When it comes to health advice from any professional, whether a nutritionist, dietician, or doctor, we all know that one of the things we’re told is that getting enough fruits and vegetables is very important. Many of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants our cells need to thrive come from plants in various colors, shapes, and forms. A recommendation from PubMed shows that consuming a diverse range of plant foods offers such a wide-range of benefits.
Did you know that it is estimated that there are actually 400,000 different species of edible plants on Earth right now?
We’ve all heard the phrase before, “eat your greens” but do we really know why? For the purpose of this article, we really wanted to hone in on a category of vegetables we think offer phenomenal and much needed healthy benefits, and that is green vegetables. Are green vegetables really that good for us? How much should we aim for? We’re going to do a deep dive on how important greens actually are and some of our favorite types to consume!
Ready to enter the world of greens? Let’s go!
What makes green vegetables so special?
First and foremost, we need to talk about what makes green vegetables actually green in color. It is thanks to a special chemical found in plants and algae called chlorophyll! One of the most interesting facts about the pigment from chlorophyll is that it’s responsible for turning sunlight into energy for the plant. This process is called photosynthesis and it is necessary for all life on Earth. Without sunlight, water, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide there would be no plants and without any plants, there would be no animals.
Chlorophyll has antioxidant properties for humans too! When green vegetables are consumed regularly, especially in their raw state, it boosts the antioxidants present in the bloodstream and body.
That’s not all, green vegetables are packed with other incredible nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper, B vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and more!
So let’s get unpack raw vs cooked..
Which one is the best way to consume green vegetables?
At the end of the day, green vegetables will provide benefits to your body whether they’re cooked or not, and diversity in the diet with how you eat your veggies is important.
When it comes to consuming raw vegetables, a study from University of Oxford shows that consuming higher levels of raw vegetables is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk.
Take broccoli for example, although the texture can be tough to get used to raw, it actually contains sulforaphane which has phenomenal benefits like reducing inflammation, potential anti-cancer properties, supported heart health, and even anti-diabetic effects!
On the other hand, spinach might be a better option to consume cooked because the body will actually absorb more of its calcium and iron in this way.
So now you might be wondering, where do I start with green vegetables? Which one’s are the best for my health?
Since there are so many types of green vegetables available, we are going to share some of the most nutrient rich and readily available in North America for you to start consuming more of:
8 Nutrient-Packed Green Vegetables
Coming in at the very top of our list is a superstar in the greens world, and for a good reason! Kale is absolutely packed with nutrients and low in calories, making it an excellent choice to incorporate into daily meals. A single cup of kale comes in at 20 calories yet contains Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Maganese, Vitamin A, Calcium, Riboflavin, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, and Iron! It’s a huge source of antioxidants too! Kale is so easy to consume whether you choose to enjoy it as a lunchtime salad alongside some protein, fat, and complex carbs or even cooked as a side dish for dinner.
Small but mighty, we knew that we had to add microgreens to our list in this stacked green vegetables lineup. There are many different kinds of microgreens out there, some of the most popular you might find at your local grocery store include: pea, broccoli, arugula, and radish microgreens! These vegetables are harvested after they have just sprouted and are usually only about 2-3 inches tall. Early research on these greens show that they’re even more nutrient packed than their full-grown counterparts. Some people wonder how they can incorporate microgreens into their daily diet, and there are actually plenty of ways! Microgreens can be used in a sandwich, mixed into salad, as a topping on soup, or even stuffed into wraps.
Dating back more than 2000 years ago, asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse that was largely cultivated in Europe and brought to North America by early colonists. Although asparagus contains some sulferic compounds which results in a distinct urine scent, their health benefits and taste make it absolutely worth consuming. Not only does asparagus contain a good deal of vitamins such as A, C, E, and K but it also contains minerals like copper, maganese, potassium, and selenium. It just so happens that sulfur rich foods in general contribute positively to our DNA and protect the cells from a wide range of diseases.
