We’ve all heard about the mystical healing powers of vegetables. The most remarkable among them all – those majestic dark leafy greens! Well, to shed some light on their magical health benefits, here are 8 great reasons to eat leafy green vegetables every day!
If you’ve been wondering how to be healthier, but you don’t have that much free time to spare, you’re in luck! Here’s the perfect solution for you – improve the meals you already cook at home.
Now, now, don’t feel pessimistic about it. It doesn’t mean cooking elaborate and complicated meals as if you were Gordon Ramsey himself. It rather means just adding some leafy greens to go along with your favorite recipes.
Vegetables are extremely beneficial for you and especially dark leafy greens. What’s more, they’re very versatile and quite easy to prepare. So, why not give them a try? Soon incorporating them into your daily meals will become a natural everyday habit!
What exactly are leafy green Vegetables?
Leafy greens are vegetables and their name comes from the signature way they look – they’ve got well-distinguished green leaves.
Some leafy greens are:
and many more, which aren’t that famous.
You can usually find them in any grocery store, wherever it is you live. Most leafy green vegetables have a fresh taste and can enhance flavors when added to meals…While, let’s be real, there are some that seem to have a bit more ‘earthy’ tones. It really depends on what you prefer.
Even though they are extremely nutrient-dense, leafy greens are very low in calories, which makes them the perfect food to eat every day and enjoy on your weight loss and muscle gain journey.
When it comes to nutrition, it doesn’t get much better than leafy greens. These green veggies contain lots of beneficial compounds like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, the vitamins A, B6, C and K, folate, healing phytochemicals, flavonols, lutein, as well as protein and fiber.
To illustrate, let’s take spinach for example. (source) One cup of spinach contains:
- Calories – 7
- Fat – 0.1 g
- Cholesterol – 0 mg
- Sodium – 23 mg
- Potassium – 164 mg
- Carbohydrates – 1.1 g
- Fiber – 0.7 g
- Protein – 0.9 g
It further provides about 14% of your daily vitamin C, 4% daily iron, 5% magnesium and vitamin B6. It’s a pretty good deal for just 7 calories, isn’t it? And if you don’t like spinach – there are other leafy greens with similar nutritional values to spinach including arugula, kale and even that poor little lettuce.
Benefits of eating leafy greens Every Day:
Now, onto the most important part of this article! What do you actually gain from eating those dark leafy greens every day? Here are some great reasons to include these veggies in your daily diet.
1. Leafy Greens Help To Prevent Cancer
They’re super rich in antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radicals and thus, prevent cancer. Dark leafy greens also contain folate, which is an essential vitamin important when it comes to DNA replication and cell reparation – both important for cancer prevention. (source)
You should consume dark leafy greens at least 2-3 times a week in order to reap this impressive function of theirs.
2. Dark Leafy Greens improve gut health
When you eat leafy greens, you consume sulfoquinovose (SQ), which is a carbohydrate that is found abundantly in green vegetables (source). The good news is that the beneficial little creatures in your gastrointestinal tract absolutely love SQ (source)!
So, they munch on it happily, digest it, reproduce, and ‘kick out’ all the harmful microorganisms from your body. Isn’t that sweet?
3. Leafy Green Vegetables protect your vision
As you age, your body becomes more frail and weak. As sad as that is, it’s true and all we can do about it is aim to be as healthy as possible and help our body do its best.
One of the risks of aging is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This affects a part of the retina in your eye, called the macula. This issue will cause loss of vision in the central line – meaning it won’t leave you blind, but you won’t be able to see finer details. (source)
Thankfully though, leafy greens contain beta-carotene and lutein, which can help increase the density of the macula’s pigment, which in turn can reduce the risk of developing AMD. (source)
4. Leafy Greens decrease cholesterol levels
Leafy greens, even lettuce are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that can help to lower cholesterol. This cholesterol-lowering effect has been shown in animals fed high-fat and high-cholesterol diet in several studies. Now, true the participants in those studies might be rats and mice, but honestly, we all know eating green leafy vegetables every day would work for us humans too when it comes to optimizing cholesterol levels.
In fact, during a 12-week study in Indonesia, participants were asked to eat higher amounts of raw vegetables, including leafy greens. The goal was 400g or almost a pound of raw vegetables a day. Result? Well, take a guess! The participants with type 2 diabetes had lowered their overall cholesterol, lost weight and reduced their waist circumference. (source)
The animal-based studies suggest that the positive effects of green vegetables on cholesterol come from the polyphenols, the vitamins C and E as well as the carotenoids in the plants. All of these are powerful antioxidants that you can find in abundance in most leafy green vegetables. Let’s think long-term…better cholesterol levels can help fight against various cardiovascular diseases.
