Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know this because our parents have been pushing this idea on us ever since we were old enough to hold a spoon. But now, rather than eating your broccoli in response to the all-purpose “Eat it ‘cause it’s good for you” exhortation, you have many more excellent—even exciting—reasons to eat more greens.
Originally, we were going to name this blog “Eat More Fruits and Veggies,” but the more we thought about it the more we realized that you’re probably already eating plenty of fruits and veggies and, if not, you at least know you should be. What we’re learning here at Best Day Ever is that leafy green vegetables are the ones we should all be consuming like crazy. Research is showing that they’re even more amazingly nutritious than we ever imagined and that just a small increase in the amount you eat can bring about some huge health benefits. In fact, leafy greens are the earth’s most nutrient-dense foods which, by a wonderful nature-made coincidence, are also incredibly high in fiber and extremely low in calories.
When you start looking for them, you’ll be surprised how many leafy greens are available at your supermarket, what a great variety of tastes and textures they offer, and how inexpensive most of them are. Here’s a short list: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and watercress.
A book that’s been making the rounds here is Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (Little Brown Publ.). You may have caught Dr. Fuhrman on one of his PBS presentations. Even a quick skimming of his books or viewing of his lectures will clue you in on his reasons for basing a healthy lifestyle on the lofty, leafy goal of consuming many more greens. Their ability to ramp up your nutrition and increase your cancer-fighting abilities and weight-loss success is almost magical. Dr. Fuhrman points out that:
- The one food shown to have a strong relationship to increased longevity is raw leafy greens.
- The more healthy greens you eat, the healthier and thinner you will become. Three cheers for that!
- Green vegetables are higher in protein than meat and deliver more calcium than milk.
- Consuming more plant protein is the key to achieving safe and successful weight loss.
Do a quick search yourself on “leafy green vegetables + nutrition” and you’ll be presented with more resources than you’d be able to track down in a year. Here are just some of the gems we uncovered as we roamed the internet:
- As a general rule: the darker the salad green, the more health benefits it offers. Start replacing anemic iceberg lettuce with spinach, romaine and other dark green leaves for an immediate boost in nutrition.
- An extra serving (half cup) of green vegetables per day can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 11%. I toss ’em into my protein smoothies and the fruit totally covers up the extra serving and you don’t even taste them.
- Studies show that one more serving or more per day of leafy greens could lead to a 9% lower risk of diabetes.
- Increase your consumption of greens by one serving per day, and when you’re middle-aged your risk of hip fracture could decrease by 45%.
- Eating three or more servings per week of greens significantly reduces the risk of stomach cancer, according to a Swedish study. Other studies suggest chances of developing breast, skin, and colon cancers are also reduced.
- Greens help keep eyes healthy and protect against cataracts and age-related blindness.
- Eating greens contributes to healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Studies showed that men who ate three or more servings of broccoli and cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables per day had a 41% reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Greens help prevent, and can even repair, damaged cells and DNA that could lead to cancer.
Try to eat about half a cup of dark leafy greens per day or three cups per week. That’s not much when you think about it. Because some of the nutrients in the greens require a bit of fat in order to be absorbed by the body, you may want to spritz your greens with some olive oil or other unsaturated good-for-you fat. I personally get plenty of fat in my diet but if you eat really cleanly, this step is important.
I’m a huge fan of kale, and I swear that an alchemist would even be impressed with the transformation that takes place when it’s marinated for 30 minutes and “massaged” in a dressing containing lemon or vinegar: the hardy plant softens into a pliable, yummy salad green. You can even use it as you would grape or cabbage leaves to enclose any number of raw or cooked fillings. I’m obsessed with kale chips (toss some olive oil on ’em, sprinkle with a little bit of salt and either bake or dehydrate them. DELICIOUS!)
And one more bonus offered by hardy leafy greens: they last much longer in the refrigerator before turning to mush. This way you’ll have plenty of time in which to graze on your greens and eventually turn into a mean green eating machine!