When you think of a healthy diet – inevitably “green” comes up and inevitably it turns a lot of people off. But your parents were right, veggies are good for you and none more so than greens.
Whether you throw them together in a tossed salad or put them in a green smoothie, leafy green veggies have many health benefits. Let’s see just how healthy they are.
What Are Greens?
There are surprisingly many different types of greens you can choose from. Here are a few of the most nutritious varieties that you eat raw or throw into your recipes:
- Kale. This is a powerhouse of nutrition that has everything you need in a green. It has lots of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K as well as calcium, potassium, and folate. Kale can be cream-colored or blackish, depending on the variety you choose. Kale can be used to substitute bread and buns in burgers and sandwiches making for a low calorie and low carb meal.
- Collards. These are often used in Southern cooking and they are a lot like kale. They taste a bit more like cabbage than kale and have a chewy texture. Collards contain only 25 calories in about a half-cup serving.
- Turnip greens. These are the tops to turnips and are just as good as the vegetable itself. These are commonly used in Southern cooking like collard greens but they are more tender than other types of greens so they don’t have to be cooked as much to be flavorful.
- Swiss chard. This has red stalks, veins, and stems on the leaves and it tastes a lot like beets. It is a great green to sauté and can bind to calcium so it doesn’t cause kidney stones. It has only about 15 calories per half cup serving.
- Spinach has only about 20 calories per half cup serving and has plenty of vitamin C and vitamin A for better health. It also is high in folate. It reduces its oxalate content on heating so it is actually better for you cooked than raw.
- Mustard greens. This is a Southern recipe green that is very similar to collard greens and turnip leaves. It comes in both green and red varieties. These greens give off a smell like mustard when cooking and should be toned down by adding lemon or vinegar, which provide acidity.
- Yes, this is a green, too. It contains only 25 calories per serving and is high in vitamin A and vitamin C. It is great in stir-fries, where it adds a crunchiness. It can also be eaten raw, in salads or as a snack with low fat dip. Broccoli goes great over pasta, in soups and in casseroles. It is one of nature’s best plant foods.
- Romaine lettuce. This wonderful lettuce comes in red and green leaves and is great for salads, sandwiches and even juicing or smoothies. Nutritionally, it is high in vitamin A as well as in folate. Leafy lettuce is softer than romaine, which is a bit crunchy. The darker leaves have more nutrition in them than lighter leaves. One cup is only about 10 calories.
- This is a pale vegetable of the cruciferous type. It contains a great deal of vitamin C and other cancer-fighting agents. It comes as green and red cabbage, and can be cooked, stir fried, or made into a shredded Cole slaw. A ½ cup has only 15 calories.
- Iceberg lettuce. This is a more bland tasting lettuce because it contains a lot of water. It is ideal for weight loss because it is very filling and great in salads and sandwiches. It is popular but contains less nutrition in it than many of the other greens. It can be a green that people start with while working their way to eating other healthier greens. Iceberg Lettuce has virtually no calories and can be eaten liberally.
Benefits Of Eating Greens
There’s no question that greens are good for you. Here are some of its healthier benefits:
- Healthier aging. Greens contain vitamin K, which helps clot blood. Too little vitamin K in the diet predisposes you to heart disease, kidney calcification, arterial plaques, and fragile bones. One cup of raw greens will give you your daily requirement of vitamin K, with kale being the best, along with dandelion greens and Swiss chard.
- Keep down cholesterol. This is true especially of kale and mustard greens. When you bind bile acids in the fiber of these types of greens, it exits the body instead of going into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol.
- Help your vision. This is especially true of Swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and kale. They contain many types of lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps filter out high energy light. This is a type of light that can damage your eyes. They are also helpful in fighting glare so they decrease your chances of getting cataracts.
- Fuel the body. One cup of escarole when eaten raw will give you a tenth of what you need of pantothenic acid, which is vitamin B. This helps convert carbohydrates into glucose to be then be used as fuel to make energy for the body. You need to eat B vitamins every day because they are water-soluble and any excess will just exit the body each day.
- Improve bone health. The bitter taste of many of these types of greens means they are high in calcium, which is good for your bones. You can’t get enough calcium just by eating greens but they can help. About a 1/2 cup of dandelion greens, for example, contains 78 milligrams of calcium.
- Prevent colon cancer. This is especially true of mustard greens and kale, which is a part of the Brassica family of foods (as are cabbage and broccoli). The more you eat them, the lower your risk for colon cancer.
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