Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It is a day for green clovers, green beer, and green clothing but what about green vegetables?
“Eat your vegetables.” Does this sound familiar? Maybe you remember hearing this as a child. While some of us probably felt forced and ate it to get that dessert, some of us actually liked them. As we got older, we started to see that there were benefits to eating our vegetables as well as our fruits. But now that we do not have anyone telling us eat your vegetables, are we really eating them like we should?
Vegetables as well as fruits are promoted as healthy as they provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents. To get into the green spirit of the day, let’s focus on green vegetables. They are low in calories, may help manage your weight, and may even be able to lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Here is a short list of greens and their benefits:
Spinach- If you eat spinach you already know you can be strong like Popeye. Although you might not get strong as soon as you eat a handful of spinach, you do get benefits from leafy green. Spinach can help with health issues from age-related eye problems to anemia and Alzheimer’s. It is low in sodium and high in potassium which may help to control blood pressure.
Kale- It is rich in vitamin A, C, E, and K. It also contains calcium and potassium. Although it does have a bitter flavor, it can be paired with something sweet for a more palatable taste.
Chard- This plant is in the same family as the beets and has colorful stems. This plant’s nutrients are good for your brain and bones. It is also rich in iron.
Romaine- The rule of thumb with greens is the darker the better and although romaine lettuce is not in the darker green spectrum it is still better than iceberg. It has vitamin A, calcium, folate, and vitamin C.
Dark leafy green vegetables also provide vitamin K with health benefits that include helping to prevent against inflammatory diseases and protecting bones from osteoporosis. This is especially helpful for women because we are more susceptible to the development of osteoporosis. Broccoli, bok choy, and mustard are also rich in vitamin B, which promotes heart health and helps prevent certain birth defects.
To be lean you want to eat green. Not only do green leafy vegetables provide all the benefits mentioned but they help maintain healthy body weight. They are low in calories and glycemic index (a measure of how much a food increases your blood sugar levels). A diet low in glycemic index has been found to promote weight loss. Green leafy vegetables also add fiber to your diet which helps regulate the digestive system and gives you a sense of fullness. Now many people think it is expensive to eat healthy and buying vegetables is not in their budget. This is because you believe they must be organic. Although organic vegetables have less pesticide it does not mean that non-organic vegetables are not healthy. Adding vegetables to your meals makes for a more balanced and healthy diet.
What is the best way to enjoy these vegetables? Do you get better benefits if you cook them or eat them raw? Cooking or eating them raw both provide benefits. When you cooked them there is a decrease in their vitamin C content but there is an increase in antioxidant activities. When you eat them raw you will provide your body with optimum levels of vitamin C and folate. For this reason, you want to mix it up - you can make a salad, add them to soups, eggs, wrap it up, or steam them.
On this day when we celebrate St. Patrick and wear green to avoid a pinch, remember to eat green to avoid an inch!
Cynthia Morales completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness at Long Beach State University. She loves promoting healthy lifestyle changes and helping people through their own journey to help them reach their wellness goals.