Our ancestors have been eating leafy green veggies back during prehistoric times. These green leafy vegetables are rich in nutrition contents including vitamins A, C, E, K, and B vitamins.
Antioxidants are also abundant in green leafy veggies. They are high in dietary fibers and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. These are just among the few nutritional and health benefits in dark green leafy veggies.
Today, many people are starting to recognize and enjoy the health benefits of dark greens. As a matter of fact, dark greens are mostly part of a daily diet. Dark green leafy vegetables are always beneficial from losing weight to simply wanting to stay healthy
What Comprise of Dark Green Leafy Veggies?
Dark green leafy vegetables include but not limited to kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, lettuces, arugula, mustard, chard, collard greens and among many others including moringa leaves. Even okra can be considered a green vegetable. Of course, it’s not the leafy part that is mostly consumed.
The USDA says that 2 to 3 servings of dark greens per week are beneficial for lowering risk of skin, stomach and breast cancers. In addition, antioxidants found in dark green veggies are also beneficial for preventing and lowering risk of heart disease.
Here’s Why You Should Eat Dark Greens
Now that you have a quick overview of the nutritional contents of dark green leafy veggies, let’s have a quick look into its health benefits.
Most people when they know about the nutritional contents, they have no idea how these nutrients can help their body maintain better health. Much like giving them ingredients for cooking a delicious recipe but have no idea how the ingredients work altogether.
This is why it is somewhat more helpful listing the actual health benefits than simply telling the nutritional contents. Below are among the common health benefits of eating dark green leafy vegetables.
A meta-analysis study published in the British Medical Journal2 says that a one and a half servings of green leafy veggies per week is associated with 14% reduction in risk of developing diabetes.
In this study, the researchers compared the efficacy between fruits and vegetable for diabetes. And, it seems they found that green leafy veggies won over other fruits and vegetables.
An earlier study3 also found similar findings;
A higher intake of vegetables, rich in fiber, antioxidants, magnesium and with a low glycemic index, was associated with a decreased risk of Type2 Diabetes.
A later study4 also supports the previous findings.
Provides DNA Protection
There is no doubt that exercise provides many health benefits from anti-aging to boosting memory. As a matter of fact, quitting to exercise in just a short period can have unhealthy impacts especially to the brain.
Exercise also protects the DNA. However, relying on exercise alone is not good. Over time as you exercise regularly, it produces free radicals, which can damage the DNA.
Fortunately, green leafy vegetables come to the rescue. Researchers at the University of Ulster finds that watercress can alleviate natural stress during exercise.
Dr. Gareth Davison, lead author of the study says;
Although we are aware of how good exercise can be for our bodies, pounding the treadmill, or lifting heavy weights can take its toll.
The increased demand on the body for energy can create a build-up of free radicals which can damage our DNA.
What we’ve found is that consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies, and allow us to enjoy the rewards of keeping fit.
Beneficial For Heart and Chronic Diseases Prevention
In Oxford’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a study5 finds more fruits and vegetable intake is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
The findings of this study are based on a 14-year follow-up period. In a different study published in the European Journal of Nutrition6, researchers recommend in their findings higher intake of fruits and vegetables in nutrition and health policies.
More fruits and vegetable intake is a preferable way in decreasing the burden of many chronic diseases in Western societies. One of the healthiest lifestyle dieting that includes fruits and veggies is the Mediterranean diet.
If you don’t have any idea where to start, get on the Mediterranean-type diet. It’s not really a diet, but a healthy way of eating. In other words, a lifestyle.
Protect and Maintain Good Eyesight
Lutein and zeaxanthin are among the beneficial compounds in dark green leafy veggies7. These two compounds are particularly beneficial for protecting and maintaining good vision. Self.com has a long list of foods rich in both lutein and zeanxanthin.
Both these compounds have a critical role to play in macular degeneration prevention. This is the most common cause of blindness due to aging. It is worth noting that both lutein and zeaxanthin occurs naturally in the eyes.
They do the filtering of harmful UV light as well as function as antioxidants. This does not mean you should fear sun exposure. Don’t because sunlight provides Vitamin D to the body. Instead, eat dark green veggies regularly.
Of course, you can also take lutein and zeaxanthin supplements as both are available in supplement form.
Additionally, lutein and zeaxanthin are not only beneficial for the eyes also for brain health8. Hence, if you’re taking supplementation to support a healthy diet, it’s not just the eyes benefit from it but the brain, as well.
Now that you know how beneficial dark green leafy vegetables are, should you focus on eating them only? Well, not a so good idea. Instead, eat a wide variety of whole foods including fruits and vegetables.
Preferably, get and eat organic fruits and vegetables.
Making The Most Of Dark Greens
Vitamin K is one of the nutrients present in dark green leafy veggies. However, the level of vitamin K in raw greens are so little. Although this does not mean it’s not enough, but what if we can further boost it?
Fortunately, there is a way through fermentation. Fermented vegetables like kimchi are high in probiotics and vitamin K2. In addition, by fermenting vegetables, it becomes more friendly to the gut.
Vitamin K is also available in supplement form. As usual, don’t solely rely on supplements as your primary source of nutrients. To make the most of it, take it as a part of a healthy eating regimen.