Leafy greens help you beat stress, cut calories, and shave pounds with flying colors. They're rich in nutrients, yet low in calories. That gives you the green light to fill up on them without worrying about your weight. They're rich in fiber (and even water) to keep you feeling fuller so you stop eating sooner. Their high fiber content keeps the digestive system running smoothly and reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
Get Your Brain in Gear with Greens
A recent study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that a single serving of greens a day can keep dementia away. The research group that ate 1-2 servings of green leafy vegetables each day had the mental function of a person 11 years younger than the group who consumed no servings of leafy greens. Researchers suggest that vitamin K is responsible for these brain health benefits because of its positive effects on blood pressure and vascular health.
If leafy greens promise to slow mental deterioration, why not give them a chance?
You might have less brain-racking moments trying to remember where you put your keys. Dark, leafy greens offer therapeutic amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins. The folic acid content of leafy greens can make you more resilient to stress by maintaining proper function of the central nervous system. We aren't only talking about mental stress, here, either.
The British Journal of Nutrition reports that eating leafy greens just two hours before a workout can wind down the physical stress that is placed on your body due to high-intensity training. In fact, research subjects that didn't eat their serving of watercress before working out had more DNA damage.
Eat Green and See the Difference
The journal Archives of Ophthalmology published remarkable eye health benefits of leafy greens. Because of their particularly high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin, high intakes of leafy greens can cut the risk of cataracts.
Fight Cancer and Heart Disease with Foliage
Antioxdiants found in leafy greens help protect cells against cancer- especially of the breast, skin, lungs, and stomach. The carotenoids found in dark, leafy greens help fight cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx.
Studies repeatedly show that green leafy veggies increase the amount of nitrite and nitrate circulating in the blood. The effect? These are both precursors to nitric oxide, a potent, anti-inflammatory compound that helps protect the body against cardiovascular disease. Nitric oxide helps reduce the amount of oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the arteries, a process that leads to atherosclerosis. This helps keeps arteries healthy, blood pressure normal, and stroke risk low.
How to Go Green!
WIth little of the "green stuff", you can go wild at the market with nutrient-packed leafy greens. Spinach, romaine lettuce, and green cabbage are great. But don't stop there! Broaden your horizons! There is life beyond shrink-wrapped iceberg lettuce. That's just the tip of the iceberg. And now that we're all done with our intended iceberg lettuce puns, let's see a list of diverse leafy greens we could all work our way through:
- beet greens
- bok choy
- butterhead lettuce
- collard greens
- dandelion greens
- mustard greens
- cooked nettles
- swiss chard
- turnip greens
Leafy greens don't have to be boring. Leafy cruciferous veggies, tough winter greens, and tender lettuces can offer a wide pallette of earthy flavors, ranging from sweet or spicy to bitter or peppery notes. If you want to get greens into your daily menu, get creative.
Kick start your day with a green smoothie. Better yet, why not stir in and wilt some spinach or kale into your slow-cooked morning oats for a (savory) change? Eat sauteed greens with your eggs.
Mix a variety of different greens into a colorful salad. Sneak some greens into your wrap or layered in a sandwich. Stew them with beans or chili, wilt them into your favorite soup, or blend them into a homemade pesto sauce. Steam them for a side dish with a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa. Snack on greens by blending them into a "green" hummus or guacamole. In as little as 15 minutes, you can turn 1 pound of greens into 1-2 servings of concentrated leafy green nutrition. Bring out their rich flavor with a simple olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herb saute.
Another way to enjoy the superpowers of leafy greens is EnergyFirst's Greenergy green drink, packing 5-7 servings of antioxidant-rich veggies including leafy greens in just one scoop.