Leafy greens and I have a love hate relationship. I am probably the only vegetarian in the world that abhors veggies (except broccoli), but I eat them anyways because they are an integral part of a balances diet. Vegetables in general are incredibly nutrient dense with very little calories. Green veggies in general tend to be the most nutrient packed containing Vitamins A, C, K, B, and E along with minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium just to name a few. Green vegetables are also extra high in protein and fiber. Now before I continue I want to warn you guys that this is going to be a long, but info-packed post. Because it is very long and I still have a workout to test, youtube videos to record, and chemistry to study I will not be doing extensive proof reading, only skimming.
Now that I have given that disclaimer I can move on. So, our bodies have a something called t-bet genes. They help with the production of immune cells and feed off the foods we eat, more specifically our consumption of green vegetables. The t-bet gene also allows our body to produce innate lymphoid cells that line our digestive systems and act as a barrier against bad bacterias and allergies. Without proper consumption of green vegetables you are depriving this gene in being able to carry out its daily activities inside our body. Leafy greens are high in antioxidants and disease fighting compounds such as photo-chemicals. Phyto-chemicals help reduce inflammation, regulate cell production and elimination, and they get rid of carcinogens (cancer causing agents often hidden in the processed garbage we eat).
How many servings should we aim for? According to one of my nutrition textbooks the average American eating 3 servings a week! unfortunately, that’s no where NEAR enough. The goal should be 4-6 servings of greens a day! My advice, find a way to make them yummy, but be advised the more you take veggies out of their raw form, the more you strip them of their vitamins in minerals.
Although their are more green vegetables than the ones I am about to list, I chose the following 7 because they are either under-recognized or under-appreciated.
1. Sprouts: (Under-recognized) help our bodies to extract the necessary vitamins, minerals, healthy essential fats, and amino acids from the food we consume.
2. Spinach: (Under-appreciated) Contain vitamins A, C, K, and B-vitamins along with minerals such as calcium, iron, fiber, selenium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and copper. They also provide us with folic acid, omega-3s (hint hint to all of my vegetarian/vegan friends, omega 3s are not just found in fish and iron is not only found in red meat, you just need to eat 10x the amount if your source is coming from plant), and lutein for eye health. Spinach aids in overall heart health and is an anti-inflammatory veggie.
3. Kale: (WAYYYYYYY Under-appreciated) is one of the MOST NUTRIENT DENSE foods in the world! It contains Vitamin A, K, C, B vitamins, and minerals such as manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium. You can also find antioxidants and phytochemicals (quercitin and kempferl) that help protect the heart, regulate blood pressure, fights cancer causing agents, lowers cholesterol (which lowers risk of CHD), and also contains lutein and zeaxanmin to help keep your eyes healthy. Because kale is low in calorie and high in nutrition it is an excellent veggie to stuff yourself with (especially when losing weight).
4.Swiss Chard: (Under-recognized) contains vitamins A, C, E, K, and minerals copper, manganese, magnesium, and natural sodium. Swiss chard helps maintain an overall healthy skeletal system, lungs, heart, and immune system.
5.Collard greens: (under-recognized) contain vitamins A, C, K, are a great source of fiber, and phytochemicals diindolylenethane and sulforaphane that contain cancer fighting agents.
6. Dandelion Greens: (under-recognized) are like root rooter for your system. Need a fast acting cleanse? Eat tons of dandelion greens! They also are an excellent source of iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, protein and vitamins A, C, and B.
7.Broccoli: (under-appreciated) are high in fiber, antioxidants, photo-nutrients beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and sea-xanthin. Also have copious amounts of floats, B vitamins, vitamin A and K, and minerals such as calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and phosphorous. Contribute towards a healthy colon, urinary tract, and pancreas.
Not sure what all of the aforementioned vitamins and minerals do for us? scroll down to my micronutrient post!