Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are always part of the prescription from a nutritionist.  In fact, an American doctor who turned her Multiple Sclerosis symptoms around, claimed to have consumed five cups of greens per day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc).  Dr Stephen Sinatra, a cardiologist, prescribes this to promote heart health. 

What exactly makes this so important in our diets?   They contain vitamins A, C, E and K as well as good amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc, as well as fiber, folate, micronutrients and phytochemicals that protect against disease.  Although these elements are also found in other natural foods, green leafy veggies are unique because of its high content of  chlorophyll, giving it it’s green color.  The more chlorophyll, the greener the plant. 

Chlorophyll is almost like a super anti-oxidant.  It assists the liver in it’s second phase detoxification process – the process where very toxic substances are made non-toxic and safe for excretion [1].  This single property of chlorophyll makes it work as an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and a blood purifier [2].  Because of these reasons, it is very good for strengthening the immunity system, heart and liver health and consequently health in general.

The research has already proven that leafy greens have a wide range of nutritional benefits regarding some diseases:

1.Heart disease:  Leafy greens also are good sources for nitrates, which help in the production of nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide in particular is good for vascular health as it relaxes the blood vessels to allow more blood flow and reduce hypertension. Since the 1800’s nitrates have been administered to patients with angina to dilate their arteries and increase blood flow. This is good or the prevention of heart attacks [3] and stroke [4].

2. Bladder cancer [5]

3. Type II diabetes [6], [7]

4.  Appetite control:  Because obesity is a disease of our time – one that is proven over and over very difficult to cure, finding ways to curb your appetite, could be quite useful.  See blog and [8]

5. Prevents memory loss [9]

6. Blood purification and builder [4]

7. Lung cancer [10]

8. Breast cancer [11]

So where do we find chlorophyll in our food?  In all leafy greens and leaves of root vegetables - beetroot, turnips, celery, spinach, lettuces, carrots and radishes generally having the highest levels of chlorophyll.

For leafy greens, iceberg lettuce and romaine all have a place at the table, however, it is best to make the effort to add in more of the nutrient dense dark greens.  These include greens like kale, bok choy, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens and dandelion leaves.  Seaweed is one of the best sources of chlorophyll, giving you an added bonus of iodine.

To incorporate greens in your diet is not very challenging.  In the summer time it should make up the bulk of most of your salads topping it off with homemade vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, nuts and fruit and other sweeter veggies to compensate for the bitter taste of some of the darkest ones.  Also, add it to smoothies, soups and stews to optimize the nutritional value of these dishes. 

Green leafy veggies could be steamed or sautéed until wilted or added to a stir-fry for a hot dish.  Creamed spinach or kale makes for a winning side dish for a barbeque or any cooked homemade meal. 

And after the impression is left that all is said and done about green leafy vegetables….  For those unlucky few (and they will know who they are) who have problems with oxalates (a key ingredient in greens) and people prone to kidney stones - most green leafy vegetables could be more damaging than helpful to your health.  The following list of greens will not harm you:

·        Any type of lettuce, including romaine, which is a dark leafy green

·        Sea vegetables such as dulse and kelp

·        Spirulina

·        Celery

·        Bok choy and other members of the cabbage family

·        Watercress

·        Avocado

·        Cilantro

·        Kohlrabi

·        Mint

·        Sprouts

·        Wheatgrass

Eat these to live your healthiest life ever!

 

REFERENCES

 

1. Rose, P, Ong, CN, et al. Protective Effects of Asian Green Vegetables against Oxidant Induced Cytotoxicity. World J Gastroenterol 11(48)7607-14. PMC4727240

 

2. PATEK, A. Chlorophyll and Regeneration of the Blood. Effect of Administration of Chlorophyll Derivatives to Patients with Chronic Hypochromic Anemia. Archives of Internal Medicine 57(73-84.

 

3. Pollock, RL. The Effect of Green Leafy and Cruciferous Vegetable Intake on the Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis. JRSM Cardiovasc Dis 5(2048004016661435. PMC4973479

 

4. Larsson, SC, Virtamo, J, et al. Total and Specific Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Risk of Stroke: A Prospective Study. Atherosclerosis 227(1)147-52.

 

5. Xu, C, Zeng, XT, et al. Fruits and Vegetables Intake and Risk of Bladder Cancer: A Prisma-Compliant Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Medicine (Baltimore) 94(17)e759. PMC4603065

 

6. Li, M, Fan, Y, et al. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. BMJ Open 4(11)e005497. PMC4225228

 

7. Wang, P-Y, Fang, J-C, et al. Higher Intake of Fruits, Vegetables or Their Fiber Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis. J Diabetes Investig. 7(1)56-69. 26816602

 

8. Rebello, CJ, O'Neil, CE, et al. Gut Fat Signaling and Appetite Control with Special Emphasis on the Effect of Thylakoids from Spinach on Eating Behavior. Int J Obes (Lond) 39(12)1679-88.

 

9. Kang, JH, Ascherio, A, et al. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Cognitive Decline in Aging Women. Ann Neurol 57(5)713-20.

 

10. Tarrazo-Antelo, AM, Ruano-Ravina, A, et al. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Lung Cancer Risk: A Case-Control Study in Galicia, Spain. Nutr Cancer 66(6)1030-7.

 

11. Farvid, MS, Chen, WY, et al. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Adolescence and Early Adulthood and Risk of Breast Cancer: Population Based Cohort Study. BMJ 353(i2343. PMC5068921