Eat your greens!
Seven vegetables you should be eating every week
A familiar catch-cry from parents is “eat your greens”. As children we would often turn our noses up at the green stuff that appeared on our plates, but it seems mother was right. Greens are fantastic for your health and it is recommended that adults consume at least three cups of leafy green veggies every week.
Dark leafy greens come from a variety of plant families including brassica (kale and rocket) and amaranth (spinach and silverbeet). Green leafy vegetables are nutrient-dense and a great source of antioxidants. They can be enjoyed raw or cooked and are full of fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as plant-based substances that offer protection from heart disease and diabetes.
Here are seven green leafy vegetables you should try to incorporate into your diet:
Considered a wonder food and touted as one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, kale is a powerhouse of goodness and nutrition with vitamins A, C, and K, and a good amount of calcium for a vegetable. Kale supplies folate, potassium and sulphur containing phytonutrients, carotenoids and flavonoids. Kale is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin compounds that are critical for eye health. It has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Often erroneously called spinach, silverbeet is identifiable by its stems, stalks and the veins on its leaves. It does contain oxalates, which are slightly reduced by cooking and can bind to calcium, a concern for people prone to kidney stones. Silverbeet is a good source of iron, vitamins K, A and C and calcium. It is full of antioxidants and the vitamins within it help to prevent inflammation. Silverbeet contains potassium, which helps to maintain blood sugar levels plus a high fibre content which is beneficial in reducing blood cholesterol. It is great for skin health due to the role that vitamins A and C play in the production of collagen. The presence of magnesium assists with hypertension and cardiovascular disease. It is also beneficial for anaemia, because of its iron content. Silverbeet also houses B complex vitamins, which aid tiredness and depression.
Low in kilojoules, high in vitamins and considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, spinach is full of vitamins A and C and folate (important in pregnancy). It contains more than a dozen individual flavonoid compounds, which work together as cancer-fighting antioxidants, neutralising free radicals in the body. Magnesium-rich it is excellent for improving blood-pressure.
A nutritional superstar providing a rich source of vitamins C and A, potassium and folate, broccoli contains high levels of potassium for nervous system health and muscle growth. It is beneficial for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis because of its stores of calcium and vitamin K. Broccoli contains immune system boosters such as beta-carotene, zinc and selenium. It contains lutein which can slow down, or prevent the thickening of arteries in the human body, helping fight against heart disease and stroke. Lutein also helps prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Broccoli is high in fibre, which promotes digestion, prevents constipation, maintains blood sugar and curbs overeating.
Red and Green Leaf and Cos Lettuce
These all feature high doses of vitamin A and offer some folate. The darker the lettuce leaf, the more nutrition it has, making red leaf slightly healthier than green. Lettuces with red leaves contain minerals essential for your body to regulate your heartbeat. One cup of red leaf lettuce contains 9 milligrams of calcium, it also contains iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, choline, beta-carotene, vitamin A, lutein and vitamin K.
Although paler in colour than other leafy greens, this cruciferous vegetable is a great source of vitamin C, as well as fibre, potassium, and other nutrients. Cabbage also has the fewest calories and least fat of any vegetable. Cabbage can lower your cholesterol, especially if steamed. The fibre in cabbage binds with bile acids which are then more easily eliminated, lowering your cholesterol levels. Cabbage in general, but Savoy cabbage in particular, is an especially good source of sinigrin, which has been identified as a cancer-preventative in relation to bladder, colon and prostate cancer.
Bok Choy is a low carb vegetable packed with both vitamin A and C. Bok Choy is antioxidant rich, especially beta carotene which benefits eye health. It has lots of vitamin A, C and K, in fact one cup of bok choy contains about half your daily requirements of each of these vitamins. It is also rich in folate and vitamin B6. For those who don't eat dairy products, bok choy is an important source of calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and aids in controlling blood pressure.