We’ve all heard that we should eat our greens, but have you ever questioned exactly why? Or what the difference might be between leafy greens?
Here are just four of the benefits that come from eating leafy greens:
- Leafy greens contain a whole host of phytonutrients, or plant nutrients. These are all the antioxidant and other beneficial compounds that we find in plant foods. Together, this team of compounds helps to protect the cells all around our bodies from damage, reducing our risk of chronic disease and also slowing down the aging process.
- Greens are particularly rich in a range of carotenoids. The most famous is, of course, beta-carotene (named as it was first isolated from carrots). This is an antioxidant in its own right, but can also be converted to vitamin A in the body. Two other carotenoids are found in our greens - lutein and zeaxanthin. These are important for eye health and reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration. In general the darker the green of the leaves, the greater the content of antioxidants. So spinach, rocket and kale rank much better than the paler green lettuces. But even amongst lettuce varieties, there are differences in nutritional values - a firm Cos lettuce ranks much better than Iceberg. So when you can, mix up the leaves you include in a salad for maximum benefit.
- Folate is one of the B group vitamins. Women planning a baby are well aware of the need for good sources of this vitamin for the healthy development of their offspring. But in fact, we all need folate to ensure we continue to make healthy new cells throughout life. Scientists can track the DNA damage in our bodies over time and a high level of folate is associated with less damage. You’ve probably guessed I’m going to say greens are a terrific source of folate and indeed they are with spinach, endive and rocket—all exceptionally good sources.You’ll also find the B group vitamins thiamin, niacin and riboflavin in your greens, and these are necessary to convert our food into energy for use by the body.
The one nutrient that is not found in abundance in leafy greens is iron. On paper, it looks as though spinach is the stand out in this regard, but unfortunately, other plant compounds present prevent us from absorbing very much of this iron. To improve absorption, add a vitamin C rich food to your spinach salad, such as raw capsicum, orange or grapefruit slices, or finish the meal with fruit.
- Finally, it’s worth pointing out that another major benefit of greens is that they have an exceptionally low energy density with high nutrient density. This is exactly what most of us need. We are not going short on kilojoules, but do often lack the nutrients we need for our bodies to function at their best.
Your Vitamix blender makes getting more leafy greens into your daily life effortless. Simply add a handful of greens to your smoothies, make soups packed with greens, and blitz greens such as spinach and herbs along with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and garlic to create a delicious dressing or sauce to jazz up any meal.