Healing Power of Leafy Green Vegetables
It’s Nature’s Best Protection
How many of you have heard about the amazing healing power of leafy green vegetables? Did you know that they have the power to deliver more nutrients for fewer calories than virtually any other food on our planet? No, this is definitely not a trick question. There are simply tonnes of important nutrients in leafy green vegetables whether they are the dark variety or not. Leafy green such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens and then some all contain plenty of the right stuff our body desperately wants and needs. Examples of these health-giving properties are iron, calcium magnesium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin B6. And this is just the beginning of more healthy stuff to come.
Leafy green vegetables also contain heart disease and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. These vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods that we have available, yet how many of us are actually getting enough of them. We really need to love our leafy green veggies. While munching on iceberg lettuce may not make it to the top of the list because of its lower nutrient content, you’d be a lot better off munching on dandelion greens, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, chicory greens, and collard greens, kale, spinach and Swiss chard as mentioned above.
You might want to consider the difference between people who have heart-related problems and those who don’t. It could very well be calculated in the number of trips they make to the salad bar. Fast food such as burgers and french fries are not the way to go if you want to keep a healthy heart. And this is especially true as we get older. Dietary factors definitely affect our heart health.
And in this case, as with many issues regarding the food we consume, the answer boils down to chemistry and specifically to an amino acid called homocysteine. While homocysteine is a natural compound that in itself is harmless as long as your body keeps it in check, the real problem comes when it reaches high levels. This is when it can easily become toxic and the result could very well contribute to clogged arteries and heart disease.
Healing Power of Leafy Green Vegetables
So you’d like to know more about the connection between homocysteine and leafy green vegetables? That’s simple enough! Your body uses folate as well as vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 to keep homocysteine under control. Many of us fall short of these vital nutrients especially folate and vitamin B6. As it turns out, leafy greens are outstanding sources of both folate and vitamin B6.
It’s for this reason you should add plenty of leafy green vegetables to your diet to counteract those homocysteine levels. And vegetables such as spinach is probably one of the best bets for managing homocysteine. A half cup of Popeye’s favourite snack delivers a whopping 130 micrograms of folate, 33 percent of the daily value. Spinach also contains 0.2 milligrammes of vitamin B6, 10 percent of the daily value.
In addition to these important B vitamins, certain leafy greens such as spinach, beet greens and chicory will provide you with some powerful heart-healthy minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. And these minerals, along with sodium will help regulate the amount of fluid that your body retains.
All too often, people with too much sodium and too little magnesium, potassium and calcium, could lead to high blood pressure. Even though eating leafy greens is an excellent way to help regulate high blood pressure, it’s also important to mention that because the calcium from spinach and beet greens are not that well absorbed by the body, be sure to eat a wide variety of leafy greens to meet all your minerals requirements.
Leafy Green Vegetables for Cancer Protection
Has it ever occurred to you why many cancers happen less often in countries where people eat plenty of leafy green vegetables along with a wide variety of other veggies, fruits, and whole grains as the “meats” of their meals? A fact you can take all the way to the market. You’ll also find those people who consume significantly fewer carotenoid-rich plant food such as Swiss chard, chicory and spinach as well as beet greens and cabbage are more prone to certain cancers than those who consume a greater amount of carotenoid-rich plant foods.
Carotenoids act as antioxidants to help protect you against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart conditions. Leafy green vegetables have large amounts of carotenoids which act as bodyguards against cancer-causing agents. Carotenoids are also responsible for counteracting free radicals by acting as antioxidants.
Basically, what this boils down too is that those carotenoids step between the free radicals and our bodies cells neutralising them before they can do any harm. There’s also enough evidence out there to suggest that carotenoids may help in the fight against cancer by activating your body’s detoxification enzymes called phase II enzymes which are responsible for ridding your body of harmful, often cancer-causing chemicals.
Dark green leafy vegetables are among the best sources of some extremely important carotenoids such as beta-carotene which I’m sure most of us are fairly familiar with, as well others that we may be not so familiar with, such as alpha-carotene and lutein. While leafy green vegetables are rich in carotenoids, the godfather of carotenoids is spinach, with a half cup providing you with one milligramme of beta-carotene.
Get Going with Green
We’ve all heard how good carrots are for your eyes and nobody I know has ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses. There’s a good chance that it’s not only the roots of this vegetable that are good for your eyes but also all those leafy greens. After all, Peter Rabbit and all his cotton-tailed friends munch on a whole bunch of greens too. And did you know that you can eat the green tops of carrots as well as the orange, yellow and purple roots? Most people I know simply throw the green part away but you can easily use them in a stew or a soup dish. It’s a fact that people who eat leafy green vegetables do not only have better all-round health but they are also less likely to get macular degeneration than people who eat them less frequently.
What’s Cooking in the Kitchen?
Most of us are not that familiar with cooking greens but that’s okay as we can eat and drink them raw too. You will get a lot more nutrients if you simply toss some leafy green vegetables in a salad or on a whole wheat sandwich. Better still, make a delicious healthy green juice or a delicious smoothie with some of your favourite greens. To sweeten, just add an apple and or a few pineapple pieces. There are endless ways to enjoy the health benefits of leafy green vegetables so why limit yourself. If you are the type of person who loves cooking, check out the tips below.
Trim the stems. While the leaves are often the tender part of the vegetable, the stems can sometimes be a little tough and if necessary, can be discarded from the cooking process. However, don’t throw the stems away as they can easily be added to your juice making skills which I’ll discuss in another article. Before cooking your greens, simply run a sharp knife alongside the stem and centre rib, separating the leafy part from the stem.
Clean your vegetables well. Because leafy greens grow close to the ground and the frilly leaves often capture dirt and grit, it’s very important that you wash them thoroughly. After all, there’s nothing worse than finding bits of grit in your food or drink. The easiest way to clean your greens is to fill the sink or a large bowl with clean water and then simply swish the greens around thus allowing the dirt or grit to sink to the bottom. When all the vegetables are squeaky clean or thereabouts, transfer them to a colander to drain.
Cut them into Ribbons. When cooking thick leafy greens such as Curly Kale or Swiss Chard, it’s a good idea to cut them into ribbons of small pieces as this will help them cook quickly while maintaining their tenderness.
Boil your green veggies quickly. To do this, simply submerge the green leaves in boiling water. Start with a small amount of water, drop in the greens, cover and cook for about four minutes or until nice and tender.
Getting the most out of your Leafy Greens
The question most people keep asking me is whether they should cook their leafy green vegetables, eat them raw as they are or in a juice. A couple of things spring to mind when I’m asked this question. And the answer is quite simple. If you are consuming plenty of leafy green vegetables on a regular basis, that is every day, you can use all of the above methods. However, I’m sure many of you are well aware that cooking definitely removes a fair amount of important nutrients, which certainly makes the raw variation a better bet. I like to break it down like this for you –
If you should suffer from a dread disease, be it cancer or any heart conditions, I suggest you drink plenty of the raw juice variety. If you just need a pick-me-up because you’re not feeling good at the moment, eat raw in a salad. If you are in good health, cook some, eat some raw and juice some. Just note that you’ll be a lot healthier if you juice all your veggies. I personally know a lady who cured her leukaemia by drinking lots of raw vegetables and fruit juice.