Leafy greens offer a powerful combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, inflammation fighters, and overall health boosters. There are countless reasons to eat (and love!) your greens. Here are 10 of the most compelling.
They protect your heart
Research in the journal Atherosclerosis found that vegetables with a high lutein content, such as leafy greens, have a potentially significant effect when it comes to reducing inflammation in heart disease patients.
They work wonders for weight management
Leafy greens are packed with nutrients that help you maintain a healthy metabolism. They’re also low in calories but loaded with fiber—both important for weight management.
They enhance male sexual health
Many leafy greens, and beet greens in particular, are good sources of the mineral zinc. Low levels of zinc have been linked to poor sexual health in men.
They help your nerves communicate
Leafy greens are among the best food sources of the mineral potassium, which is needed to regulate heartbeat and nerve signals. Eating more greens like Swiss chard is a great way to increase your intake of this important nutrient.
They watch over eye health
Leafy greens like kale contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are critical nutrients in maintaining eye health and vision, particularly in reducing the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
They build your bones
Because leafy greens are a rich source of critical bone-building nutrients like calcium and magnesium, adding them to your diet may help protect against osteoporosis.
They’re cancer fighters
Leafy greens are packed with anticancer compounds, including carotenoids, making them an excellent addition to your diet to help prevent or aid in the treatment of cancer.
They defend against diabetes
Leafy greens are rich in dietary fiber, flavonoids, and antioxidant compounds, including carotenoids and vitamins C and E, as well as folate and potassium—all nutrients that have been shown to be protective against diabetes.
They bolster liver health
An animal study published in the medical journal Lipids in Health and Disease found that eating more leafy greens improved the liver’s fatty acid profile, which researchers believe points to greens’ ability to help protect against cardiovascular disease.
They supercharge your lymphatic system
Leafy greens contain many vital vitamins and minerals that boost the lymphatic system’s ability to keep your tissues clean and to help fight infection.
The power of powders
Life is hectic, and it’s difficult to eat enough healthy food to keep up with the pace. That’s where greens powders can help. They are essentially multivitamin and mineral supplements in a convenient powder form, making them a perfect addition to smoothies or other foods. As a bonus, greens powders also contain loads of health-boosting phytonutrients.
Greens you should get to know
Although some of these greens may be regular visitors to your dinner plate, others may be less familiar to you. Trust us: They’re all more than worthy of your acquaintance!
This peppery salad green, also known as rocket, is a nutrient powerhouse. Owing its signature spicy bite to its membership in the cabbage and mustard green family, arugula is a great source of antioxidants, including vitamins A and K, and glucosinolates (the source of that peppery bite), which may protect against breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers.
They’re frequently thrown away, but beet greens are well worth keeping! Just 1 cup of boiled beet greens contains a whopping 580 percent of the average person’s daily vitamin K requirements, as well as 61 percent of vitamin A and 40 percent of vitamin C requirements.
Like other brassicas, kale is a potent anticancer food. In addition to providing 80 mcg of vitamin K, 50 mcg of vitamin A, and 19 mg of vitamin C in 1 cup, kale is high in glucosinolates. These powerful anticancer compounds trigger antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses that contribute to maintaining cell balance.
Matcha powder is simply green tea in a convenient powdered form, making it perfect for drinking as you would green tea, using in iced teas or smoothies, or adding to baking for a flavor and nutrition blast. Like other forms of green tea, it contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent free-radical scavenger and possible anticancer compound.
A deciduous tree native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas, as well as parts of Africa, moringa is a rich source of phytosterols and healing phytonutrients, including two important anticancer compounds: glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. Moringa’s phenolic acid content gives the herb some of its anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antidiabetic properties.
Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, gets its rich color from chlorophyll, the pigment that allows plants to absorb and metabolize light. Available in powder form, spirulina is rich in protein, copper, and iron. It also contains abundant antioxidants.
How to get your kids to eat more leafy greens
Scientists may have the answer to the age-old question of how to get kids to eat their greens. It’s all about when you serve veggies and what you serve them with.
One study found that when vegetables were served first and on their own, vegetable consumption among kids quadrupled. Another study found that serving vegetables with foods that kids like but don’t love may be key. The researchers reported that kids barely touched their vegetables when the veggies were paired with favorite foods like burgers or chicken nuggets, but they ate them when the veggies were paired with less favored entrees like baked potatoes or deli sliders.