Amazing benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are definitely in season. They are abundant at grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and at a wonderful new farm share we recently came across, Plant it Forward Farms. Since they are readily available, in this week’s blog, we wanted to highlight the extraordinary benefits of these seemingly ordinary appearing plants.

Examples of leafy green vegetables include kale, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, and collard greens. Ounce per ounce they are the most nutritious foods on this planet.

They are a wonderful source of vitamins, such as B vitamins, folate, Vitamin A, C, E, and K and many trace minerals including calcium and Iron. These vitamins keep our brain and body healthy. They reduce our risk of chronic diseases, anemia, improve our bone health, eye health, allow our blood to clot properly following an injury and so much more. But it’s important to note that these vitamins are most healthful when they come from whole plant foods and not supplements.

Perhaps, what makes these vegetables the most nutritious food on the planet is the number and variety of phytochemicals(aka phytonutrients) they contain. Phytochemicals are biologically active chemicals that plants produce to protect themselves from germs, pests and UV radiation. And, when we eat plants such as green leafy vegetables, the phytochemicals in these vegetables protect us from various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Dementia and environmental toxins(pesticides, pollution, radiation etc.) These miraculous chemicals contain powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and this is the underlying property which in part is responsible for their tremendous health benefits.

There are believed to be over 100 thousand phytochemicals present in the plant world. In today’s blog, we’ll just discuss one family of phytochemicals, the carotenoids.   Carotenoids are abundant in green leafy vegetables and vegetable with orange color. For example, the carotenoid lutein is extremely important for eye health. It prevents cataracts and age-related macular degeneration(premature blindness).

Green leafy vegetables are also rich in Nitrates. Nitrates are powerful vasodilators, i.e. they enlarge the lumen of our blood vessels allowing more blood to flow. This is perhaps another mechanism through which kale and spinach reduce the risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

We hope we have convinced you that eating green leafy vegetables is an important constituent of a healthy diet. In our next blog post, 2 weeks from today, we’ll post healthy and delicious recipes starring leafy green vegetables.

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