5. Leafy Green Vegetables Improve Diabetes Markers
If you have type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic, you must make green leafy vegetables a part of your daily diet. They have a low glycemic index, are rich in several essential and nonessential nutrients and antioxidants, as well as fiber and don’t pack a ton of calories. All of these elements contribute to an overall reduced oxidative stress and chronic inflammation and weight loss. This is important, as it’s the best way to prevent further progression of this chronic disease. (source)
Remember the 12-week study from Indonesia? Well, after consuming 400 grams of raw vegetables every single day for 96 days – the participants had significantly improved their fasting and their postprandial blood glucose as well as their HbA1C levels. (source) All important factors when it comes to type 2 diabetes management.
Furthermore, because leafy greens contain nitrates, they’re good for people with high blood pressure as can be the case with diabetes patients. How? Well, your body produces nitric oxide, which in turn relaxes your blood vessels and helps ease blood flow. (source)
So, if you have type 2 diabetes or are prediabetic and are confused where to start – start by adding more low GI vegetables such as leafy greens and cruciferous veggies to your diet. Make these the majority of what you eat. Pack those greens in your smoothies, sneak them into your meals, toss them in salads – just make sure to consume more of them at every meal.
6. Green Leafy Vegetables Help Prevent Cognitive decline
Many people are afraid to let their skin age these days, but what about the age of your brain? Cognitive decline as you age is a real thing and I have personally witnessed it with my grandfather. And I can tell you, as scary as the wrinkles on your face may look to you, there’s truly no comparrisson to the decline in cognitive abilities.
If there’s one thing we need to be focusing on when it comes to aging, it’s not wrinkles. It’s the health of your immune system, of your brain, bones and all of your inner organs. And a great way to do that is by eating more vegetables like leafy greens on a daily basis.
A study found that enjoying just one to two serving of green leafy vegetables a day can help to slow down the decline in cognition that naturally comes with aging. By how much? Well, compared to non-consumers, people who ate their leafy greens on a regular basis had reduced the rate of cognitive decline by around 11 years. That’s right, their brains seemed to be 11 years younger! (source)
The magical components here seem to be folic acid, beta carotene and lutein – they’re all present in leafy greens and have shown neuroprotective properties.
7. Leafy Greens Can Help With Depression
Depression is becoming more and more common these days and it affects women more often than men. (source)
One of the things you can do to prevent or even alleviate depressive symptoms is eating more fruits and vegetables (source). I know, it’s just so out there. But, there are tons and tons of studies that show that what we eat affects our mental health as well. It’s important to nourish our bodies properly in order to avoid nutrient deficiencies that can lead to oxidative stress and in general – infectious and chronic disease.
So, one of the greatest reasons to eat leafy green vegetables daily is to keep your mental health intact as well. Leafy greens and other vegetables are excellent sources of bioactive compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Since depression is an inflammatory condition, keeping an anti-inflammatory diet rich in vegetables with low glycemic index such as leafy greens can be a way to prevent depression and even to improve the condition. (source)
Another reason why eating more green leafy vegetables can contribute to lower depression rates is the fact, that these plants are extremely rich in folate and magnesium. A lack of both of these essential nutrients can result in depression. Thus ensuring you’re getting enough of them from your diet, can help to prevent the disease. (source)
8. Leafy Greens Consumption Improves Bone Health
Last on the list of health benefits of green leafy vegetables is that these improve your bone health at any age. Green vegetables have a low acid load and contribute to a more alkaline diet. In turn, alkaline diets are associated with increased lean muscle mass in older adults (source). Lean muscle mass, on the other hand can help to prevent fails and fractures in older age.
But, the positive outcomes of daily leafy greens consumption on your bone health can start at a younger age. A study from Japan, estimated that young women, who didn’t eat any yellow or green vegetables, such as carrots and spinach, had a 5-times higher risk of low bone mass compared to women who ate those vegetables on a daily basis. (source)
So, to keep your bones strong – eat your greens!
How To Eat Leafy Green Vegetables Every Day
Now, when it comes to anything in life, you want to not overdo it. As good as leafy greens are for you too many of them might not be great for you, as they do contain oxalate and other antinutrients, as well as a lot of vitamin K, which might be a problem for some people (source). So my advice – stay away from concentrates aka powders or supplements.
Rather make green veggies a natural part of your daily diet. You can do this, by enjoying a big salad for lunch, drinking a green smoothie in the morning and/or adding some greens to your dinner.
To give you ideas, here are some great recipes using leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, lettuce and arugula:
I do hope you enjoy these ideas and start incorporating more leafy green vegetables into your daily menu in order to reap their amazing health benefits for many years to come!
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 roasted red pepper
- 1 cup roasted cauliflower
- 3 tbsp feta cheese
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 scallion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
- Chop the cherry tomatoes, scallion and mince the garlic.
- Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix. If needed, add some salt and pepper.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 314Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 519mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 9g