12 Benefits of Leafy Greens In Your Diet
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, leafy green vegetables are incredible for your health in more ways than you would even suspect.
Whether in whole food form, smoothies, or organic greens powders, leafy greens have the power to make you look and feel younger, and can even support healthy aging! Let’s discuss what exactly dark leafy greens are, the benefits of leafy greens, and how to include them in your diet.
Dark Leafy Greens
While we all know that organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables of any kind are good for us, some are far better than others. Fortunately, many crowd favorites such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even protein. Not to mention, dark leafy greens are very versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in fun, delicious ways.
If you still need convincing, read on to learn about all the amazing benefits of leafy greens.
1. Green Veggies Support Optimal Brain Function
Want to support memory and reasoning as you enter your golden years? Eat your leafy green vegetables! A recent study published in The National Library of Medicine 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 leafy green-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.
Organic vegetables contain high levels of folate (B9). B vitamins have been shown to boost the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that transfer messages from the brain to the rest of the body) in the brain. Folate is found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce as well as in lemons, bananas, and melons.
2. Leafy Greens 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 leafy 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. Green Leafy Veggies 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 kale helps your body better absorb this carotenoid.5
4. Leafy Greens Relieve Stress
For a natural way to relieve your stress, start every day with a big green smoothie! Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.6
5. Leafy Green Vegetables Support Bone Health
All those “Got Milk?” ads might have you believe 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 from dark leafy greens. Green veggies such as broccoli and kale also contain tons of all-important vitamin K.9
6. Leafy Greens Support Healthy Aging
Are you looking to age healthfully? Who isn’t? Leafy 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. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, seem to have a superb ability to preserve telomere length.
What’s more, eating dark leafy greens has been found to promote skin health by protecting against the sun’s harmful UV rays. The beta-carotene found in leafy vegetables converts to vitamin A in the body, which supports the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, smooths the complexion, reduces dullness, and stimulates cell turnover for clear skin. To sum it all up? Healthier, younger-looking skin is yet another one of the many benefits of leafy greens.
7. Green Leafy Vegetables Improve Inflammatory Response
Though this may be a no-brainer, I want to re-emphasize how important it is to support a healthy inflammatory response in order to protect yourself from a battery of chronic illnesses. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collards are high in vitamin D, which promotes regulatory T cells that are responsible for accurately differentiating between outside invaders and “self” cells. When active vitamin D promotes them, it essentially makes your immune system smarter, teaching it not to attack itself and preventing the development of an autoimmune disease.11
8. Green Veggies Help Balance Sugars
Eating a serving of leafy greens with every meal can support appropriate blood glucose levels. Even just including a little over one extra serving of green leafy vegetables daily can make a big difference!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.
9. Leafy Greens Support Optimal Gut Health
Do you struggle with leaky gut, food sensitivities, or autoimmunity? If so, getting more dark leafy 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). The ILCs found in leafy greens 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 dark leafy greens feeds your good bacteria, making leafy greens an all-around great choice for anyone dealing with gastrointestinal distress of any kind.
10. Leafy Green Vegetables Tame the Toxins
Taming the toxins is an essential component of The Myers Way® and another one of the benefits of leafy greens. Dark leafy greens are expert detoxifiers, thanks to chlorophyll–the pigment that makes green veggies…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 detoxing nutrient, glutathione, and supports immune function to keep toxins from collecting in your body in the first place!14
11. Healthy Greens 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 is one of the biggest culprits of enzyme deficiency, as well as inflammation from food sensitivities, chronic stress, genetics, and aging. Dark leafy greens are one of the best foods you can eat to support your body’s natural ability to produce digestive enzymes.
12. Leafy Greens Support Your Immune System
One of the most promising benefits of leafy greens may be their ability to support your immune system. Dark leafy greens such as moringa leaf can support a healthy response to oxidative damage which, if left untreated, can lead to autoimmunity.15 Studies specifically mention broccoli, arugula, and kale as vegetables that support many internal processes including the immune system and inflammation modulation.16
Raw Vegetables vs. Cooked Vegetables: Which is Better?
I saw this time and time again in my clinic: over the long-term, diets that are rich in vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease when combined with grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and healthy fats.
Yet, you may wonder which is healthier: raw vs cooked vegetables? The answer may surprise you! While eating raw vegetables provides your body with optimal levels of folate and water-soluble vitamins, the nutrients in cooked vegetables are actually easier to digest and absorb. Even still, the easiest way to get your vegetables is with Organic Greens powder!
The Best Way to Get More Leafy Greens
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 the benefits of leafy greens 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 Organic Greens is a nutritional powerhouse, containing 14 USDA-certified organic plant foods, including green superstars spinach, kale, alfalfa, moringa, and broccoli sprouts. It’s perfect for anyone who:
- Is looking to save a lot of time versus juicing their produce every morning
- Needs a tasty, inexpensive alternative to pricey juice bar offerings
- Travels often and wants a doctor-designed source of organic nutrition while eating out
- Wants to mitigate stress and balanced hormone health
Organic Greens is an easy and convenient way to ensure you’re getting all the disease-fighting, anti-aging, and immune-boosting benefits of leafy greens!
Benefits of Leafy Greens FAQs
What are the benefits of dark leafy greens?
What are the benefits of dark leafy greens?
Adding more green leafy vegetables into your diet can support optimal brain health, fight belly bloat, relieve stress, support bone health, healthy aging, boost digestive enzymes, and tame the toxins, among many other health benefits.
What are the best leafy green vegetables?
What are the best leafy green vegetables?
The best leafy vegetables include spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, turnip greens, arugula, and watercress.
How often should I eat leafy greens?
How often should I eat leafy greens?
According to the USDA, the optimal amount of leafy greens is between 3-5 servings per day. That’s a lot! By far, the easiest way to get your optimal daily intake of leafy green vegetables is Organic Greens.
- Nutrients and Bioactives in Green Leafy Vegetables and Cognitive Decline: Prospective Study. Martha Clare Morris, Yamin Wang, Lisa L Barnes, David A Bennett, Bess Dawson-Hughes, Sarah L Booth. NCBI. 2018.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agriculture. 2015.
- How Much Potassium Is In Raw Spinach. Erica Wickham. LiveStrong.
- Natural Sun Protection From the Inside Out. Serenity Aberdour. Alive. 2017.
- Kale - A Top Source of Beta Carotene . Health With Food.
- Association Between Folate Intake and Melancholic Depressive Symptoms. A Finish Population-Based Survey. Jussi Seppala, Hannu Koponen, Hanno Kautainen, Johan G Eriksson, Olli Kampman, Satu Mannisto, Pekka Mantyselka, Heikki Oksa, Yrjo Ovaskainen, Merja Viikki, Mauno Vanhala. ScienceDirect. 2012.
- Magnesium Linked to Better Blood Pressure: Meta-Analysis. Stephen Daniells. Nutra Ingredients. 2012.
- Study: Milk May Not be Very Good for Bones Or the Body. Abby Phillip. Washington Post. 2014.
- Vitamin K and Bone Health. P Weber. NCBI. 2001.
- Telomeres, Lifestyle, Cancer, and Aging. Masood A Shammas. NCBI. 2011.
- Foods that Fight Inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020.
- 9 Foods that Lower Blood Sugar. Lisa Turner. Better Nutrition. 2017.
- Gene Discovery Reveals Importance of Eating Your Greens. Walter and Eliza Hall. ScienceDaily. 2013.
- Does Chlorophyll Cleanse the Blood?. Tracey Roizman. Healthfully. 2011.
- Moringa. WebMD.
- Tired of Salad? New Ways to Eat Leafy Greens. Catherine Roberts. Consumer Reports. 2018.
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