Five Leafy Green Vegetables You Need in a Healthy Diet
As children, we were often told to eat our vegetables. As adults, it’s even more important to eat our daily intake of vegetables (6-9 servings per day), especially green vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can ward off disease and illness. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, leafy green vegetables may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
When picking out leafy vegetables in the store or at a farmer’s market, stick with dark green leaves – darker leaves contain more nutrients. The following five leafy green vegetables pack a punch, and add much-needed fiber and nutritional benefits to your diet. If you aren’t a fan of eating leafy greens by themselves, add them to smoothies blended with fruit, for sweetness. Raw green smoothies help detoxify the body, and give you an energy boost throughout your day.
Microgreens are the underdeveloped shoots of vegetables (such as cabbage, arugula, and cilantro). A 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that microgreens have nutrient levels up to six times greater than mature plants. Microgreens contain vitamin K, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein. By adding microgreens to your salad, you can reduce cancer risk and improve skin and eye health.
Kale is often called a superfood because of its powerful phytonutrients. This curly leafy green vegetable contains lutein, an antioxidant that aids in better vision and protects the eyes. It also contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, and cancer-fighting sulphoraphane and glucosinolate. Kale also has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, including 45 different flavonoids.
Dark leafy spinach is chock full of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and potassium. It is also an excellent source of iron and protein. Look for darker spinach leaves because they have a higher concentration of vitamin C (compared to lighter leaves). By eating spinach, you can help reduce blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, and improve bone health. Spinach also protects the digestive tract from inflammation.
Swiss chard tastes mildly bitter, but the nutritional benefits far outweigh its taste. It contains a range of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and A, and potassium, iron, and magnesium. Swiss chard also provides 300% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K. In order to neutralize chard’s bitter taste, sauté or lightly steam when preparing it.
Skip the iceberg lettuce when making salads and replace with Romaine lettuce instead. Iceberg contains mostly water and does not have any nutritional value, while Romaine is high in vitamins A and C. One head of Romaine contains more vitamin C than one orange (167% RDA). If you are watching your weight, one cup of Romaine lettuce is only 10 calories. It is also rich in B-vitamins such as folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine.
Whenever possible, buy organic green leafy vegetables, to avoid toxic pesticide residue on greens, or grow your own. By adding green leafy vegetables to your meals, your diet will be packed with rich vitamins and minerals to support overall good health.