Earlier in this article we briefly touched upon some of fantastic benefits of spinach, but there are even more where that came from! Spinach is a leafy green that is so easy to integrate into so many different things. You can add spinach to smoothies, omelettes, soups, salads, and so much more. One of the star benefits of spinach is the fact that it is high in fibre and water which can help with digestion and bowel movements. It also hosts a compound called lutein which is well-known to protect against eye related diseases and aging.
Crunchy, fibrous, and often dipped into ranch or hummus this vegetable is nutrient rich and low in calories making it a wonderful and beneficial snacking choice! In the past decade or so, juicing celery has become quite a popular way to pack a bunch of vitamins into your day first thing.
Some of the key minerals and vitamins found in celery include:
- Potassium: This mineral is critical for many bodily functions. It impacts our nerve signals, muscle function, balancing of fluids, and so much more!
- Vitamin A: Essential for immune system, vision, reproduction, growth, and development.
- Vitamin K: Did you know that this Vitamin is responsible for the circulation of calcium throughout the body? It even helps to reduce menstrual pain.
- Vitamin C: One of the most important vitamins to support the body in the healing process.
There’s nothing quite like the aromatic smell of fresh herbs! They’re vibrant, add amazing flavor to food, and contain so many beneficial properties. While almost every single herb has it’s own amazing benefits we’re going to dive into some of the best for the body!
- Parsley: Considered a bitter herb, parsley helps stimulate the release of bile and helps detox the liver. It also contains quite a large amount of Vitamin K which is fantastic for bone health! Parsley has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure levels and bloating.
- Cilantro: Although many people either love or hate the taste of cilantro, one thing is non-negotiable, it’s absolutely packed with incredible benefits. One of the amazing ways cilantro benefits the body is by helping to eliminate heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and aluminum which can get trapped in our tissues.
- Peppermint: A soothing and refreshing herb that is used quite often around the world. You might mostly know peppermint as the herb that helps alleviate an upset stomach or digestion issues, but it’s also used to treat headaches, menstrural cramps, and even nausea.
Belonging to the cruciferous family, broccoli is one of the best vegetables in the bunch. Whether you eat it raw, roasted, steamed, or pureéd, this versatile veggie will offer you a host of benefits that your insides will love! Broccoli is high in fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, and so much more! In fact, just a half cup of broccoli contains 84% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Even if you just decided to eat broccoli everyday as your main vegetable, you would be meeting most of your needs!
8. Beet Greens
Often overlooked and drastically underrated, beet greens are an exceptional source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients! When buying beets, many might think that the greens attached to the root are inedible, but this is far from true! One of the best benefits beet greens are famously known for is being high in nitrates. The body converts nitrates into nitric oxide which in turn impacts blood flow and blood pressure. This works to benefit cardiovascular health! Beet greens also benefit the immune system, support eye health, strengthen bones, and support healthy skin.
A convenient way to get more greens
Let’s face it, as much as we would like to, sometimes there is just not enough time in the day or week to get enough green vegetables. Between the washing, prepping, and cooking – eating healthy does take time, and sometimes it’s time we don’t have! One simple, convenient way to get your daily greens is by using NutraChamps super greens powder! Our super greens blend contains over 40+ antioxidant rich superfoods and quite the stack of greens. Our greens blend contains vegetables such as Organic Spinach, Organic Spirulina, Organic Kale, Organic Green Cabbage, Organic Chlorella, and so much more!
It’s easy to mix into a smoothie, water, or juice and you can take it with you on the go!
When we were told to eat our vegetables growing up by our parents at the dinner table, they were right. Vegetables provide our body with the nutrients we need to protect our organs, immune system, brain health, skin health, and so much more. Neglecting this part of your diet will definitely have a direct impact on the way you feel and the health of your cells. Whether you’re a fan of cooking your veggies or you’d rather taken them in powder form, there are multiple ways to enjoy the host of benefits that plants have to offer.
We’d love to know, whats your favorite vegetable? Let us know in our comments!