I don’t know about you, but I’ve always known that vegetables were good for me. And I have certainly learned to love them. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I’ve been discovering just how important it is to include leafy green vegetables in your diet EVERY DAY. Below you will find the reasons why I think we should all eat more of them!
WHAT COUNTS AS A LEAFY GREEN?
First of all, let me clear up any confusion regarding “leafy green” vegetables, “cruciferous” vegetables, “brassicas”, etc. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but I’m determined to get my terminology right. 😛
The plant family known as Brassicaceae, (and formerly known as Cruciferae), includes not only vegetables whose leaves we eat (such as spinach and kale), but also vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower (which most of us consume as the flower buds themselves). Next time you hear the term “brassica” or “cruciferous” vegetable, know they’re both the same group of veggies. This group includes the green leaves that we eat, along with vegetables like radishes, turnips, and cauliflower (which actually all have green leaves of some sort).
But all technicality aside, when I say leafy greens, I’m referring to the cruciferous vegetables that are mostly leafy and green (and including broccoli, of course!).
4 REASONS TO EAT MORE OF THEM
1. Phytonutrients (also known as phytochemicals)- these are micronutrients other than vitamins and minerals, that are produced by plants, and benefit us when we eat them. Antioxidants and polyphenols are just a couple. In a nutshell, a phytontrient-rich diet helps increase cellular function and detoxification in your body.
2. Chlorophyll– this is actually considered a phytonutrient, but I thought it deserved some special attention. The chlorophyll molecule is so similar to the hemoglobin molecule of blood, that it can help maintain healthy levels of iron and improve someone with anemia (especially when it’s modified by swapping iron for the magnesium in its core, which makes a very bioavailable form of iron). It helps stimulate liver detoxifying enzymes, and has the ability to bind to heavy metals and other toxins, helping flush them out of our bodies. It’s even been shown to be effective against a candida yeast infection, and in wound healing.
3. Strong Bones– Leafy greens are a great source of calcium, which is ONE of the key players in building and maintaining strong bones. Discovering a calcium source other than milk was exciting for me, since I stopped drinking it for various health reasons. Of course, I used to believe that all you needed was calcium for strong bones, and that milk was the obvious source. Little did I know. Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K are also key for good bone health, and can be found to varying degrees, in leafy greens. If you don’t (or can’t) drink milk, no worries, since milk can actually be BAD for your bones anyway!
4. Vitamins and Minerals– It’s crazy how much Vitamin C occurs in a lot of green vegetables. Vitamin A is another big one. As mentioned above, there are many others, including iron and magnesium. It’s individual to every kind of vegetable, but in general, you can pack a lot of nutrients in a bowl of salad greens or a smoothie.
You can crowd out so many unhealthy, nutrient-poor foods, by simply eating more vegetables. And cruciferous vegetables are a great way to get enough fiber, especially if you’re eating low carb. Of course, you still need plenty of protein and healthy fats. So don’t think I’m saying that just eating plain salad 3 times a day is healthy.
In order to include more leafy greens in my diet, I try to eat them with every meal. And yes, that includes breakfast. 🙂
My favorite ways to cook and eat greens are: smoothies, wilted/sauteed greens in scrambled eggs, and greens in soup (such as this Gluten-free Zuppa Toscana). I love to chop up all of the kale and collard stems (too tough to eat raw), and make soup with those as well.
Its easy to get stuck in a rut, and even forget all of the different kinds of vegetables that exist. Here’s a list of leafy greens to get your creative juices flowing, along with some delicious recipes for you to try!
LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES
- Arugula (my new favorite salad green!)
- Bok Choy
- Cabbage (Red and Green)
- Swiss Chard
- Turnip Greens
- Radicchio (I have not actually tried this one yet, but I love the name!)
- Red and Green leaf Lettuce
- Collard Greens
- Carrot Tops
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Here’s how to use collard greens as a tortilla/wrap, and also how to preserve your greens
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Bacon
- Pumpkin Pie Smoothie [I would definitely add the spinach, and even leave out the maple syrup]
- Pear, Arugula, and Avocado Smoothie
- Stir-fried Turnip Greens with Mushrooms and Almonds
- Stir-fried Chicken and Bok Choy
- You’ve heard of kale chips? Well, here’s how to make chips from beet and kohlrabi greens!
- Baked Sweet Potato with Mustard Greens and White Beans
- Arugula and Fennel Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Warm Watercress and Pine Nut Salad
- Spicy Mustard Green Pesto
Join the conversation!
Do you struggle to get enough vegetables in your diet? What are some of your favorite ways to eat green veggies?