Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and flavonoids that fight off diseases, regulate a healthy immune system, burn unwanted fat, and keeps us looking and feeling younger than ever. These health benefits of greens are only scratching the surface.
Trust me, I know how hard it can be to live a healthy lifestyle. We all say we want it, but it takes time, effort, discipline and willpower to be healthy. Like people always say, "if it were easy everyone would be doing it". Yet we all too easily get sucked into the ease and convenience of processed foods. Myself included.
Over time our taste buds have been accustomed to artificial sugars and flavors, which makes it all too easy to stop at McDonalds for a junior chicken than to go to the grocery store and pick up some real food. We have allowed ourselves to be influenced by the carefully crafted addictive flavors of food manufacturers.
Likewise, there is a social stigma attached to eating greens. We all know someone who gives us that judgey eye when we order a salad, or gets irritated when a vegan talks about their diet. The interesting part is we are fully aware that plants top the list when it comes to good health, but we’re somehow gripped by this processed food spell manufacturers have cast over us. The best we can do is to close our eyes and hum really loud while driving past McDonalds or Burger King to protect against the spells. Totally joking, do NOT do that!
But I DO encourage you to educate yourself on what you are putting into your body, and the effects it will have on you short and long term, because boy oh boy there are tons of health benefits of greens.
If you haven't heard of the five life forces, then keep on reading to learn how you can incorporate these essential elements into your life to boost your health and vitality.
Now, each life force supports the other four. Here's a quick rundown on how this all works.
For example, if you’re eating all the right foods, that good nutrition keeps you slightly alkaline (Alkalization). If you’re drinking enough water (Hydration), you also allow your detoxification systems to flow more effectively (Detoxification). If you’re deeply, consciously breathing oxygen (Oxygenation) and eating oxygen-rich, raw foods (Nutrition), you’ll also create an alkaline body (Alkalization).
The five forces are all connected, so if you are consciously working on one of them, you will ultimately boost the rest.
Now that we have an understanding of the connectivity of these life forces, let's talk about the health benefits of greens and why it is a huge contributor to aiding our nutrition.
Here are some amazing ways that plants can change your health and your life:
1) Provides the body with folate
Folate deficiency is common today because the average person’s diet does not contain enough dark greens. This gives birth to a host of health problems such as birth defects, cardiovascular disease and digestive disorders.
Overall, folate is an activator in the body and has a positive action on cardiovascular, neural and psycho-emotional health. The research suggests that maintaining a consistent dietary intake of folate is essential to managing homocysteine metabolism and protecting long-term health. Folate is abundantly present in dark leafy vegetables, and its function in the body is extremely important for a number of reasons. Folate is essential for metabolizing homocysteine into the amino acid methionine, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and it encourages cell and tissue growth. It supports normal fetal development, promotes sperm viability, reduces the risk of stroke, encourages normal cholesterol levels, and lowers risk of dementia.
2) Burns fat
One of the many other health benefits of eating greens is weight loss. Vegetarians have an advantage over meat-eaters in terms of weight loss because they have a higher intake of fiber. Not only does a high-fiber diet enhance weight control and improve gastrointestinal function, but it’s also been linked to the prevention and treatment of chronic heart disease, reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of cancer, and blood glucose control.
Dark greens are super low-calorie and high in fiber, which makes you feel full while eating less, and are packed with active compounds and nutrients. They also contain nitrites which helps to brown fat cells. Unlike regular old white fat (which stores all of your calories!), the mitochondria-packed brown-fat cells burn energy and produce heat.
3) Anti-Aging and Anti-Inflammatory
Dark leafy greens contains lots of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency damages cell DNA and accelerates “mitochondrial decay” which essentially causes cells to age prematurely, lose energy and become dysfunctional.
They provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids via alpha linolenic acid, some of which your body can convert to EPA and DHA, the kind found in fish oil. A common edible weed, purslane, is one of the best plant sources.
And can you say HELLO ANTIOXIDANTS? Beta-carotene and other carotenoids, vitamins E and C, lutein and zeaxanthin, all help prevent cancer, cataracts and premature aging.
Bottom line is that the folate, lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin K, fatty acids and magnesium present in greens have been discovered to highly influence aging. And not just that, but the antioxidants, cellular support, brain protection and anti-inflammatory benefits of greens also contribute to anti-aging.
So make sure you are eating at least one large serving of greens per day to get those health benefits!
4) Fights diabetes
Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are good sources of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. Dark leafy greens also very low in digestible carbs, which help to keep your blood-sugar levels at bay.
In one study, increasing vitamin C intake reduced inflammatory markers and fasting blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.
Glucose imbalances that result in complications such as diabetes can be controlled by eating greens. Polyphenols, magnesium and ALA omega-3 fatty acid present in greens are considered to be of great importance in managing insulin sensitivity and glycemic load (these two need to function properly to keep diabetes under lock).
5) Promotes heart health
I think by now we have figured out that the vitamin K in dark leafy greens has far-reaching health benefits, and is abundantly found in dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, parsley, broccoli, spinach, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage.
Vitamin K plays a key role in the production of the hormone erythropoietin which helps to decrease blood viscosity, thereby reducing heart attacks and blood clots. The dietary fiber content of greens helps to regulate triglyceride levels and cholesterol in a positive way, thus ensuring that they do not cause distress in the body. As it also contributes to bone health, deficient levels of this vitamin raise the risk of hemorrhage, osteoporosis, and bone fractures.
6) Protects the body against toxins
Aflatoxins are one of the most well-known carcinogenic substances, and these toxins are produced by fungi. The chlorophyll that is abundant in leafy greens has a neutralizing effect on this cancer-causing substance. The chlorophyll magic in plants work by directly trapping the toxin and therefore rendering it harmless.
Now that you're on the path to learning more about the health benefits of greens, I encourage you to continue your journey to eating clean, eating smart and eating local. Building a balanced lifestyle for yourself can be really fun! One of my favourite things to do is to buy all of my leafy plants and veggies from my local farmers market.
Learn more about why we need to support local farmers, how to shop at a farmers market, or what essentials you need to bring with you on your next market adventure.