No diet is truly optimized without the benefits of dark leafy greens.
These plant foods are truly a miracle of nature, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals; they also are low in calories so you can eat plenty of them without gaining weight.
But the most important part is how they work to improve health. Leafy greens can be eaten in sandwiches, be part of casseroles and can be eaten in numerous types of salads.
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic.
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes. Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food, getting some sunshine, and purging unhelpful thinking is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.
You want a quality long life.
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What are leafy greens?
I have wanted to write about this topic for a long time.
The way I see it, if we were still hunter/gatherers we would be more or less hibernating all winter.
So one of the first fresh foods we would find in spring are the leafy greens.
Pretty much everywhere you go in the world, you will find some type of dark green leafy veg.
I used to think that people who were pushing dark green leafy veggies were trying to get people to eat more of something they did not like.
I mean, how many people do you hear of who do not like vegetables in general?
But while eating vegetables give us nutrients and minerals, none are more powerful than the benefits of leafy greens.
And they are widely available, so almost everyone has access.
There are both common and relatively uncommon leafy green vegetables available to you.
Most you can get at the produce department at your local supermarket but others you may have to grow in containers in your house or in a garden or visit your local health food store.
Types of dark leafy greens:
- Red and Green Leaf and Romaine Lettuce
- Edible Green Leaves: dandelion, red clover, plantain, watercress and chickweed
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
You can also start growing leafy greens at home, thanks to products like the Aero Garden. (I have one of these on my wish list).
And many people are setting up their own small hydroponic systems, like the ones in this article by Square Mile Farms.
How to Store Your Dark Leafy Greens
You can find plenty of information online about how to keep your leafy greens fresh for weeks.
And I get why you might want to.
However many of the tender green leafy veggies are best consumed in 3 days or less.
If you are eating leafy greens for the nutrients, try to buy and eat them on the same day if possible.
This is where growing your own comes in handy.
But if you are buying them for smoothies, you can wash and spin dry them and then freeze in measured amounts.
Try to avoid cutting your greens until you are ready to use them.
Cutting them starts the oxidization process, which makes them decay faster.
And as much as possible, allow for air flow. So don’t cram them into a plastic bag.
Wash and then dry them well
If you are not using them right away, avoid washing them. The excess moisture can make them rot faster.
If you are prepping for the next days and need the time, go ahead and wash & dry them before storing:
- Wash your greens in fresh water ( I like to fill my sink half full of water and then I agitate them a bit to get the dirt off)
- Add them to a salad spinner and spin them to get most of the water off.
- Be sure that they are quite dry, as excess water will cause them to decay faster.
- Leave them on a dry kitchen towel and allow to air dry a bit before storing if they still seem damp
- This goes for leafy herbs like parsley and coriander as well.
- Then wrap in paper towel or a kitchen towel and store in a zipper bag in your fridge.
You can store herbs upright in a glass of water
Also handy if you are prepping them for use in a day or two.
Rinse them well and only use enough water in the glass for the stems. Try to avoid putting the leaves in the water, as this causes faster decay.
Use a fresh glass and fresh water every couple of days to keep them fresh longer.
The Benefits of Dark Leafy Greens
It seems that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.
Leafy greens contain disease preventing plant-based substances that may help protect from diabetes, heart disease and even various cancer mainly because of the powerful antioxidants they offer.
Kale for example, is a great source of vitamins A C, K, calcium and also supplies folate and potassium.
These vegetables have so few calories that they hardly even count and lettuce, kale and spinach can be eaten in abundance.
These are also high fiber foods and so they keep you full longer and allow you to eat less.
Another benefit of the fiber is that it helps to stabilize blood sugars, and that results in less out of control cravings for sweets and other junk.
Different leafy greens have different properties but all of them can be considered good for you.
They contain vitamin K, which is essential in helping the body to properly clot blood.
Vitamin K also helps prevent several conditions related to advancing age and can help prevent bone loss, arterial calcifications, kidney damage and heart disease.
Just a single cup of most leafy green vegetables will provide you with more than enough vitamin K for your system per day.
Kale is especially helpful, providing about six times the recommended intake of vitamin K.
You can actually lower your cholesterol by eating leafy green vegetables.
The bile acids produced by the liver which help fats digest from the gastrointestinal tract are bound by the fiber in the leafy greens.
The bile acids pass through the body along with the residue of leafy green vegetables, forcing the liver to use up even more cholesterol to make bile acids.
This reduces your endogenous cholesterol level.
There was one study in the Nutrition Research journal that indicated that slightly steamed kale and mustard greens did the best job of binding bile acids.
Leafy green vegetables are good for the eyes.
The best leafy greens to eat for eye health are mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens because they are high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Carotenoids help filter the high energy light caused by sun and therefore prevent sun-induced cataracts.
These carotenoids also improve overall visual acuity.
A cup of raw escarole can help your body by adding pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5.
The B vitamins together help carbohydrates break down into glucose to be used for cellular fuel.
The body cannot store B vitamins each day so you need to find a daily source for these vitamins.
What better way than to incorporate escarole in your diet.
Calcium For Bone Health
Leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of calcium.
It’s the calcium that gives these foods their slightly bitter taste.
While leafy greens do not give you alone the amount of calcium you need in one day (about a thousand milligrams of calcium per day for women between 30 and 50), they provide easily absorbable kinds of calcium.
A half a cup of dandelion greens will give you about 75 mg of calcium, while mustard greens can give you 55 mg calcium.
Considering that these are virtually fat free foods they give high fat dairy foods as a source of calcium a run for their money.
Prevent Colon Cancer
Kale and mustard greens can help prevent colon cancer by being part of the group of vegetables that includes cabbage and broccoli.
In a study in one dietetic journal, those people that ate more of these leafy greens suffered a lower risk of developing colon cancer.
How to Eat More Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens can be eaten:
- Raw in salads
- Added to sandwiches and wraps instead of lettuce. You get a nice dark green pop of color and nutrients.
- If you are inclined, you can turn Kale into kale chips. Try this recipe from Food Network.
- Many people add leafy greens to smoothies for extra nutrition.
- Turn a supply of basil leaves into pesto
Leafy greens can be steamed and mixed with things like herbs, other vegetables, or added to stir-fry.
Generally, it is advisable to have as little heat applied to these vegetables as possible to keep their nutritional content intact.
Kale and spinach both are at risk for overcooking very fast because they cook so quickly.
- Add them to soups, like Italian Wedding soup, right before serving.
- Ditto for stir-fry’s.
- You can take chopped leafy greens and add them to spaghetti sauce. This is a great way to hide veggies from picky eaters.
A good rule of thumb when cooking is to only steam to a bright color, such as the case with broccoli.
Once it turns a dark green color it is likely overcooked and has lost valuable nutrients.
I noticed a lot of general health improvements when I made the decision to seek out and eat local, fresh, seasonal leafy greens. I am sure that the fresh nutrients really gave my health a boost, which of course is what they are for.
If you are on keto diet, but have not added leafy greens to your menus, now is a great time to start. Eat them in spring and summer to improve health the easy way.
If you are interested in how I do Keto, please check out my FEARLESS KETO DIET KIT: get recipes, a shopping list, tips, and a planner to set goals, track progress, and success tips.
This kit is all the help you need to get started eating Keto diet to lose weight and there is nothing else like it anywhere else.
If you are not quite ready to go all-in, then please take this simple food list and quick start guide to see if keto diet is the right fit for your life.
Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.
Eat the best food that you can afford to give your body the building blocks it needs for optimal health, longevity, and looking good for as long as possible 😉
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Until next time, here’s to our health!