do you know your greens?
Everybody knows that a typical healthy diet should be low in fat and sugars; high in minerals, vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals, while at the same time, provide a sufficient amount of protein.
Leafy greens provide just that! Green vegetables are not only low in fat and calories, they are also packed with vast varieties of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and disease-fighting phytochemicals that are so vast, nutrition experts are still trying to uncover all of their goodness.
If the word “folate” sounds like “foliage” to you, it is not a coincidence. These words share a common root (the Latin word folium, meaning "leaf"), which helps remind us that leafy greens are an excellent source of folate.
Pregnant women with dietary folate deficiency have an increased risk of developing fetus with neural tube defects – one of the main contributing factors of abnormal babies and the loss of pregnancy.
Folate can also reduce your risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and memory loss. It also contributes to the production of serotonin, which may help ward off depression and improve mood.
Folate is one of many nutrients necessary for the production of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Along with iron, copper, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, a deficiency of folate can impair blood cell production.
Vitamin A is important for the maintenance of normal vision, the immune system, and reproductive system. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.
However it is equally important to note that plant sources of beta-carotene (also known as pro-vitamin A) are the best way to get your vitamin A fix, as extremely high doses of vitamin A from supplements can be toxic and can lead to bone, liver, and neural disorders as well as birth defects.
The human body is naturally endowed with the ability to efficiently convert beta-carotene from food to vitamin A as when it is needed. In other words, plant sources of beta-carotene are completely safe because it will not lead to vitamin A toxicity.
Millions of children around the world have an increased risk of blindness, and other illnesses because of inadequate dietary vitamin A from green leafy vegetables.
Leafy greens are a major source of carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Vegetables are natural source of vitamin B complex. B vitamins are water soluble, which means the body does not retain them, so you will need to replenish B vitamins daily.
Leafy greens are a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a key role in helping blood to clot. Inadequate vitamin K can lead to cardiovascular disease, bone fragility, and the calcification of arteries and kidneys. A cup (palm sized) raw serving of any of the leafy greens has at least your daily requirement of K, with kale providing more than six times your needs.
Everybody knows that calcium is vital for bone health. The slightly bitter taste of many leafy greens is a good sign – it reflects their high levels of calcium. The high level of vitamin K in greens also makes them important for the production of osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have reduced risk of kidney stones and bone loss.
Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting plant chemicals called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, available only from a plant based diet, can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, regulate cell reproduction and helps protect the DNA from oxidative stress.