I wasn’t aware of the benefits of green leafy vegetables when I was in full-time employment. My diet wasn’t exactly what you’d call ideal.
The lunchtime visit of the food-truck combined with desk-snacking meant my daytime dietary intake was full of calorie-rich convenience foods.
Furthermore, when I returned home in the evenings, I lacked any enthusiasm to prepare fresh food standing over the stove for hours. Instead, preferring a quick call to the local takeaway.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
The truth is, this wasn’t doing my health any favors.
Looking back, I can see how this insane diet was the probable cause of my lethargy, excess poundage and why I succumbed to so many coughs and sniffles.
Luckily, I found a simple solution. I’m now much older, wiser and most importantly, fitter.
Here’s the key:
Consume more leafy green vegetables and your vitality, mood, immunity and general wellbeing will skyrocket.
Let me lead you through the benefits of green leafy vegetables and my top tips on how to eat more.
17 Health Benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables
Before I get into the detail, allow me to give you a quick overview of the top 17 health benefits of these amazing foods:
#1 Increases the health of your heart
#2 Raises bone strength
#3 Improves eye health
#4 Have antioxidant properties
#5 Protects against cancer
#6 Assists with weight loss
#7 Lowers blood pressure
#8 Prevents gout
#9 Reduces PMS symptoms
#10 Increases memory
#11 Lowers risk of arthritis
#12 Boosts reproductive health
#13 Protects against stroke
#14 Lowers water retention
#15 Inhibits the onset of diabetes
#16 Accelerates wound healing
#17 Prevents congenital disabilities
Essential Natural Source of Vitamins, Minerals & Chemicals
Green leafy vegetables are absolute nutritional powerhouses. Here are the key compounds which boost wellbeing.
This vitamin, found in foods such as kale, collard greens and chard, comes with some good news.
It’s the perfect excuse to eat fat.
Research shows that unless consumed alongside fatty compounds, the body has difficulty absorbing it. So, a simple solution is to allow a knob of butter (preferably unsalted) to melt onto your hot vegetables.
Studies explain that Vitamin K1 can elevate cardiovascular health and increase bone density. This means less chance of fractures when chasing the grandkids around the yard.
If you’re looking to stave off the signs of aging, this is the perfect compound.
Experts explain that beta-carotene can elevate new tissue growth, including the skin, promoting a youthful complexion. Furthermore, if you’re concerned about your eyesight, a recent study has discovered it can reduce the risks of developing cataracts.
One of the essential vitamins. That is, your body cannot produce it and so requires ingestion.
This potent compound provides numerous benefits, including:
- Working as an antioxidant.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Reducing the chance of developing heart disease.
- Preventing gout.
- Elevating immunity which lowers disease risk.
- Increasing memory and reducing the chance of developing dementia.
- Preventing the onset of arthritis.
The leafy vegetables high in vitamin C are mustard spinach and kale.
Grow old gracefully. That may be okay for some, but it’s not my ethos.
Free radicals induce oxidative stress to the skin. This promotes lines, wrinkles and sagging; making us look old.
Clinical research shows that vitamin E works as a potent antioxidant. It fights these free radicals and reduces the signs of mature years.
To keep aging at bay, concentrate on eating turnip and beet greens.
If you enjoy eating kale, spinach and beet greens, you’re in luck. These vegetables are high in vitamin A, providing the advantages of:
- Enhancing vision, both protecting the eyes from night blindness and preventing the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
- Promoting new tissue growth.
- Lowering the chance of developing illness and disease.
- Elevating reproductive health.
- Reducing the risk of bladder, lung and cervical cancers.
Cancer Avoiding Properties of Brassicas
Let’s face facts. Cancer is a concern as we mature.
With an alarming 38.4 percent chance of developing this issue in our lifetime, anything we can do to lower this risk is worthwhile.
Research shows us that the benefits of green leafy vegetables, especially brassicas, include protecting against certain cancers.
Scientists explain that when you consume glucosinolates (a sulfur compound which gives brassicas their strong smell and bitter flavor), they’re broken down in the human body to form indole-3-carbinol.
This hormone has the scientifically proven ability to lower the incidence of stomach, breast, kidney and prostate cancer.
Hence, look towards consuming more cauliflower, cabbage, collards, bok choy and kale.
Gut Infections and Brassicas
So often we accept our stomach ache or fluid bowel movements as a fact of life.
Yet, one of the benefits of greens is that they can reduce these unwanted gastrointestinal responses.
In particular, experts explain that brassicas can:
- Lower gut-pain inducing bacteria.
- Reduce the symptoms of food intolerances and allergies.
- Increase the delivery of enzymes which detoxify the stomach.
- Promote a healthy immune system and provide an anti-inflammatory effect.
Antioxidant Benefits of Eating Greens
We’ve already seen in this article that leafy vegetables work as an antioxidant. That is, they prevent oxidation which causes the cell-damaging free radicals.
