Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, and chard contain a wealth of nutrients that can help prevent disease.  Greens only contain around 30 calories per cooked cup, and 3-5 grams of fiber.  That means adding leafy greens into your diet can add a lot of bulk to your plate, and make you feel full longer.  Here are some of the ways a diet rich in leafy greens can help you avoid chronic disease:

Fight heart disease.  Greens are rich in folate, a nutrient that can help prevent arterial plaque development.  Folate is also necessary for healthy red blood cell growth, normal nerve function, and fetal development in pregnant women.  Beans are another great source of folate.

Keep your nerves and muscles in good working order.  Leafy greens are a good source of magnesium.  Many people’s diets are chronically low in this mineral.  In magnesium deficiency our nerves become over-stimulated, which can result in muscle pain, cramps, and spasms.

Lower your cancer risk.  Cruciferous greens like kale and other cabbages are rich in sulforaphane, the same compound in broccoli that could reduce your risk for cancer.  Several studies have shown that people who regularly consume sulforaphane-rich foods have a decreased cancer risk.

It’s best to cook leafy greens for a short amount of time to maintain their nutrient content.  The trick is to cook them long enough to increase the digestibility, but not so long that you cook all the life out of them!  Use your visual judgment; you want your cooked greens to be green- not brown.  A light steaming, pan sauté, or massaging greens with an acidic ingredient usually works best.

Here’s a good recipe for Massaged Kale salad from Cookus Interruptus.

Here’s where you can purchase an “Eat More Kale” t-shirt to show your love for greens!

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