Power Up With Greens!

Power Up With Greens!

By Laurie Lyon

“Eat your veggies!” our parents said. Turns out, they were right. According to the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, only about 10 percent of us eat enough vegetables to qualify our diet as healthy. In particular, nearly four out of five fall short in the leafy greens category. 1

While those with certain medical conditions need to be selective in and/or limit their intake of greens, for most of us there’s room for improvement!

Generally low in calories and high in nutrition, greens are excellent for balancing our diets and helping us keep off excess weight. High in fiber, they fertilize gut flora and improve digestion. Many are also superior sources of vitamins, like A, B6, C, K, and folate, and minerals, like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Broccoli, kale, cabbage, spinach, arugula, beet greens, Swiss chard, collards, and most lettuces all score high on the nutrition scale. The general rule is: The darker the green, the more nutrient punch it packs.

In addition, their high levels of phytonutrients, like carotenoids, glucosinolates, sulforaphane, and other powerful antioxidants, guard against cell damage, bolster the immune system, fight inflammation, and help ward off disease. Recent research even suggests that regular consumption of greens may help to slow cognitive decline. 2

The Right Amount How much should we consume? The USDA’s latest recommendation is a minimum of one and a half cups of greens per week. Many people, however, can benefit from more. For instance, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who directs the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart Disease Reversal Program, recommends that his patients with atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease affecting artery walls, eat six small portions of cooked, dark green, leafy veggies daily in order to boost the production of nitric oxide, which, in turn, can protect and heal the critical endothelial cells that line arteries. 3

Why aren’t many of us getting enough greens? In our fast-track world, they can be time-consuming to prepare, or we’re simply not in the habit of using them. Here are a few tips to power up your diet with sufficient greens:

  • Plan ahead. Choose a few varieties that you like best. Since fresh greens can be bulky, make room in the fridge before purchasing them.

  • Save time! Buy prewashed greens.

  • Freeze your greens or buy them frozen. Most can keep for almost a year.

  • Greens are incredibly versatile. Use them in salads, sandwiches, dips, sauces, even smoothies; steam, stir fry (use water if avoiding oil), or just eat them raw.

In His wisdom, God gave us “every herb that yields seed” (Genesis 1:29) as an essential part of our sustenance. Take the time now to reap the health benefits God designed for you. There’s too much good in greens not to!

1  U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 9th ed. (December 2020), www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf.

2  Martha Clare Morris et al., “Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study,” Neurology 90, 3 (January 2018): e214-e222, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5772164/.

3  PLANTSTRONG by Engine 2, “Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn - Should You Drink Your Greens?” November 9, 2022, podcast, 20:40 to 25:45, https://youtu.be/QwHnlotNQxY.

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