We have all been told we should eat more leafy greens, but how important are they really? Well, making them a central part of your diet could reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. We can all agree that is a pretty big deal!
Yet most Americans are totally missing out on the incredible health benefits of leafy greens. Here are 7 interesting facts everyone should know about leafy green vegetables to get you motivated to munch on a salad or drink green juice every single day. Some of them are truly amazing!
Leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals.
It is no exaggeration to say that leafy greens are the most vitamin and mineral-dense food you can eat. They are a fantastic source of vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E, and folate when eaten raw. And they also have important minerals like copper, potassium, iron, calcium, and manganese. Incidentally, they are also loaded with fiber, which is essential for good digestion and a healthy heart.
The fresher the greens, the more nutritious they are.
Did you know that vegetables and leafy greens become less nutritious the longer they are stored? For example, lettuce loses up to 46% of many nutrients after seven days, even if it is stored properly. Chlorophyll, carotenoids, and many other micronutrients are greatly reduced after just five days.
For maximum health benefits, you should try to eat your leafy greens within three days of harvesting and buy locally grown produce whenever possible. Thanks to modern-day vertical farming, most of us have easy access to fresh leafy greens, even in urban settings. Check out your local farmer’s markets and specialty food shops to explore the options in your area.
Leafy greens signal satiety.
When thinking of foods that are particularly filling, we usually think of starchy foods like pasta and potatoes. But as it turns out, leafy greens are not just low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, they also support healthy weight management by signaling satiety.
That’s because leafy greens are packed with chlorophyll, which has thylakoid-rich extracts. Thylakoid reduces the level of the hunger hormone ghrelin while increasing the level of a satiety-related hormone called glucagon.
Leafy green vegetables are rich in protein.
Say what? Isn’t meat the best source of protein? It turns out that leafy greens are a fantastic source of protein. And even better than that, these plant-based proteins have beneficial phytochemicals that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties you will not find in animal protein. Just one cup of kale supplies three grams of protein and only has thirty-three calories. No wonder they call it a superfood!
Leafy greens are good for your eyesight.
We often think of eating more carrots to protect our eyesight, but it turns out leafy greens are also important for healthy vision. Leafy greens are rich in carotenoids, just like carrots. But many leafy greens contain higher amounts of zeaxanthin and lutein which are both super important for protecting vision. Once again, kale has the highest amount of lutein of any vegetable, and consuming just a ½ cup of this powerful superfood every month could reduce your risk of glaucoma by as much as 69%.
Certain leafy greens are powerful cancer fighters.
When it comes to fighting cancer, leafy greens are not all created equal. It turns out that cruciferous greens have the most potent anti-cancer effects. Cruciferous veggies have compounds called glucosinolates, and when we juice, blend, or chew them, a chemical reaction occurs, converting them into a powerful cancer fighter called isothiocyanates. This family of vegetables includes collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and of course, kale.
Eating more leafy greens could protect you from having a heart attack or stroke.
Beet greens, arugula, swiss chard, and kale are not just packed with vitamins and minerals, they also promote the formation of nitric oxide. If you do not already know, nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator that protects the heart from oxidative inflammation and prevents heart attack and stroke.
In fact, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author and surgeon, claims that people who consume six servings of cooked greens every day may be able to stop and even reverse advanced heart disease. The anti-clotting properties of these superfoods are so potent, she says that patients who take the drug Coumadin may be able to reduce their dependency on the drug by eating large amounts of leafy greens. Of course, you will want to consult with your own doctor before giving this a try!
The Bottom Line
Now that you know these amazing facts about leafy green vegetables, we hope you realize how important it is to incorporate them into your diet daily. Smoothies, green juice, and of course tasty salads are all fantastic ways to enjoy leafy greens. They pack tons of nutrients into a 25-calorie serving, so load up your plate with as many tasty leafy greens as you can!