Nutritionists speak a lot about the importance of eating and increasing green vegetables in the diet. If you’ve ever wondered why – here’s 5 reasons to keep you completely convinced to double down on the green.
Green vegetables truly are nature’s original superfoods. They’ve been around longer than the superfoods we see in fancy packaging on the shelves of the grocery store and chances are they’ll stay around longer than what’s on ‘trend’ too. Green vegetables are superfoods because they are incredibly nutrient dense. When you choose to boost green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, rocket, avocado and zucchini (and of course the list goes on!) in your diet, you’re choosing to also increase your intake of vital micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals) as well as macronutrients such as fibre to reduce your risk of disease and support overall wellbeing.
Green vegetables are particularly rich in fibre which helps to stabilise appetite, blood glucose and energy levels and feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. These gut bacteria play a huge role in the state of our health, with the good bacteria thriving on a fibre rich diet. Fibre also helps to move waste and other by-products of digestion out of the body via a bowel motion. Eating foods rich in fibre, not only keeps you regular, but helps to reduce the risk of disease such as colon cancer, heart disease and haemorrhoids.
LOW STARCH VEGETABLES
Green vegetables are some of the lowest in starch in the vegetable kingdom. Because they’re low in starch and carbohydrates, they’re a wonderful choice to load onto your plate if your goal is to reach a more healthy sustainable weight. Aim to fill the majority of your plate, around 50% with green vegetables such as lettuce, rocket, Asian greens, broccoli, zucchini and cucumber before adding protein and starchy vegetables / grains (sweet potato, rice etc). This balance will ensure you hit a number of nutrient targets (fibre, Vitamin C, iron, sulforaphane) whilst also making you feel fuller for longer without excessive calorie consumption.
Some of the richest vegetable sources of Vitamin C, as an example, are those of the green variety! Whilst vitamin C works as a potent antioxidant in the body to reduce the harmful effects of stress and other dietary, disease and lifestyle factors on cells, Vitamin C also plays a vital role in improving the uptake of other nutrients in the body. Vitamin C works as a synergistic nutrient (team player!) for increasing both iron and folate absorption. Iron is an essential mineral for blood production and to transport oxygen around the body. Whilst folate is responsible for tissue growth, cellular function and the production of DNA. When folate and iron are in the presence of Vitamin C rich foods – spinach and broccoli – the body readily absorbs it and these vitamins work together with greater effect.
For too long people avoided greens because the perceived flavour was bland or undesirable – boiled brussel sprouts, steamed broccoli with white sauce, plain old lettuce in a salad (can’t blame them!) – but really it wasn’t about the vegetable it was about how it was served! This is mostly the case with a lot of vegetables people avoid.
My Tip? Find 3 ways you can enjoy a simple veggie and incorporate that into your cooking repertoire. Don’t get caught up in trying it one way and not enjoying it simply because of the one method of cooking. Let’s take broccoli for instance: yes you can steam it but steam and top it with some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, chilli flakes and chopped toasted almonds and it’s a winner, or try baking it and drizzling tahini dressing over the top, or grating it and tossing through fried rice. All these cooking methods make one incredibly nutrient dense vegetable even more super because you’re taking great joy in eating it too.
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