Greens, greens, glorious greens! The more you eat, the more you want! Unfortunately they are grossly under consumed in the Standard American Diet (SAD). So why should you focus on eating more greens? I will highlight (in no particular order) SIX reasons why you should be eating more glorious greens:
- They are good for eye health. Leafy greens like spinach & kale are good sources of essential carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids act as protective shields to the macula and can help prevent eye problems like macular degeneration. There are also studies that suggest greens are protective against cataracts and glaucoma (see reason #2).
- Improves circulation. Greens are healthy source of nitrates. A diet rich in plant sources of nitrates can improve cardiovascular health by thinning blood and widening blood vessels, which can decrease the risk for clots and strokes. When you consume nitrates in plants, bacteria in your mouth convert them to nitrites. Nitrites are then absorbed &stored in your cells until they’re turned in to nitric oxide, a compound that’s proven to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. So not only is this good in terms of heart health, it can also be beneficial around exercise. Leafy greens, beets, cabbage, celery, endive, fennel, leeks, and parsley are great plant sources of nitrates. Nitrates in animal sources do not have the same effect, and can actually be harmful to your health. Processed meats are considered Group One carcinogens (have been shown to cause cancer in humans).
- Energy booster. Iron is an essential mineral found in your red blood cells (called hemoglobin) and in your muscle cells (called myoglobin). Iron helps transport oxygen from your blood to the lungs and to other tissues. When you are low in iron, often times it results in lethargy. Iron is abundant in leafy green vegetables. However, the type of iron found in leafy green veggies isn’t easily absorbed, so adding Vitamin C (squeezing the juice of a lemon on your greens) can help absorb the iron.
- Good source of fiber. Our gut microbiome is considered our second brain. Fiber feeds our gut microbiome, so we want to eat foods that have fiber. You should strive to eat 25 – 30 grams of fiber/day. When we eat the SAD (processed foods, sugar, refined foods, fast foods) it can decrease our immunity, and may be a contributor to chronic disease. Strive to include a green veggie in every meal. Some examples include kale, bok choy, mustard greens, collard greens, and beet greens.
- Weight loss/weight maintenance. Greens are naturally low in calories, and high in health promoting nutrients. So, you can eat unlimited amounts of greens. Just make sure to minimize (or avoid) cooking them in oil, or drenching them in salad dressing. Instead choose the juice of a lemon or salsa as a tasty companion.
- Improves immunity. Dark leafy greens are rich in chlorophyll, and chlorophyll is what gives them their green color. Chlorophyll is the chemical that allows sunlight to be transformed into energy. Chlorophyll has been shown to kill harmful bacteria (strep and staph) in the GI tract; it increases the number of red blood cells which increases oxygen utilization throughout the body; and it also reduces the binding of carcinogens to DNA in the liver and other organs. Spinach is a rich source of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is also found in alfalfa, asparagus, beet greens, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, celery, collard greens, green beans, green olives, green peas, kale, leeks, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, swiss chard, and turnip greens.
One of my favorite ways to start my day is with a green smoothie. One of my favorites is the glowing green smoothie, but I also experiment and create my own most days of the week!
If you’re interested in taking a proactive approach to your health, schedule a complimentary consultation with me here!
XO Coach Jacque