Are you a person who is reluctant to the green food group? Then this article is for you. I once forced my nephew to watch ‘Popeye – The sailor man’ to inspire him to take spinach. People call greens ‘hippie food’ or ‘rabbit food’. Innately we know greens are the best food to have in plate still we tend to skip it.

Green Food group

Leaf vegetables, also called as leafy greens or simply greens are plant leaves eaten as a vegetable, sometimes accompanied by tender petioles and shoots. Nearly one thousand species of plants with edible leaves are known. Leaf vegetables most often come from short-lived herbaceous plants, such as lettuce and spinach. Woody plants of various species also provide edible leaves.

Seven Most popular leafy greens

  1. Kale

Packed with nutrients, Kale is one of the healthiest foods. It is a green leafy winter vegetable high in fiber. It is a good source of Vitamin K & C and is rich in anti-oxidants. The alpha-lipoic acid present in Kale can help lower glucose levels. The high fiber and water content make it a gut friendly vegetable and prevents constipation and promote the health of digestive system. Yes, it is good for your hair and skin. The high beta carotene enables all bodily tissues to grow, including skin and hair. It is also essential to produce sebum, the oil that helps keep skin and hair moisturized.

Kale can be enjoyed raw in salads or on sandwiches or wraps, steamed, braised, boiled, sautéed or added to soups and casseroles.

 

  1. Spinach

Spinach helps in improving the blood glucose levels due to the presence of alpha-lipoic acid. The high chlorophyll content lowers the risk of cancer and most of the calories in spinach come from protein and carbohydrates. It is a rich source of Iron, Calcium and Magnesium. Spinach is high in fiber and water, both of which help to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract. It improves bone strength due to the presence of Vitamin K. Spinach and other leafy greens high in vitamin C are crucial for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. Eating spinach is a great way to increase your folate intake during pregnancy.

Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be included in pastas, salads, smoothies and casseroles. You can make spinach lentil soup or make a spinach stir fry. You can add in your sandwiches or make a spinach dip with it.

  1. Collard greens

Collard greens are loose leaf greens, related to kale and spring greens. They have thick leaves that taste slightly bitter. They are a good source of Calcium, Vitamin K, C and B9. One cup of boiled collard greens provides nearly 8 grams of fiber. Therefore, it is a gut friendly vegetable. These help to prevent constipation, promote regularity, and maintain a healthy digestive tract. It is good for your hair and skin. Vitamin A is crucial for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair. It also supports the immune system and the eyes and helps keep the body’s organs healthy. Vitamin C enables the body to build and maintain levels of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. It is source of Choline – a neurotransmitter. Choline helps with mood, sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory functions.

Steaming collard greens for 10 minutes or less helps them to retain their nutrients. Season them with herbs and spices to reduce bitterness. You can include them in soups, casseroles, smoothies and sandwiches.

  1. Microgreens

Microgreens are immature greens produced from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. Microgreens are made from greens that have been harvested before maturation, just seven to 14 days after germination. Some of the popular microgreens include – Arugula, chives, mizuna, chard, cilantro, parsley etc. These are high in nutrients and contain polyphenols that helps in preventing the accumulation of free radicals in the body. They improve heart health and reduce chronic disease risk like cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Coupled with a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle and regular physical activity, incorporating a serving or two of microgreens into your day could help keep your heart strong and healthy.

They can be included in salads, casseroles and sandwiches.

  1. Cabbage

Cabbages are rich in antioxidants and it’s known to have cancer-fighting features.  It can also lower cholesterol when steamed. The same goes for other cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Cabbage also contains small amounts of other micronutrients, including vitamin A, iron and riboflavin. Cabbage is high in fiber and contains powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and sulfur compounds. The fiber and water content in cabbage also help to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract.

Cabbage can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted, sautéed, or stuffed.

  1. Swiss chard

Swiss chard has an impressive phytonutrient profile, as easily recognized in its vibrant colors, from dark greens to red, purple, and a rainbow of colors in its stalks and veins. Phytonutrients are a source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and whole-body benefits. It is low in calories and an excellent source of Vitamin C and K.

You can add it raw to your salad for a slightly bitter, crunchy taste, or sauté or cook it for that bust of flavors from other ingredients. It can be sautéed, baked or made in to a soup.

  1. Beet Greens

Beet greens are edible green leaves found on the tip of beets. They contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein, which may reduce the risk of eye disorders, such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Besides supplying good amounts of protein, phosphorus, and zinc, beet greens are also a great source of fiber. Packed with antioxidants, they’re high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, and low in fat and cholesterol.

Beet greens can be added to salads, soups or sautéed and eaten as a side dish.

 

The list is not yet over. There are plenty of other leafy greens like water cress, romaine lettuce, Bok choy which are popular for their health benefits.

Potential benefits of green vegetables.

Now we can discuss the potential benefits of taking green in general. You may not want to miss this.

  • Cancer prevention – Green leafy vegetables have plenty of vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting chemicals.
  • Weight loss – Rich in fiber which helps in digestion and keeps you full and hence aiding weight loss.
  • Controlled blood sugar levels – Fiber helps in the absorption of carbohydrates hence controls blood sugar.
  • Beautiful hair and skin, age gracefully – The polyphenols ensure beautiful skin and hair. Vitamin E found in green leafy vegetables works with vitamin C to keep skin healthy as you age. This vitamin also helps protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays
  • Supports Immune system – The many nutrients in leafy greens help strengthen the immune system and prevent inflammatory diseases. Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A, which improves immune function.
  • Healthy gut – Our bodies need beneficial bacteria to stay healthy, and these bacteria, or flora, live in our intestines. Greens contain compounds that protect the body from the bad bacteria, and they’re known to feed the healthy flora, as well. High amounts of dietary fiber found in green veggies helps to keep things moving smoothly through the intestines. Yes, greens feed your gut.

Read more about importance of gut health here – Gut health & skin care.

 

  • Heart health & improved circulation – Compounds found in greens help with improved blood circulation as well as blood purification. The calcium in leafy greens has been shown to lower blood pressure, as does the dietary fiber. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol. The Vitamin K found in green vegetables helps blood to clot and prevents arteries from calcifying.

 

This is indeed a lot of benefits to ignore. Eat a wide variety of dark, leafy greens and you’ll reap all the positive health benefits. Green is a color which we always relate with health and wellbeing. So next time when you are reluctant to choose a green over your junk food remember you are walking away from health and positivity.

Photo by Vince Lee on Unsplash

Article by Arya Krishna