Green Leafy Vegetables: How They Burn Fat and Improve Health
No diet is truly optimized without a healthy amount of green leafy vegetables – cabbages , lettuces, root vegetable foliage (ie beetroot leaves) etc.
These plant foods are truly a miracle of nature, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals; they also are low in calories so you can eat plenty of them without gaining weight.
Green leafy vegetables can be eaten poached, steamed or boiled. They can also be used as part of casseroles and (depending upon type) be eaten in numerous types of salads.
What are Green Leafy Vegetables?
There are both common and relatively uncommon leafy green vegetables available. Most you can get at
the produce department at your local supermarket. Others you may have to grow in containers in your house
or in a garden.
• Red and Green Leaf and Romaine Lettuce
• Edible Green Leaves: dandelion, red clover, plantain, watercress and chickweed
• Mustard greens
• Dandelion greens
• Swiss chard
• Turnip greens
What makes leafy greens so special?
Mother Nature knows what she’s doing! Leafy greens contain disease preventing plant-based substances that may help protect from diabetes, heart disease and even various cancer mainly because of the powerful antioxidants they offer. Kale for example, is a great source of vitamins A*, C**, K, calcium and also supplies folate and potassium.
*necessary for the growth of body tissues including skin and hair
**an antioxidant used for cleansing cells aswell as feeding the immune system
These vegetables have so few calories that they hardly even count and lettuce, kale and spinach can be eaten in abundance.
These are also high fiber foods and so they keep you full longer and allow you to eat less. Dietary fiber also helps to stabilize blood sugars. This results in reduced cravings for sweets and other junk.
The anti-oxidants in leafy greens help to cleanse the body cells of excess fat and toxins. Antioxidants also support efficient metabolism helping us to burn fat more easily. Additionally, antioxidants improve brain chemistry.
Different leafy greens have different properties but all of them can be considered good for you. They contain vitamin K, which is essential in helping the body to properly clot blood. Vitamin K also helps prevent several conditions related to advancing age. It can also help prevent bone loss, arterial calcifications, kidney damage and heart disease.
Just a single cup of most leafy green vegetables will provide you with more than enough vitamin K for your system per day.
Kale is especially helpful, providing about six times the recommended intake of vitamin K.
Eating leafy green vegetables can actually lower your cholesterol levels. The bile acids produced by the liver which help fats digest from the gastrointestinal tract are bound by the fiber in the leafy greens. The bile acids pass through the body along with the residue of leafy green vegetables. This forces the liver to use up even more cholesterol to make bile acids -thereby reducing your endogenous cholesterol level.
A study in the Nutrition Research journal indicated that slightly steamed kale and mustard greens performed highest in bile acid binding activity.
Leafy green vegetables are good for the eyes. The best leafy greens to eat for eye health are mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens because they are high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Carotenoids help filter the high energy light caused by sun and therefore prevent sun-induced cataracts.
These carotenoids also improve overall visual acuity. Lutein also has benefits for the skin, arteries heart and immune system. Lutein from natural sources has also been proven to lower rates of breast, colon, cervical and lung cancers.
A cup of raw escarole can help your body by adding pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5. The B vitamins together help carbohydrates break down into glucose to be used for cellular fuel. The body cannot store B vitamins each day so you need to find a daily source for these vitamins. What better way than to incorporate escarole in your diet.
Calcium For Bone Health
Leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of calcium. It’s the calcium that gives these foods their slightly bitter taste.
Although leafy greens do not provide the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium (~1000 mg of calcium per day for women between 30 and 50), they provide easily absorbable kinds of calcium.
Half a cup of dandelion greens will provide about 75 mg of calcium. Mustard greens can give you 55 mg calcium.
Leafy greens provide a valuable source of calcium from a fat free source.
Kale and mustard greens can help prevent colon cancer by being part of the group of vegetables that includes cabbage and broccoli.
In a study in one dietetic journal, those people that ate more of these leafy greens suffered a lower risk of developing colon cancer. Broccoli contains phytonutrients which reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Broccoli also has anti-inflammatory qualities in addition to the Vitamin C and beta-carotene antioxidants.
How do you eat green leafy vegetables?
Green leafy vegetables can be eaten raw in salads or can be steamed and mixed with herbs, other vegetables, or added to stir-fry’s.
It is advisable to use as little heat applied to these vegetables as possible to keep their nutritional content intact.
Kale and spinach are both at risk of overcooking very fast because they cook so quickly.
A good rule of thumb when cooking is to only steam to a bright free color. Such is the case with broccoli – once it turns a dark green color it is likely overcooked and has lost valuable nutrients.
Other Green Vegetables that help burn fat and provide good health
Whilst the above are listed as the main source of green vegetable nutrition, there are other sources of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals :-
- Garden Peas
- Green Beans (both french and english runner beans)
- Broad Beans
- Brussel Sprouts (member of the cabbage family)
- Courgette (Zuchini)
- Endive (member of the chicory family)
- Bok Choi