Leafy green vegetables are nutrition powerhouses! Packed with vitamins K, A and C, calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber, leafy greens are a mighty source of nutrition. Kale, in particular, has been in the nutrition spotlight for some time, although it is worthy of the attention, all other leafy greens are just as deserving! It is important to consume a variety of greens such as spinach, collards, chards, and cabbage to reap the full nutrition benefits of enhancing immunity, disease protection, good eyesight, and healthy bones.
Leafy greens are available year round. Spring is the peak season for chards,
spinach, and lettuces. Cabbage, collards, kale, turnip greens and mustard greens are more sweet and tender during the winter months. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 1½ cups of dark green vegetables per week, but consuming them daily may be more advantageous according to a recent study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Findings in the study suggest, a serving of leafy greens per day may help prevent dementia. The study evaluated the mental ability and eating habits of 954 men and women enrolled in Rush University Medical Center in Chicago’s Memory and Aging Project over a five-year span. According to one of the study leads, Martha Clare of Rush University, “The brain benefits associated with dark leafy greens likely stem from several key nutrients, particularly vitamin K.” Study participants who ate one or two servings of leafy greens daily were found to have slower mental deterioration than those who ate none. The team of researchers determined that those who consistently ate one or more servings of greens per day had the mental capacity of someone a decade younger than those who avoided greens.
With a host of beneficial nutrients and only 5 to 40 calories per cup, it seems like a great idea for everyone to consume leafy greens daily. And it is a wise choice for most people, however, not for all. Since large amounts of vitamin K can interfere with blood thinning medications such as warfarin, it is important those individuals consult with their doctor or registered dietitian before adding more greens to their diet. Also, individuals who need to follow a low oxalate diet for kidney stones should ease up on the leafy greens.
It is easy to incorporate leafy greens daily, here’s how:
- Add a large handful of kale, spinach, or chard to a morning smoothie.
- Prepare an omelet or egg scramble with a cup of chopped spinach or Swiss
- Enjoy an Asian inspired salad with chopped cabbage or bok choy.
- Add greens to sandwiches and wraps or use large leaf varieties such as romaine lettuce, Swiss chard or collard greens as a wrap.
- Prepare baked kale chips. Evenly spread thoroughly washed and dried kale
leaves on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic powder, and a squirt of
lemon juice. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes on each side or until
- Enjoy a Matcha Green tea latte. Matcha is finely ground green tea leaves that resembles a powder.
- Add kale or spinach to pasta dinners.
- Prepare a sauteed green as a side dish.
- Add a serving of leafy greens to a soup or stew, perfect with a lentil based soup or minestrone.
Coffman, M (2015) SF Gate, The Calcium in Broccoli and Dark Leafy Veggies.
Retrieved from http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/calcium-broccoli-dark-leafy-veggies-1383.html
Lentz, L (May 2015) Today’s Dietitian, For Your Information: Top Food and Nutrition Trends. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050515p50.shtml
Mars, R (8/1/2014) Livestrong, Do Your Body Good By Adding More Leafy Green Veggies to Your Diet. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/blog/body-good-adding-green-veggies-diet/
Moore, M (2/24/2014) Food & Nutrition Magazine, Leafy Greens Nutrition Rock Stars. Retrieved from http://www.foodandnutrition.org/March-April-2014/Leafy-Greens-Nutrition-Rock-Stars/
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
About the Author:
Sheri Berger is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist having completed her B.S. in
Food/Nutrition & Dietetics and a dietetic internship at Loyola University Chicago. Sheri has a diverse professional background that includes hospital and outpatient clinic patient support, preventive wellness programs, corporate wellness services, cardiovascular disease management, and working with seniors. She enjoys engaging her clients in pursuit of their personal wellness goals and leading by example with her healthy lifestyle. In 2005, Sheri was certified in adult weight management. She belongs to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, California Dietetic Association, and the San Jose Peninsula District of the CDA. Sheri enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two daughters. She loves to run and has completed several half marathons; she is looking forward to running a few more in the upcoming months.