Hey there! I wanted to talk today about the power of greens. It's no secret that greens are healthy but do you know that dark leafy greens are likely THE most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. What do I mean by leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, collard greens, and I would include in this other cruciferous veggies like broccoli? Of all the food groups analyzed by a team of Harvard University researchers, greens turned out to be associated with the most substantial protection against major chronic diseases, including up to about a 20 percent reduction in risk for both heart attacks and strokes for every additional daily serving. If you're not consuming enough raw leafy greens regularly, you will eventually experience some health challenges.
So, what do these greens do?
Green leafy vegetables are the best source of plant-based nitrates. Greens reduce the risk for cardiac disease and heart attack. According to Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, When we eat vegetables, "…[w]hat you are doing is you are bathing that cauldron of oxidation inflammation all day long with nature's most powerful antioxidant" – nitric oxide, produced by the endothelial cells within our blood vessels. And it is the green leafy vegetables that he considers to be our best source of nitric oxide-producing foods.
To help reduce your risk of cancer - Eat your cruciferous veggies. Cruciferous veggies like kale, arugula, collard greens, and kale have an element of bitterness, which is the glucosinolates." Research has shown that glucosinolates can have anti-cancer effects on your body, helping reduce inflammation and protecting cell DNA from damage. Leafy greens contain antioxidants and polyphenols, the disease-fighting compounds.
Support Bone Health All those "Got Milk?" ads might have you believe that drinking milk is the only way to build strong bones. However, research has shown that milk consumption has no protective effect on fracture risk and may even increase the risk of hip fractures among women. That's yet another great reason to ditch dairy for good! Instead, you can get plenty of calcium for supporting optimal bone health from dark, leafy greens.
Support Optimal Brain Function Want to support memory and reasoning as you enter your golden years? Eat your greens! A study published in Neurology found that those who ate the leafiest greens each day had slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who ate the least. In fact, the greens-eaters had the memory equivalent of someone 11 years younger! This was even true after adjusting for other factors, including lifestyle, education, and overall health. Greens have the power to delay the shortening of telomeres, the protective caps on our DNA that shorten with age. Once its telomeres are entirely gone, the cell dies. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, seem to have a superb ability to preserve telomere length.
Make Your Skin Glow Beta-carotene, the plant pigment that we usually associate with carrots and other yellow-orange veggies is also hiding in leafy greens. Think of leaves changing color in the fall. As they lose chlorophyll (the pigment that makes them green), you can see the red, orange, and yellow pigments those leaves contain underneath. It's these vibrant colors that are also responsible for the fantastic health benefits of leafy greens. Kale is one of the top sources of beta-carotene, and research shows that cooking, juicing, or dehydrating greens helps your body better absorb this carotenoid.
Boost Mood Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate and magnesium. Although the connection isn't fully understood, low folate levels have been consistently associated with depression in research. Leafy greens rich in folate and magnesium can help your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Greens are also rich in magnesium, which can help reduce anxiety and depression.
Support Your Immune System One of the most promising benefits of greens may be their ability to support your immune system. Greens can support a healthy response to oxidative damage. Studies specifically tout the benefits of cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, arugula, and kale.
There are so many ways to get more greens into our bodies. The first thought is normally eating more salad, which is one way, but another is through juicing or smoothies. There are some great smoothie recipes that include greens, which cannot even be tasted when mixed with fruit. Below is an easy recipe for a healthy smoothie that tastes great!
Berry Green Smoothie
1 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 almond milk
2 tbsp old-fashioned oats
Note: if the smoothie is not sweet enough, you can add 1 tbsp pure maple syrup or coconut sugar and blend.
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth.