12 Incredible Benefits of Getting More Greens in Your Diet
June 18th, 2018
Leafy greens including kale, spinach, arugula, and chard are the undeniable superstars of the food world. Low in calories, yet high in fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients, greens are incredible for your health in more ways than you would even suspect.
Whether in whole food form, smoothies, or organic greens powders, greens have the power to make you look and feel younger, and can even extend your lifespan! If you still need convincing, read on to learn about all the amazing benefits of getting more greens in your diet.
1. Protect Your Brain
Want to stay mentally sharp as you enter your golden years? Eat your greens! A recent study published in Neurology found that those who ate the most leafy greens each day had slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who ate the least.1 In fact, the greens-eaters had the memory equivalent of someone 11 years younger! This was even true after adjusting for other factors including lifestyle, education, and overall health.
2. Fight Belly Bloat
If you struggle with bloating, whether caused by diet, hormones, gut infections, or other digestive issues, there’s a secret ingredient in leafy greens that could help. Potassium, a mineral and electrolyte found in abundance in greens, is essential to keep an optimal fluid balance in your body. A diet high in sodium (often due to an overreliance on processed foods) can trigger or worsen bloating, and must be kept in check by adequate potassium intake–roughly 4,700 mg/day according to the USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.2 A single cup of cooked spinach contains a whopping 840 mg of potassium to get you well on your way to meeting your daily requirements.3
3. Make Your Skin Glow
Beta-carotene, the plant pigment that we normally associate with carrots and other yellow-orange veggies, is also hiding in leafy greens. Think of leaves changing color in the fall. As they lose chlorophyll (the pigment that makes them green), you can see the red, orange, and yellow pigments those leaves contain underneath. It’s these vibrant colors that are also responsible for the amazing health benefits of leafy greens.
Beta-carotene can give your skin a youthful glow and even works from the inside-out as a natural sunscreen, protecting your skin from harmful UV rays!4 Kale is one of the top sources of beta-carotene, and research shows that cooking, juicing, or dehydrating greens helps your body better absorb this carotenoid.5
4. Relieve Stress
For a natural way to relieve your stress, anxiety, or other mood disorders, start every day with a big green smoothie! Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin to keep you calm and enhance your sense of well-being. In the Journal of Affective Disorders, a study showed that middle-aged and elderly people who ate the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.6
Plus, the magnesium found in green leafy vegetables can help your blood vessels relax as well, lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of hypertension that could lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart failure.7
5. Build Strong Bones
All those “Got Milk?” ads might have you believing that drinking milk is the only way to build strong bones. However, research has shown that milk consumption has no protective effect on fracture risk and may even increase the risk of hip fractures among women.8 That’s yet another great reason to ditch dairy for good! Instead, you can get plenty of calcium for supporting optimal bone health and preventing osteoporosis from dark, leafy greens. Green veggies such as broccoli and kale also contain tons of vitamin K, which can increase bone mineral density and reduce fractures in patients with osteoporosis.9
6. Extend Your Lifespan
Are you looking to live as long as possible (who isn’t)? Forget biohacking–the fountain of youth could be found at your local juice bar! That’s because greens have the power to delay the shortening of telomeres, the protective caps on our DNA that shorten with age.10 Once its telomeres are completely gone, the cell dies. The rate of telomere shortening can be increased or decreased based on lifestyle factors including exercise, diet, environmental toxins, stress, and smoking. Broccoli sprouts in particular seem to have a superb ability to preserve telomere length.
7. Reduce Inflammation
Though this may be a no-brainer, I want to re-emphasize how important it is to reduce your inflammation in order to protect yourself from a battery of chronic illnesses. Leafy greens contain anti-inflammatory properties thanks to their abundance of antioxidants and polyphenols, the disease-fighting compounds found in plant foods.11
8. Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Eating a serving of leafy greens with every meal can help prevent or regulate diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose levels. Even just including a little over one extra serving of greens daily can reduce your risk of diabetes by 14%!12
Not to mention, if you have a thyroid condition, dramatic swings in blood sugar encourage your body to convert more T4 to Reverse T3, the inactive form of thyroid hormone. This slows down all of your metabolic processes and can exacerbate thyroid hair loss. Greens can help temper blood sugar spikes and reduce thyroid dysfunction flare-ups.
9. Support Optimal Gut Health
Do you struggle with leaky gut, food sensitivities, or autoimmunity? If so, getting more greens into your diet could help. A recently discovered gene known as T-bet that gets switched on by cruciferous veggies such as broccoli or brussels sprouts instructs precursor cells in your intestinal lining to produce innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). ILCs protect your body against gut infections and inflammation, control food allergies and intolerances, support a healthy immune response, and seal the leaks in your gut.13 They also protect your body from bad bacteria, while the fiber in greens feeds your good bacteria, making leafy greens an all-around great choice for anyone dealing with gastrointestinal distress of any kind.
10. Tame the Toxins
Taming the toxins is an essential component of The Myers Way®, and one of the easiest ways to do this is by getting more greens in your diet. Greens are expert detoxifiers, thanks to chlorophyll–the pigment that makes greens…green! Chlorophyll-rich foods such as spirulina, chlorella, parsley, and alfalfa bind to heavy metals and toxins in your blood and carry them out of your body. Chlorophyll also helps cleanse your liver to support your body’s natural ability to detox, and improves immune function to keep toxins from collecting in your body in the first place!14
11. Boost Digestive Enzymes
As I always say, you aren’t what you eat, you’re what you digest and absorb. Digestive enzymes are critical for breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from our food, so if you are deficient in these enzymes you are likely to experience all sorts of gastrointestinal issues including bloating, constipation, reflux, and nutrient deficiencies. Leaky gut it one of the biggest culprits of enzyme deficiency, as well as inflammation from food sensitivities, chronic stress, genetics, and aging. Raw, leafy greens are one of the best foods you can eat to support your body’s natural ability to produce digestive enzymes.
12. Help Prevent Cancer
One of the most promising benefits of greens may be their ability to help prevent cancer. Greens such as moringa leaf protect your cells from oxidative damage, which is what leads to mutations and cancer growth.15 Plus, inflammation and cancer have been strongly linked, so the anti-inflammatory nature of leafy greens keeps normal cells from transforming into tumor cells and inhibits tumor cell survival.16 Studies specifically link cruciferous vegetables–including broccoli, arugula, and kale–to lower risk of colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian, and bladder cancers.17
The Best Way to Get More Greens Into Your Diet
While it’s ideal to get these incredible benefits from real, whole foods, not all of these foods are commonly available, in season, or grown in optimal soil, and it can be difficult to get enough of them from diet alone. That’s why an organic greens powder is a great option to have on hand for when you’re just too busy to prep a big salad or smoothie, or when you’re looking to stay healthy while on-the-go or traveling.
One scoop of my Clean Greens™ Superfood Juice Powder is a nutritional powerhouse, containing 14 USDA certified organic plant foods, including green superstars spinach, kale, alfalfa, moringa, and broccoli sprouts. It’s an easy and convenient way to ensure you’re getting your daily greens along with all the disease-fighting, anti-aging, and immune-boosting benefits that they provide!