While it’s a commonly held belief that cooking these greens lowers their nutritional power, there appears to be an exception.
Studies show that frying spinach elevates its antioxidant behavior. So, you can do this without feeling guilty.
The Chlorophyll Effect
Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives leafy greens their distinctive color. Plants utilize it for energy production. But it can also boost our wellbeing.
Experts explain that consuming chlorophyll may:
- Heighten the immune system.
- Work as an anti-inflammatory.
- Reduce body odor.
- Improve the smell of feces.
- Detoxify the body.
This mineral is abundant in spinach, chard and beet greens.
Topping up your levels through eating leafy green vegetables has the benefits of:
- Providing a healthy nervous system since insufficient potassium stops the body from creating nerve impulses that allow you to move.
- Encouraging a healthy heartbeat by preventing arrhythmias which are increasingly common with age.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Protecting against stroke, which is a cause of one in twenty deaths in the USA.
- Reducing the chance of developing osteoporosis.
- Lowering the incidence of kidney stones by up to 51 percent.
- Preventing water retention, which can make us appear overweight.
Studies show that around fifty percent of postmenopausal women will experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture or break. Luckily, manganese, which is prolific in leafy greens, can increase bone density and lower this risk.
Additionally, the benefits of eating vegetables high in this mineral include;
- Reducing inflammation.
- Preventing the onset of diabetes.
- Protecting against epileptic seizures
- Lowering PMS symptoms.
- Improving brain function.
- Promoting healthy thyroid function.
- Accelerating wound healing.
Found in high concentrations in spinach and Chinese cabbage, you can only obtain this mineral through food intake.
Eating leafy greens high in selenium can:
- Function as an antioxidant.
- Reduce the risk of developing some cancers, including breast, prostate and lung.
- Protect against cardiovascular disease.
- Prevent mental decline, including the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Boost the immune system.
- Improve asthma symptoms.
Rich In Fiber
One of the key benefits of green leafy vegetables is that virtually all of them are high in fiber.
Here are the main advantages of consuming vegetable fiber.
Assists With Weight Control
Whether male or female, as the years progress we all notice the pounds pile on, and they’re hard to shift.
Research shows that fiber acts as an appetite suppressant. Within the intestines, it can soak up water, swell and promote a feeling of satiety.
Studies explain that this sensation of fullness reduces calorie intake, which can lead to weight gain.
Furthermore, there’s evidence that consuming fiber lowers the production of ghrelin, the hormone which increases your desire to eat.
Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Spikes in blood sugar can at best lead to a post-boost “crash,” at worst they can be dangerous and cause diabetes.
Experts explain that fiber has a regulating effect on sugar, preventing it from reaching harmful levels and protecting against diabetes.
Improves Skin and Hair Condition
Fiber isn’t just about boosting your internal health. It can also have beneficial effects on your outward appearance too.
This plant-based compound improves skin condition and youthfulness, even being able to reduce the symptoms of acne vulgaris.
Furthermore, there is some belief that fiber may strengthen hair follicles and prevent loss.
Source of Folate
Also known as folic acid, this vitamin (B9) is abundant in collard, turnip greens and spinach.
Experts recommend that you consume 400 mcg of this vitamin every day. The benefits of eating vegetables high in folate include:
Boosting Red Blood Cell Production
The red blood cells are the oxygen carriers in the human body. The more you have, the better the delivery of this fuel to your muscles and heart.
This allows you to power easily through your daily routines of chores, grocery shopping, entertaining the family and fitness workout routines.
Studies show that folate is essential for erythropoiesis (production of red blood cells).
Wards off Cardiovascular Disease
Scientists have discovered that increasing folate intake can both lower the risk of stroke by ten percent while reducing the chance of developing cardiovascular disease by four percent.
It’s these reasons why many foods, such as store-bought breakfast cereals, are pre-fortified with this vitamin (although there is often too much sugar added so don’t go mad with the Froot Loops).
Acts as a Brain Booster
If you’re like me, your memory isn’t as reliable as it used to be. Chances are that even today, I’ll be searching for the keys to the SUV.
Studies show that folate in green leafy vegetables has incredible effects on the brain, being able to:
- Prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improve memory function.
- Lower the incidence of depression.
Prevent Abnormal Fetal Growth
Insufficient folate during the early stages of pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects in babies, such as a deformed brain and spine.
However, the infants whose mothers supplemented with folate throughout pregnancy display a remarkably lower incidence of these issues.
Work, family and finances. They all place stress in our daily lives.
Folate can help. Experts explain that this vitamin can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
11 Tips on Eating More Greens
Growing up, I was never a huge fan of green vegetables. While now I’m keener, I understand that for many they can be bland, bitter and lack flair. Why is it that kids universally turn their noses up at vegetables?
So, I’ve put together my eleven pro-tips for eating more of these beneficial foods.
