Nature’s greens offer up a wide variety of essential nutrients that can help you build muscle, lose weight or fight candy bar guilt. Green foods are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants as well as the vitamins, minerals and fiber most modern diets lack. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), less than nine percent of American adults are getting the recommended five to six daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Inspired to make a change? Here are 10 amazing green foods to get to know:
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is famous for its high concentrations of vitamins A, C and E along with beta carotene and selenium that fight inflammatory and cancerous agents in the body while phytonutrients and chlorophyll protect the skin and brain. The high levels of potassium and folate also support the central nervous system and can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Try steaming spinach and adding it to soup.
Bluish-green in color, kale is a unique green closely linked to the cabbage family (Brassica oleracia). Just one serving of kale contains the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) of vitamins A, C and K along with 5 grams of fiber minerals like calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. The vitamin K in kale promotes normal blood clotting, a strong immune system and bone health. Add kale to a salad, blend it into a smoothie or bake kale chips.
Arugula (Eruca sativa) is a spicier green that’s a great source of calcium as well as vitamins A, C and K. The beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthanin found in kale are beneficial in preventing cancer and macular degeneration. Another interesting use? Eating arugula can also help relieve a cough or sore throat. You can eat arugula in a salad or try topping a pizza with it for a peppery bite.
Also known as Arthrospira platensis, spirulina is blue-green algae found in the tropical lakes of Asia, Africa, Central America and South America. Spirulina provides vitamins A, B and K and minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium. Spirulina also contains many phytochemicals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids which can also help reduce the risk of cancer, birth defects, infertility and certain neurological disorders. Studies have shown eating spirulina can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides promoting a healthy heart and weight. You can buy spirulina supplements or dried chips.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) was first introduced to Americans by Italian immigrants and became popular in the 1920s. Broccoli has high levels of the top three antioxidants -- beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Broccoli contains high levels of glucosinolates, which can reduce the risk of prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers, according to Science Daily. On top of that, broccoli also offers a wealth of minerals, including zinc, magnesium and manganese. Steaming broccoli is the best way to cook broccoli while retaining all of its health benefits.
Chard (Beta vulgaris) was cherished by the ancient Greeks for its medicinal properties and contains 13 different polyphenol antioxidants. The leaves contain the flavonoid syringic acid which recent studies have shown can help regulate blood sugar levels. Many of the betalain pigments in Swiss chard provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. With a good supply of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, chard is one of the top vegetables for supporting bone health. Leafy greens like Swiss chard should be boiled and consumed at least twice a week.
Collard greens (a member of the Brassica oleracea family) have been used as a remedy for gout and bronchitis and to help blood circulation. According to Dr. Travis Stork of "The Doctors," one cup of collard greens has the same amount of calcium as seven cups of brussels sprouts. To maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis, women need at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day, which is why he recommends collard greens. These greens also offer a great amount of vitamin C and fiber. Collards typically cook for one to two hours, steaming or braising, to soften.
Brussels sprouts (a member of the Brassica oleracea family) are especially good for pregnant women because they’re packed with folic acid. They contain high amounts of vitamins C and K, along with fiber, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. As a close relative to broccoli, brussels sprouts are also being recognized for their cancer-fighting properties. They offer three anti-inflammatory components and several enzymes essential for the body’s natural detox system and cancer prevention. Try roasting them in the oven to prevent soggy sprouts.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) has been used as an herbal medicine for more than 1,500 years and is a concentrated food source of beta carotene, calcium, fiber, iron and vitamins like B, C and K. Alfalfa, among other cereal grasses like wheat, barley and oats, is a good food source of protein and other trace minerals. Alfalfa and other cereal grasses act as main ingredients in supplements to promote “healthy flora” bacteria which live in the body’s intestines and digestive tract.
Avocados (Persea Americana), also known as alligator pears, come from avocado trees and are native to central Mexico. A great source of monounsaturated fats, avocado can help lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. They also contain high amounts of vitamin E and lutein -- natural antioxidants well known for promoting eye health -- contain 35 percent more potassium than a banana and are rich in vitamin K. Avocados are most often used as a topping, either sliced or made into a dip, like guacamole.
We love our green foods raw, cooked or blended into a tasty green drink. How do you like your green foods?
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