If your mother, was like my mother, she probably used to tell you to eat your greens they’re good for you!
Of course she was right, and I was wrong, because I kept arguing with her that the vegetables tasted yucky and please let me go straight to the biscuits, which usually came at the end of dinner. Eventually, when I grew up I learned to like vegetables, or at least some of them, like onions, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage.
But even till today, I don’t eat either as much quantity or as much variety, of dark leafy green vegetables, as I should, and this is probably true for most of us. So with this article, I am going to remind you, just like your mother used to, to eat your greens because they’re good for you!
The Many Benefits of Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
In a recent study, on the effect of eating greens, as a preventative for diabetes, they discovered that eating even one more portion, of day of dark leafy green vegetables per day, could cut down on your chances of developing diabetes by as much as 14%!1
And this is only one benefit of dark leafy green vegetables, other benefits include the following:
- Reduction in high blood pressure
- Stroke prevention
- Lower risk of developing cancer
- Lower risk of developing kidney stones
- Lower risk of developing bone density issues
- High antioxidant levels, which prevent degenerative disease
- Lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Lower risk of developing eye disease
- Reduce digestive problems
- Better weight control
Most of these benefits are pretty obvious, when we think about vegetables and how they are high in vitamins and minerals, which help to balance out nutritional deficiencies. Also, dark leafy green vegetables are high in fibre, which in turn helps digestion. Improved digestion also results in less nutritional deficiencies, and better weight control. Finally dark green leafy vegetables possess a high pH, which is base in nature, and this helps to balance the pH levels in body, because most food are acidic, which in turn helps to boost energy levels and prevent degenerative disease.
The Benefits of Vegetable Fibre
One of the great benefits of vegetables is the fibre content. Fibre is famous, for its effect in satiating appetite and also how it helps to remove food from the digestive tract, which in turn enhances digestion and prevents constipation and diarrhoea. But also, in the case of vegetable fibre, it breaks down into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs); these are not the unhealthy fats, rather these are healthy fats, which are good for your intestinal bacteria, and it’s been shown to lessen the risk of developing inflammatory disease. Inflammatory disease basically take place, when the organs of our bodies become inflamed, as a reaction to diet and stress, which can result in such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, auto-immune diseases, such as lupus, and possibly even cardiovascular disease.
Another benefit of high fibre content, in dark green leafy vegetables, is that it helps to stimulate the beneficial intestinal bacteria. Some research suggests, that this might in turn activate a gene named T-bet, which helps to boost the immune system.2
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables and Toxicity
Thanks to environmental factors, such as food preservatives, and the chemicals in our environment, such as fertilizers, household cleaning products and even perfume, all result in a toxic overload on the liver. When the liver is overloaded with toxins, it can result in sluggishness and inactivity and some sources 3 believe it might even result in learning difficulties children, such as ADHD. Whether this is true or not is still open to conjecture, but one thing is for sure, that a decongested liver, will make you and your kids feel more energetic and aware, and dark leafy green vegetables can help to detox your liver.
Other Benefits of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Okay hopefully by now I have convinced you to go green, as it has some great health benefits, not only for yourself but even for your kids. But just in case I have not managed to convince you yet, let’s take a look at some more health boosting benefits, of dark green leafy vegetables.
- Dark green leafy vegetables are high in fibre, which is satiating, thus reducing appetite.
- Some vegetables require more calories to digest than they give out when digested, asparagus, for example. Basically you can eat as much dark green leafy vegetables as you like and you won’t get fat, you may even slim down a little.
- Dark green leafy vegetables are high in nutrients and they have fibre, which helps the digestive process. This combination makes up for a lot of nutritional deficiency, which in turn makes for more stable blood sugar levels, which prevents sudden hunger pangs from developing.
Vegetables are high in Vitamins & Minerals
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin k
- Photo chemicals (lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin)
These are just some of the nutrients, which are found in dark green leafy vegetables and some of their benefits include heart health benefits, decreased blood pressure rates, balanced blood sugar levels, detoxification and increased bone density. Also lutein and zeaxanthin, both protect against age related macular degeneration in the eyes and cataracts. As for quercetin, it possesses unique anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which helps to reduce allergic reactions, such as sinusitis and hay fever, for example.
Okay My Mother Was Right After all I should eat my Greens, So what’s next?
Yes your mother was wise, when she told you to eat your greens they’re good for you! So how do we gain maximum benefit, from dark green leafy vegetables?
Well like I have said, all over this blog, that it’s not enough to eat something, which is good for you, rather it is equally important to imbibe the right quantity and quality, of said food stuff, in order to gain the benefit.
The good news is that perfection is not required. You don’t have to give up eating your favorite foods, but you do need to add in some healthy foods, on a daily basis. The food pyramid, which we all remember from our school days, while not perfect, it does at least bring to our attention, the need for a balanced approach.
Where the food pyramid goes wrong, is in having too much of a focus on carbohydrates. Not that carbohydrate are bad for us, but most of us should probably cut back on carbs, unless we have a very active lifestyle.
Anyway, try and eat more greens, on a daily basis.
Two good arppaoches are:
- Juices and smoothies – Juices make the most unpalatable vegetable, well palatable, and smoothies are really tasty.
- Salads – Get into the habit of having a healthy side salad with most meals, it is a lot tastier than you think. As a matter of fact salads are a lot like apples, in that we all like them, but rarely do we remember to eat them!
Like everything, in life it’s all about creating good habits. So start today and make a point of adding in a little bit more dark green leafy vegetables, each day. Then increase it over each week, for a period of three weeks, by which time you will have become habituated to eating a greater quantity of dark green leafy vegetables!
- BMJ2010; 341doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c4229(Published 19 August 2010)Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4229
- Nat Immunol. 2013 Apr;14(4):389-95. doi: 10.1038/ni.2545. Epub 2013 Mar 3.
The transcription factor T-bet is essential for the development of NKp46+ innate lymphocytes via the Notch pathway.
1The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia.