We all remember being told to eat our greens when we were children, but if eating your greens brings back memories of soggy cabbage and mushy peas, read on to discover why green leafy vegetables are so good for you and how you can get them into your diet in a tasty, easy way. Step in the green smoothies!
Green leafy vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are packed with iron, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid and magnesium, along with dietary fibre, potassium and a wonderful array of health-enhancing phytochemicals, such as beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
Green chemical cocktail
The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in dark green leafy vegetables, play a role in protecting the eye as they are present in high concentrations in the lens and macular region of the retina. Eating your greens will help protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts as you age. These powerful plant chemicals also boost the immune system and have been associated with prevention of heart disease.
Antioxidants to the rescue
Green veggies are packed with carotenoids, flavonoids and other powerful antioxidants that all have cancer-protective properties. Cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli pack their anti-cancer punch with indoles and isothiocyanates. All sprouts are a concentrated version of the adult plants and broccoli sprouts contain a potent dose of a substance called sulforaphane, another anticancer plant chemical, particularly preventative of hormonal related cancers. Quercetin, another bioflavonoid in your greens, has anti-inflammatory actions in the body, helping to dampen down allergies and hayfever.
Chlorophyll – the lifeblood of plants
The green pigment chlorophyll has potent health benefits and with only one atomic bond difference in the molecular structure between chlorolphyll and the haemoglobin in our blood, it has been hailed as an effective “blood builder”, helping in the production of red blood cells.
The magic of green
Chlorophyll has been shown to:
- strengthen the immune system
- enhance wound healing by reducing inflammation and inhibiting bacteria
- neutralize and deactivate carcinogens
- deodorize the body encouraging fresh breath and body odour
- remove and detoxify drugs, toxins and heavy metals from the body
- fight infection by breaking down undesirable bacteria
- improve liver function
- counteract radiation
- promote healthy intestinal flora
Greens not milk
Greens are packed with calcium and vitamin K aiding in bone health, so are an important tool in the fight against osteoporosis. (Spinach and Swiss chard are not great for calcium as their oxalic acid content blocks the uptake of calcium).
From the sweet taste of lettuce to the bitterness of rocket, the earthiness of spinach to the peppery flavour of watercress, green leafy vegetables cover a wide taste spectrum. Their colours range through varying shades of green to the bluey-green of kale to the stunning shade of purple sprouting broccoli. Old leaves are yellow and are a sign that the leaves are beyond their best.
- Bok choy
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
- Morning glory
Getting your greens in a glass
The basic green smoothie recipe consists of:
- A handful of green leafy vegetables
- Some soft fruit, such as mango or pineapple
- A banana
- Water to blend
Simply pop everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Try adding ground seeds and nuts and superfoods, such as spirulina or chlorella. You may wish to add some fresh juice for a sweeter flavour.
Blending your greens in a smoothie allows the nutrients to be taken into your bloodstream with minimum digestion, giving the body a powerhouse of nourishment without taxing the digestive enzymes. In fact, the raw leafy vegetables and fruits are packed with enzymes themselves. Enzymes are considered the life force of plants and are the reason why raw foods are so good for us.
With just one big green smoothie a day you’ll be on your way to more vibrancy, health and vitality. Your skin will glow, your eyes will shine and your friends will be green with envy!
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health & executive health adviser at The Spa Resorts.