Going Green – it’s not just about being kind to the environment. It’s about getting more dark leafy greens into your diet that nourish your body with essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to help prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease. Because of their high profile nutrition status, Canada’s Food Guide recommends that people eat a minimum ½ cup serving every day. www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide.
Dark leafy greens are among those that offer the greatest protection against heart disease. Some “greens” boast a more impressive nutritional profile than others – a good rule of thumb: the darker the greens, the greater the nutrition. Some of the more hard-working greens include spinach, collards, kale, and rapini. In addition to being full of vitamins, dark leafy greens are naturally low in calories, salt, and fat and are a good source of fibre.
Greens… Good For You From The Inside Out
Dark leafy greens are one of nature’s “super foods.” Here are some of the ways these nutrient-dense greens are good for you from the inside out with links to references in case you want to read more.
Full of vitamins and minerals
- Contain folate, an important B vitamin that plays a role in heart health (Beck 2002), and can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. In addition to eating foods rich in folate it is recommended that women of child bearing age take a folic acid supplement daily Source: http://www.motherisk.org/women/folicAcid.jsp
- Source of vitamin C which is an important antioxidant that protects our bodies from diseases like cancer and heart disease. People with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood appear to have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke (Beck 2002). Vitamin C may reduce how long a cold lasts or how severe the cold symptoms become.). It’s also needed to keep bones, teeth and gums healthy Source: Dietitians of Canada, 2008
- Rich in vitamin K, which helps cells throughout your body take in calcium. It is particularly useful for those who need to boost their calcium intake (osteoporosis) or have hypothyroidism conditions. Most Asian cultures don’t consume much dairy products, but they do eat lots of greens which helps them with their calcium intake. Vitamin K is also known to slow the development of insulin resistance which can often be a pre-cursor to diabetes.Sources: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/hypoparathyroidism- 000091.htm; Sources: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/131033.php
- Source of calcium which is a mineral needed for healthy bones and teeth as well as for normal muscle contraction, blood clotting and nerve impulses. Bones reach their peak mass between the ages of 19-30. One in four women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weaker and break more easily. Therefore it is important to eat foods that provide calcium. Source: www.osteoporosis.ca.
- Source of iron which is the nutrient needed to make hemoglobin. Hemobglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to all the cells in your body. Not eating enough foods containing iron can put you at risk for iron deficiency. Source: Dietitians of Canada, 2008
- Source of potassium: Eating a healthy diet that includes foods high in potassium and low in sodium may help to reduce high blood pressure. Leafy green vegetables are a source of potassium. Source: Health Canada
Rich in phytochemicals
High in fibre
- Source of fibre which is essential to good digestion, bowel health, blood sugar and weight control. Leafy green vegetables are a source of potassium. Source: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/
- Leafy greens contain very few carbohydrates, much of which is offset by its high fibre content -so much so that the leafy greens are generally considered a “freebie” vegetable in most low-carbohydrate diets. Source: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dark-leafy-greens
Help with Cancer Prevention
- The nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in dark, leafy greens have also been known to aid in helping alleviate following conditions: acne, arthritis, cancer, cataract and eye disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, tooth decay and gum disease.
- Lactating women (before and after pregnancy) are recommended to eat dark, leafy greens as they’re rich in vitamins A, C, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients also help ensure a plentiful milk supply for your baby. Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/nutrition-articles/superfoods-superfoods-for-a-super-pregnancy-503629.html
- TheNurse’s Health Study demonstrated that regularly eating vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables or green leafy vegetables resulted in overall improvements in memory. The more vegetables women ate in their 50s and 60s, the less likely they were to experience memory loss in their 70s and beyond. Source http://www.channing.harvard.edu/nhs
Reputable Websites/Books prepared by Kelly Fleming, RD, RN
10 Steps to Health Eating
By Leslie Beck RD
Foods that Fight Cancer: Preventing Cancer through Diet
By Richard Beliveau, Denis Gingras.
*Important Foot Note:
*Greens are a source of vitamin K which plays a role in healthy blood clotting. Individuals
taking the anticoagulant medication Coumadin should consult their doctors before increasing
the amount of leafy greens they eat.
Content Reference & Fast Track to Online Links
Age Related Macular Degeneration of Canada www.amdcanada.com
American Institute for Cancer Research
Cancer Society of Canada
Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, 2007
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Leslie Beck. (2002). 10 Steps to Healthy Eating.Toronto ON: Penguin Group
Nurse’s Health Study Annual Newsletter Volume 14, 2007
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH. U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
NIH Publication No. 06-4082. Revised April 2006.