The Benefits of Eating Green Vegetables Everyday
Did you know that eating your greens can actually help you slow down the aging process? It might sound like something your mom would have told you to get you to finish off your broccoli, but it’s a proven scientific fact.
Eating leafy greens helps to delay the shortening of telomeres, the protective tips on DNA that naturally shorten with age. When a telomere is completely gone, the cell dies. So, the more kale and broccoli florets you’re eating, the better!
But how can you get a hearty serving of green veggies everyday, especially when you’re juggling work, family, and personal responsibilities as well?
That’s where smoothies come in to save the day!
Smoothies are a good way to consume quality green vegetables that will take only moments to prepare and, by adding fruit, they taste delicious. There are also amazing health benefits—and they are a great way to get your whole family eating more greens without having a dinner table battle over brussel sprouts.
What are the health benefits?
It seems as though every time leafy green vegetables are put under the microscope, so to speak, they come out with yet another amazing benefit of eating your greens every day.
In 2021, a study concluded that eating 1 cup of leafy greens a day lowers your risk of heart disease. Eating 1 serving of leafy green vegetables has also been associated with slower cognitive decline and increased muscle strength.
Add to that the fact that most leafy green vegetables contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, and calcium, are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and have very little sodium, cholesterol, and carbohydrates, you can see why green vegetables should be a part of your daily diet.
But let’s dig a little deeper into why the fiber found in leafy greens is so important.
What exactly is fiber?
It’s the structure of natural plants – fruits and vegetables – that facilitates the digestion of food. Fiber helps you feel more full, gently cleans out the colon, and removes toxins and other waste from your system. It also feeds and nourishes beneficial bacteria – the ones that work hard to keep us healthy. Think of it as a kitchen sponge, moving things along and cleaning as it goes.
Should all sources of fiber do this for us?
Not exactly. You see, there is fiber in other foods too, such as wheat. Keep that sponge in mind to get a clearer picture of what different types of fiber there are: the soft side of a sponge is like the fiber found in vegetables, oats and other solubles. The fiber found in wheat is more like the abrasive side of the sponge — instead of moving things along, it takes a harder approach to your stomach, especially for those who are celiac or have a gluten intolerance.
Will my smoothie add good fiber into my system?
A smoothie packed with leafy green veggies will help you to increase the good fiber you ingest – and the fact that it’s green will play a big part in its health benefits. Green veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help fight disease. A smoothie fortified with milk or yogurt will also provide potassium and calcium that can strengthen bones and lower blood pressure, which can contribute to better heart health.
Does blending destroy any of the goodness?
No, not in the way heating vegetables does. Whenever you heat your vegetables, valuable vitamins are lost. This is one of the advantages of the smoothie: you’re dealing with raw ingredients so all that vitamin C will go straight into your system.
What are the top 3 green vegetables?
- Kale. This form of cabbage has so much packed into it – it’s a great source of vitamin C, high in beta-carotene and lutein, plus it’s the safest way to get our vitamin A intake, which contributes to the health of your bones and liver, for example. Kale is a good source of vitamin K, too, which helps prevent bone fractures.
- Spinach. It’s nutrient dense, high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C. It’s low in calories and good for healthy eyes, hair and skin.
- Watercress. Like the others, this often-overlooked vegetable is high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, calcium and vitamin K, and it has anti-inflammatory properties, which is great news for people suffering from arthritis.
What part of the plant is best in a smoothie?
The whole thing! That’s another great thing about getting your greens in a smoothie. There are nutrients in every part of the vegetable and when you blend it, you can use it all. As a rule, the darker green it is, the more you want it in your smoothie. The colour is an indication of where the nutrients are. Don’t discard the stalks, either, because they add fiber.
But what about the taste?
Sure, blending spinach and milk together does not sound appetizing. But you have lots of choices to add some sweetness to your smoothies to make them taste delicious — dates to add sweetness (and more fiber), honey, numerous fruits that include raspberries, bananas, mangos, apples, pineapple, etc. And by adding healthy green vegetables into your smoothies, kids will not only benefit from the added content that’s good for them but also a delicious sweet treat.
Anything else to think about when it comes to green smoothies?
Another note of caution has to do with vitamin K, found in nearly all leafy green vegetables. If you’re being prescribed a blood-thinner, and are significantly increasing your vegetable intake, consult your doctor who can monitor your medication.
This article originally appeared in the Live More, the exclusive healthy living magazine for John Hancock Vitality members, Spring 2016 edition.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily imply endorsement by Manulife.