Leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula, and chard are the undeniable superstars of the food world. Low in calories, yet high in fiber, vitamins. The top-rated green powerhouse vegetables are watercress, chard, beet greens, spinach, and chicory. But other vegetables are also strong contenders, including Chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, and leaf lettuce. Understanding the health benefits of dark green vegetables may help inspire you to up your intake.
Nutritionists agree that the health benefits are substantial. In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that calculated nutrient density for almost 50 fruits and vegetables, 17 of the top 20 were leafy greens. Research shows that a diet that contains plenty of leafy greens is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, macular degeneration, and type 2 diabetes. They may also help to keep memory sharp as a person ages.
Health Benefits: Dark green vegetables deliver a bonanza of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Dark green leafy vegetables are among the most nutritious. But almost any veggie that is dark green in color will add value to your diet. The family of dark green leafy vegetables delivers many nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium.
Brain Function the leafy green-eaters had the memory equivalent of someone 11 years younger! This was even true after adjusting for other factors including lifestyle, education, and overall health. Organic vegetables contain high levels of folate (B9). B vitamins have been shown to boost the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that transfer messages from the brain to the rest of the body) in the brain. Folate is found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce as well as in lemons, bananas, and melons.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, and it is a key nutrient in many dark green vegetables. According to government sources, one of the most common sources of vitamin K in the U.S. diet is spinach (along with broccoli and iceberg lettuce). Other green leafy sources of vitamin K are collards, kale, and turnip greens.2 Recent research has provided evidence that this vitamin may be even more important than we once thought and many people do not get enough of it.
Heart protectors Leafy greens contribute to a healthy heart in a number of ways. They contain potassium, which lowers high blood pressure; fibre, which keeps cholesterol in check; and folate, which protects against heart disease and stroke. Their extensive range of antioxidants can also protect against free-radical damage, a key contributor to atherosclerosis. Research shows that a diet that contains plenty of leafy greens is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, macular degeneration, and type 2 diabetes. They may also help to keep memory sharp as a person ages.
Cancer Protector Studies confirm that higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables are linked to a lower risk of many cancers, including those of the bladder, breast, bowel, stomach, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, prostate and kidneys. These green vegetables are rich in unique compounds called glucosinolates, which break down to form cancer-busting compounds, and they are packed with cancer-fighting flavonoids and carotenoids.