1. Weight Control. Leafy greens are extremely low in calories, yet super high in nutrients. Make them the base of your lunch and dinner and weight control can be breeze.
When I had a weight problem years ago and joined weight watchers, I learned that there are some kinds of vegetables that you can eat pounds of and still lose weight. As an over-eater, this was great news to me! While on weight watchers I’d cook two-pound bags of vegetables in a large pot and eat the whole thing. Greens are among the vegetables you can eat in unlimited quantities and still lose weight. Three cups of most kinds of greens contain less than 100 calories. I lost 20 pounds in a few months.
Of course, you can’t add high calorie ingredients like butter and creamy dressings, but you can season with herbs and spices, lemon, and low calories salad dressings.
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If you’re trying to lose weight, but unable to master portion control, do consider satiating your need to chew and swallow with hefty helpings of greens as part of your meals.
Try them like this:
RAW: Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or lemon and a little (no more than one tablespoon) olive oil to flavor them. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and crushed pepper
COOKED: Boil the greens in fat free reduced sodium chicken broth or water and add some chopped garlic and lemon juice. Cook until the leaves are tender.
Serve with broiled, or baked chicken, or fish and a baked sweet potato, or some brown rice.
2. Youthful Skin. Leafy greens like Kale, Spinach and Swiss Chard contain antioxidants including beta carotene, which helps renew and repair your skin.
I was traveling recently and did an experiment. Usually when I take the red-eye from LA to New York and get no sleep, when I arrive, my skin looks sallow and scary. On my last trip, before leaving, I ate a pound of greens that I’d prepared with chopped garlic and a bit of olive oil.
The next morning, instead of looking like the zombie I usually do after an overnight flight, my skin had an amazing healthy glow.
Greens also contain folate, a vital nutrient for DNA repair and lutein, which balances the lipids in the skin, increasing hydration and elasticity. Lutein also protects against sun damage that ages the skin
3. Clear Skin. While researching a book I wrote about preventing acne, I discovered that leafy greens have clear skin benefits.
The long held belief that diet has no bearing on acne has been debunked. Studies have shown that high glycemic foods do trigger breakouts in some people. High glycemic foods are those that contain refined grains and refined sugars that cause a spike in blood glucose level, which your body tries to lower by producing more insulin and male hormones. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, in turn, blocking pores. Too much sebum in the pores causes the acne bacterium (propionibacterium acnes) to over propagate, inflaming the pore causing a pimple.
Switching to a low-glycemic diet, which includes leafy greens, has proven to be effective. (Other low-glycemic foods that benefit acne include whole grains, fish, and green tea.)
Leafy greens are chock full of inflammation fighting ingredients and they also contain lots of fiber, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check.
4. Beauty. Yes, leafy greens (and other high color vegetables) can actually make you prettier. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Well, a recent article in the LA Times by Karen Ravn referenced a study done at The University of St. Andrews in Scotland, that sought to find out how many fruits and vegetables a person would have to eat, and for how long before this could be detected in the skin. According to the article, scientists have long known that the pigments that give vegetables their color, “carotenoids,” accumulate in the skin and give it color, too. Apparently, they enhance our natural coloring and when we see someone whose skin reflects these enhanced carotenoids, they appear healthier and more attractive to our eye.
In the study, they showed undergraduate students sets of pictures; for each set of faces one reflected the look of having ingested about 3.3 servings of high color fruits and vegetables, and one did not. The students deemed the fruit/veggie eaters to be more attractive than the non-high color food eaters. More servings were associated with more attractiveness.
So, eat lots of leafy greens (as well as other high color vegetable and fruits) and you may find yourself getting more compliments than you used to.
5. Better Brain function. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dark leafy greens may protect against cognitive decline in older adults. This is attributed to the high folate content of the greens. Studies performed at Tufts University concluded that a diet high in folate protected against decline in verbal fluency and another cognitive test called spatial copying wherein subjects were asked to copy shapes and figures.
I recently read a book by Dharma Singh Khasala called Brain Longevity and he talks about helping his patients reverse the effects of dementia through a variety of means including stress reduction, exercise, and diet. He says that the brain needs proper nutrition and his dietary recommendation includes lots of kale and other dark leafy vegetables.
Dr. Terry Wahls, a TED TALK lecturer claims to have cured her Multiple Sclerosis with a diet that includes dark leafy greens. In her lecture, “Minding Your Mitochondria,” she recommends a “hunter gatherer” diet, which eschews processed foods and favors things we would hunt or pick, including fish, grass fed meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and plenty of GREENS. She says for optimum health people should eat three cups of green leaves a day. Three cups is a dinner plate piled high. She says that kale has the most nutrition, per calorie, of ANY plant. It contains B vitamins, plus A, C, K and minerals. B Vitamins protect your brain cells and mitochondria. Vitamin A and C support your immune cells, Vitamin K keeps your blood vessels and bones healthy and minerals are co-factors for hundreds of different enzymes in your body.
Watch her lecture below:
While you may not have MS or dementia, if greens can palliate those conditions, they can assist your brain, too. Having a healthy, well functioning brain can certainly enhance your life.
6. Disease prevention. Greens contain vitamins: A, B2, B6, C, E, folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, fiber, which according to The Cleveland Clinic, are important to keep your heart healthy.
The folate in leafy greens helps reduce levels of homocysteine, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease and also cause strokes.
A Harvard study showed that diets high in magnesium reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac failure in women. Greens are a great source of magnesium. Magnesium is an element in the chlorophyll molecule, which gives plants their green color. Any green leafy vegetable you eat will give you magnesium, thus helping to reduce your risk of heart disease.
According to Dr. Terry Whals, eating a plate of greens a day will also dramatically reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Green vegetables like Kale and collards also contain isothiocyanates (ITCs) which is a compound with proven anti-cancer activities.
A friend whose family is predisposed to skin cancer was the first one to tell me about the anti-cancer benefit of leafy greens. Her children’s pediatrician has them eating tons of spinach and kale to protect them.
Hope I’ve persuaded you to eat your greens. They really are good for you!
If you really don’t like them, consider making “green smoothies” to help them go down. Put greens in a blender with coconut water, a bunch of berries and a bit of stevia or agave and you can whip up a drink that barely tastes like vegetables. Also, the blending makes the nutrients available to you body even more quickly than when you eat the leaves whole.
You might also prefer “crispy greens.” Coat kale or spinach in a little olive oil, spread on baking sheet and cook in the oven until crisp (about 15 minutes). Yummy!
As always, I wish you good health and great beauty!
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Toni Ann Johnson is the author of VIBRATING YOUTH and VIBRANT AND CLEAR. For more information on the articles referenced above, “like” Vibrating Youth on Facebook.
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