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Organic: Green leafy vegetables pack a powerhouse of nutrients
Source: Environmental Nutrition

Environmental NutritionSpinach and kale, Swiss chard and collard greens pack a powerhouse of health-protective nutrients.

Popeye was on the right track when he gobbled spinach to replenish his superhuman strength. Green leafy vegetables are chock full of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, many health professionals believe that leafy green vegetables deserve special focus in the produce world for the volume of nutrients tucked into their low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic index package.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes the benefits of dark green vegetables on the basis of color, and recommends incorporating at least three cups (cooked, or 6 cups raw) in your diet every week, based on 2,000 calories per day.

VITAMINS GALORE

The nutritional perks of leafy green vegetables are bountiful. Greens, such as collard and mustard greens and spinach, are rich sources of vitamins A, C, K, and folate--a water-soluble B vitamin that supports cell production, such as for hair, skin and nails, and may protect against cancer and neurological and cardiovascular diseases.

Many varieties of vegetables supply 20 to 30 percent of your daily recommendation for calcium in a one-cup cooked serving.

PROTECTIVE PLANT COMPOUNDS

A host of health-promoting phytochemicals, such as betalains, quercetin, and carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in leafy green vegetables. Consumption of lutein, for example, has been found to protect against the risk of age-related macular degeneration, according to a 2012 review published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Quercetin appears to have anti-inflammatory ability, which may help protect against the development of atherosclerosis, a root of heart disease, as reported in a 2013 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. And researchers from Italy found that betalains have remarkable potential to protect against oxidation.

STOCK UP

All of these antioxidants and nutrients in leafy green vegetables work together to fend off disease. Consumption of these vegetables is linked to protection against mental decline, and improved heart, bone and eye health. At about 25 calories per one-cup serving (uncooked), adding leafy green vegetables to your daily diet is an excellent way to promote optimal long-term health.

Vegetable Nutrition Comparison

1. Collard greens

Culinary tips: Stream or saute for a side dish or add to soups.

Star nutrients: fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium and manganese

Health benefits: May help protect against heart disease and cancer, maintain healthy bones and support digestive health.

2. Kale

Culinary tips: Steam or saute for a side dish, add to soups and stir-fries, or use raw in salads.

Star nutrients: Vitamins A, C and K, manganese

Health benefits: May help boost immune function and protect against cancer.

3. Romaine lettuce

Culinary tips: Serve raw in salads, add to sandwiches, or use in wrap fillings.

Star nutrients: Vitamins A, C and K

Health benefits: May help boost immune function and support digestive health.

4. Mustard greens

Culinary tips: Steam or saute as a side dish, add to soups, or use raw in salads.

Star nutrients: Vitamins A, C and K, folate

Health benefits: May help boost immune function and help protect against cancer and heart disease.

5. Spinach

Culinary tips: Use raw in salads, add to soups, casseroles, pasta dishes and side dishes.

Star nutrients: Fiber, vitamins A, E and K, folate, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese

Health benefits: May help maintain healthy bones and eyes.

6. Swiss chard

Culinary tips: Use raw in salads or boil, roast or saute for a side dish.

Star nutrients: Vitamins A, C and K, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese

Health benefits: May help with blood sugar regulation and support bone health.

7. Turnip greens

Culinary tips: Steam or saute for a side dish, add to soups and pasta dishes.

Star nutrients: Fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium and manganese.

Health benefits: May help maintain healthy bones and supports digestive health.

8. Watercress

Culinary tips: Serve raw in salads or add to sandwiches.

Star nutrients: Vitamins A, C and K

Health benefits: May help boost immune function and protect against cancer.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)


 

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