Go with Greens

Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables are some of the most potent medicinal foods in the world.

| January / February 2018

  • Green vegetables are complex packages of health-promoting compounds that lead to a thriving body.
    Photo by iStock/RoBeDeRo
  • It's a nutritional fact that vegetables are the foods most likely to help prevent chronic disease.
    Photo by iStock/Lilechka75
  • Apples and collard greens mix for the perfect blend of earthy and sweet.
    Photo by iStock/MonaMakela
  • Spinach is easy to throw into smoothies and salads, and its nutritional value can hardly be beaten.
    Photo by iStock/knape
  • Kale deserves all the healthy hype it's been given in the last decade.
    Photo by iStock/bhofack2
  • Though discussed less often, broccoli can challenge kale head-to-head in nutritional potency.
    Photo by iStock/LauriPatterson
  • Chop up some romaine, kale and fibrous veggies at the beginning of the week to make healthful lunchtime salads.
    Photo by iStock/merc67
  • The mild taste of greens such as baby spinach, baby kale and collards make them perfect to hide in a smoothie.
    Photo by iStock/Foxys_forest_manufacture
  • Cranberries, bacon, syrup and Brussels sprouts are an uncommon combination, but there's no denying their deliciousness.
    Photo by iStock/TheCrimsonMonkey
  • An easy kale saute makes the perfect Italian side dish.
    Photo by iStock/Yuri_Arcurs

Unassuming, quiet and easy to overlook, green leafy vegetables are the Clark Kent of the vegetable world. And just like Clark, these vegetables’ hidden abilities transform them into true superheroes, with the power to disarm disease and restore function to the body. As I’ve studied nutrition, health and disease prevention over the last 25 years, I keep coming back to the same simple fact: Vegetables are the foods that are most likely to help us prevent chronic disease. Epidemiology shows that the more produce humans include in their daily fare, the lower their risk for all sorts of diseases, especially the ailments that most plague the industrialized world: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, stroke and dementia.

So what makes green vegetables so potent? There’s no simple answer to this question. Green vegetables are complex packages of health-promoting, disease-fighting compounds that lead to a thriving body. In fact, while our knowledge about nutrition continues to grow, there are still thousands of unidentified compounds in green vegetables, many of which likely make a significant impact on overall health. This is why focusing on real food, not only supplements, is critical to health. No supplement can offer the symphony of nutrients found in kale or Brussels sprouts. Even supplements made from dehydrated whole foods lack the element of fiber, which leads to weight and blood sugar stabilization, improved satiety, reduced inflammation through the alteration of gut bacteria and more.

Each year through Vibrance Nutrition, my fitness and nutrition consultancy, I host a 30-Day Greens Challenge for my clients. During the month, I email daily recipes, tips and encouragement to help participants consume their daily three cups of green vegetables. We also share feedback and ideas on a Facebook group. Each year, participants consistently report that the increase in greens provides more energy, better moods and improved digestion. They find by focusing their nutrition goals on this one single step — eating enough green vegetables every day — they see a significant improvement in their quality of life in just 30 days.

If I haven’t yet fully convinced you of the importance of these vegetables, let’s take a look at some of the science behind greens intake and various chronic ailments.

Greens and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, and eating greens is associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Many identified compounds in green leafy vegetables contribute to this risk reduction, including fiber, magnesium, potassium and multiple antioxidants. Certain types of soluble fibers can help reduce circulating cholesterol levels. These fibers bind bile acids in the digestive tract, forcing them out of the body and lowering the body’s supply. In turn, this forces the body to use cholesterol to make more bile acids, thus lowering circulating cholesterol levels. Fiber also feeds beneficial bacteria, crowding out pathogenic species that can contribute to systemic inflammation and subsequent cellular damage, which may lead to plaque deposits in the arteries. High dietary potassium and magnesium intake is also associated with lower blood pressure, and elevated blood pressure is an independent risk factor for heart disease.

1/23/2018 3:28:15 PM

Is there a recipe for the pasta dish with greens in the cast iron pan?

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