#1 Start the Day With a Smoothie
One of my favorite ways to kick-start my morning routine.
Naturally, you can include whichever leafy green vegetables you prefer. But, I always recommend adding a little bit of sweetness in the form of fruit.
Generally, I go by the 60/40 rule. That is 60 percent fruit to 40 percent leafy greens. Here are my recipe guidelines. Combine:
- Two cups of leafy greens.
- Two cups of a liquid base (water, coconut water, coconut milk or almond milk.)
- Three cups of fruit.
The above will make around 32 ounces of smoothie. Ideally, use at least one frozen fruit for that pleasurable “chill” effect.
Using eggs to bind your leafy greens not only makes a tasty snack or breakfast, but it also adds some essential protein to your diet.
My favorite recipe combines:
- One bunch of leafy greens (your choice).
- Three free-range eggs.
- Two tablespoons of chopped chives.
- Two shallots (peeled).
- Three tablespoons of parsley.
- Two tablespoons of olive oil.
- Season to taste.
Here’s a video showing you how to make an amazing kale frittata.
#3 Leafy Greens Stir Fry
Greens stir-fry extremely well. But don’t overcook them!
Depending on the variety, they only take between two to four minutes to cook and heat through. Take too long, and it’s a slimy mush.
They can be used as the sole ingredients, seasoned with salt and pepper, a little honey and some garlic cloves.
Additionally, combine them with your favorite noodles and meat stir-fries.
The beauty of soups is that they’re so simple to make.
Water, seasoning and leafy greens are all you need. Put on the stove to simmer and forget about it for twenty minutes!
My advice is to make as much as you can in one go. Soup freezes well and you then always have a nutritious meal readily available.
Furthermore, research shows that unlike most liquid-based foods, soup is immensely filling. Hence, your appetite is satiated and may promote weight loss.
#5 Leaves for Wraps
To add a tactile and fun spin to your meals, use leafy greens as wraps.
They can offer a healthier and lower-calorie option than using traditional flour-based tortillas. Excellent greens for this are lettuce, Swiss chard, cabbage leaves and lacinato kale.
#6 Add Leafy Greens to Desserts
Sounds weird, I know. But, including greens in your desserts can add a healthy kick and stave off the guilt in this post-meal treat.
My personal choices are:
- Ice cream: if you can make the homemade variety, liquidize a few greens into the mixture, the grandchildren will love the vibrant green color.
- Cheesecake: slipping in some callaloo or kale leaves into your cake adds a nice bitter “edge” to take off the sweetness.
- Cookies: not only do green leafy veggies work well with chocolate, but their moisture content also adds that chewy factor.
If you need some inspiration, take a look at this leafy green ice cream video.
#7 Wilted Leaves
If you don’t like the flash-in-the-pan aspect of stir-frying, take your time and wilt them thoroughly in a pan.
While the texture may not appeal to all tastes as a side, they can work well inside sandwiches, wraps and pies.
#8 Pizza Toppings
My favorite way to slip in some extra greens into my diet is on the top of a pizza.
Not only can greens such as kale or arugula add a tongue-tingling peppery tang, but the beautiful green color also contrasts with the cheese and tomato staples.
I add them during the last five to seven minutes of cooking to preserve a little crunch. But, if you prefer them more well-done, add them at the start.
#9 Leafy Greens Sauce
Adding your bespoke green sauce to poached eggs, toast and meats adds a dash of color, provides some seasoning and delivers the all-important nutrients.
It’s a simple as dropping your favorite leafy greens into your blender, adding some salt, pepper and spices and a dash of oil. Then switch it on.
Once you’ve made it, store in a clean jar and refrigerate (or freeze).
#10 Baked Leafy Greens
For baking, use one of the tougher greens such as kale or mustard greens.
The process is simple.
Heat your oven to 220 degrees. Place a baking tin in there, as you want that seriously hot before you start cooking.
Put the greens in a bowl, add a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper and get your hands in to mix.
Once the oven is hot, remove the tin and spread the greens evenly over it and replace.
Leave for eight minutes, give the tray a quick shake to turn the greens over, and leave for a further eight minutes.
#11 Super Greens Powder
If you want the health benefits of leafy greens, but are not keen on the taste or don’t have the time or inclination to prepare, greens powders could be the answer.
These supplements typically contain 20-40 green vegetable ingredients that are dried and ground into powders. You can then mix with water or other liquids for a nutritious drink.
Research shows that although not being fresh vegetables, they still deliver proven health benefits.
Benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables Conclusion
I genuinely hope you enjoyed this article on the advantages of these tasty green vegetables.
It’s important to me that people understand these seemingly innocuous food staples can deliver immense benefits to health and wellbeing. Furthermore, they’re so versatile that you can incorporate them into virtually any meal.
If you have any other great ideas about using these fantastic foods, tell me in the comments section below. And, if you think others will enjoy this article, by all means, share!