The new rage amongst all new health-conscious eaters now is dark leafy green vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet and they are packed to the brim with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, what is more? They are also low in calories.
However, did you know that only a few of us meet the minimum USDA recommendations for the intake of these nutrition powerhouses?
According to a study published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), a powerhouse vegetable is defined as the one that supplies on average a 10% or more of the daily value of 17 qualifying nutrients per 100 calories.
The best of dark green leafy vegetables and the efficient way to eat them
The top-rated powerhouse leafy vegetables are Kale, Micro-greens, Spinach, and Cabbage. Understanding the numerous health benefits that are tied up with these vegetables could inspire you to up your intake.
This is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables, which is attributed to its vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Kale consists of powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein which are known to reduce the risk of diseases caused by oxidative stress.
To reap the most out of kale, it is best consumed raw, since cooking could reduce the nutrient profile. You could easily add kale into your salads, as a garnish, or even make a juice out of it.
These are immature greens produced from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. They generally measure 1-3 inches.
Since the 80’s they have been used as a garnish or decoration. These leafy greens are full of flavor and nutrients. In one study, it was found that microgreens contain up to 40 times more nutrients than mature greens. The vitamins present include C, E, and K.
Microgreens could be used raw as a garnish or a decoration. They can also be added to salads as well.
This is one of the most popular leafy greens. It has an impressive nutrient profile, with 30 grams of raw spinach providing 181% of the daily intake of vitamin K, 56% of the daily intake of vitamin A, and 13% of the daily intake for manganese.
Additionally, spinach is packed with folate, which plays a key role in the production of blood cells and even prevents pregnancy defects.
Spinach is an amazing prenatal vitamin, and this can be easily incorporated into a variety of dishes such as soups, sauces, smoothies, and salads.
This leafy green is formed of a cluster of thick leaves, that come in various colors such as green, white, and purple.
Cabbage belongs to the Brassica family, and the plants in this family contain glycosylates. Several studies have found foods containing these compounds tend to have cancer-protective properties, especially against lung and esophageal cancer.
Cabbage can be used in many forms, however, one of the most healthy and famous ones includes, sauerkraut, which has various health benefits such as improving digestion, improving immunity, and even aiding in weight loss.
Health Benefits of Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark leafy green vegetables are a storehouse for a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. These are amongst the most nutritious foods.
Green leafy vegetables are the least caloric food on your plate. For example, a full cup of spinach (30 grams) contains only 7 calories. A cup of kale has about 33 calories. Hence if you are trying to keep your weight in check, do consume more leafy greens as they allow you to eat more and weigh less.
These vegetables are low in calorie count, moreover, the calories also come from the complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein present in the vegetable.
A cup of spinach provides just over a gram of carbohydrates, which is mostly from the fiber. A cup of broccoli provides about 6g of carbs, 2.4g of fiber, and over 2.5g of protein. The macronutrient balance, particularly the fiber and protein, provides long-term satisfaction and fullness.
Dark green vegetables are a rich source of minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They also contain a variety of phytonutrients including beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, which are known to protect the cells from damage and our eyes from sight-related problems.
Although leafy greens consist of a myriad of vitamins, they are primarily the key source of vitamin K.
Vitamin K is known to help in the regulation of inflammation and provides protection from arthritis. It also helps in the prevention of diabetes, osteoporosis, it even prevents atherosclerosis.
Several studies have shown that eating green leafy veggies may prevent certain diseases. A study found that a diet that contains one serving of green leafy vegetables per day is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline.
It was also noted that it significantly reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases.
Tips to Increase your dark leafy green vegetable intake?
There are countless varieties of dark green leafy vegetables. Try to boost your diet, by consuming and adding them in your preparation.
You could add your favorite leafy vegetables to the omelets. Use spinach as it pairs the best with egg.
Sandwiches or wraps
You could simply add greens such as spinach or lettuce in place of starchy processed carbs.
Adding frozen green leafy veggies such as kale, spinach, beet to your smoothie is the best introduction to eating green leafy veggies, it not only increases your intake, but also you are likely not tasting them.
Green leafy vegetables are easy to consume. All you would need to do is a little bit of planning. Try adding them to three meals per week to begin, as you progress you could find more recipes and varieties.