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When we were kids, we were told (forced?) to eat our vegetables. Even Popeye, the popular cartoon sailor from our childhood, showed us that when he ate spinach, he’d grow muscles, defeat all his enemies with a single punch and save the love of his life or whoever it was in trouble.

This may have encouraged some of us but still, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and all those other green leafy vegetables tasted oh so awful - and we didn’t grow muscles the way Popeye did. So what was the point?

Most of us on reaching adulthood have become aware of the need for eating those leafy greens and quite clearly, it’s not because we’ll grow instant muscles like Popeye - but because they’re filled with so many nutrients. You might have even grown a taste for these greens and salads as you grew up. Just think about how tasty your last crunchy salad was!  

However, if you still don’t like the taste, these reasons might make you change your mind and see why eating greens are such a big deal.

#1 Fibre

If you ever find yourself having trouble with your digestive health and bowel movements, you’ll likely benefit from increasing the amount of fibre in your diet. Greens can do just this. Fibre also helps in weight maintenance and even weight loss. More importantly, it slows down sugar absorption. This is what particularly makes greens a great option for those with diabetes.

#2 Calcium

Yes! Calcium is not just found in milk and dairy products as many of you will liekly know. If you’re lactose intolerant but still want to get your daily dose of calcium, eating vegetables is the right choice for you! Calcium is needed in our bodies to help our bones stay healthy and strong. It helps with our muscular, urinary and central nervous systems. And if we don’t get our suggested daily dose, our likelihood of conditions such as osteoporosis increase. Accidents resulting in fractures are also more likely for those that don’t consume their recommended daily intake of calcium.  

#3 A Whole Lot of Vitamins

With vitamins A, C, E and K, leafy green veggies are a fantastic source of nutrients.  

  • Vitamin A: for immune and reproductive system health, cell growth, heart and kidney maintenance and vision. For a Vitamin A hit, try kale and spinach.

  • Vitamin C: contains antioxidants for immune system health in order to prevent common respiratory disorders such as the cold or flu. Vitamin C improves your skin’s health and lets your body absorb iron better. Cabbage, spinach and kale are your best sources for this vitamin.

  • Vitamin E: for protecting cells against free radical damage, for improving immune system function and for blood vessel health. Your best green sources for this vitamin are spinach, mustard greens, beet greens and Swiss chard.

  • Vitamin K: found in in spinach, kale and lettuce, Vitamin K assists in our body’s processes of blood clotting, so when wounded, we don’t bleed excessively. It’s also imperative for heart and bone health.   

#4 Iron

Our body needs iron not because it turns us into Iron Man (pun intended), but because our body needs it to oxygenate blood and deliver it to the rest of our body. Iron deficiency makes us weak, causes frequent headaches, reduces our appetite and results in a rapid heartbeat. We are also more prone to infection if we have an iron deficiency. Your antidote? Green leafy veggies, of course!  

#5 Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are specific components that are present in plant foods and are essential due to their wide-ranging benefits to our bodies. They protect against disease and lessen the risk of heart diseases, cancer and macular degeneration.

There are also six major types of phytonutrients:

  • Carotenoids – a class of orange, yellow or red fat-soluble pigments that act as an antioxidant.

  • Ellagic Acid – a phenol antioxidant that helps protect against cancer.

  • Flavonoids (bioflavonoids) – plant pigments that help reduce the risk of asthma, coronary heart disease and selected cancers.

  • Resveratrol – has a multitude of biological activities, including anticancer, antioxidant, cardio-protective, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, chemopreventative, neuroprotective and immunomodulation.

  • Glucosinolates – sulphur-containing antioxidants that protect against certain cancers and coronary heart disease.

  • Phytoestrogens – naturally occurring compounds that mimic oestrogen and can lower the risk of endometrial cancer and bone loss in women.

With such promising evidence that greens are not your ordinary group of vegetables, isn’t it time you upped yours today? Give them a go (again!) in your salad, as part of your meal (steamed, stir fried or slow cooked), in your smoothie or smoothie bowl or alone, with a drizzle of your favourite healthy sauce (tahini, cold pressed olive oil, tamari, a homemade vinaigrette or even with a handful of roasted seeds for some added crunch). Go on, your body deserves the added nutrient boost.