipation of a new year, we always want a new fresh start and implement new routines. A lifestyle choice is a personal and conscious decision to perform a behavior that may increase or decrease the risk of injury or disease. Read more about healthy habits below.
Krupa is our onsite registered dietitian and she is available to help Gatorcare members achieve a healthier lifestyle! It’s not about dieting or counting calories but rather building a healthier relationship with food.
1. Nutrients and Bioactives in Green Leafy Vegetables and Cognitive Decline: Prospective Study. Martha Clare Morris. Neurology. 2018.
2. Association Between Folate Intake and Melancholic Depressive Symptoms. A Finish Population-Based Survey. Jussi Seppala, et al. Science Direct. 2012.
3. Magnesium Linked to Better Blood Pressure: Meta-Analysis. Stephen Daniells. Nutra Ingredients. 2012.
4. Foods that Fight Inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020.