Green are the number one food you can eat regularly to improve your health but they are the most commonly missing foods in modern diets. We are blessed with so many variety of green vegetables in Nigeria that are very affordable, but most people are not aware of the importance of including them in their diet and the amazing benefits that they possess. Including leafy greens in your diet is very important in establishing a healthy body and immune system. They are recognized by nutritionists as one of the most inexpensive sources of so many important nutrients because they are brimming with loads of fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant based substances. Greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are loaded with folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals
When you nourish yourself with greens, you may naturally crowd out the foods that make you sick. Leafy green vegetables are also high alkaline foods. Alkaline minerals in our bodies neutralize acidic conditions caused by the environment and greens help to replenish our alkaline mineral stores and filter out pollutants.
Green is associated with spring – the time of renewal, refreshment, and vital energy. In Chinese medicine, green is related to the liver, emotional stability, creativity, and has many calming and anti-stress properties.
They are useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease since they are low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as containing a host of phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. One study showed that an increment of one daily serving of green leafy vegetables, lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11 percent.
Additionally, green vegetables are packed with soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber known as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) such as cellulose, mucilage, hemi-cellulose, gums, pectin…etc. These substances absorb excess water in the colon, retain a good amount of moisture in the fecal matter, and help its smooth passage out of the body. Thus, sufficient fiber offers protection from conditions like chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and rectal fissures.
Recently, vegetable nutrition has widely drawn the attention of fitness conscious as well as food scientists alike for their proven health benefits. Scientific studies have shown that these low-calorie but nutrient-rich foods help human body stay fit, and free from diseases.
So how much vegetables should be in our daily diet?
Eat at least 5-7 servings of fresh vegetables every day. Ideally, your plate should be half filled with vegetables during meals. Seasonal vegetables should be encouraged and bring variety in the choice of vegetables in your everyday diet.
In the kingdom of greens, dark greens are king! They are the most powerful foods for respiration. Dark-green vegetables are a good source of minerals and phenolic, flavonoid as well as anthocyanin anti-oxidants.
Other benefits of consuming dark leafy greens include:
Promotion of subtle, light and flexible energy
Improved liver, gall bladder, and kidney function
Cleared congestion, especially in lungs, by reducing mucus
Promotion of healthy intestinal flora
Strengthens the respiratory system
How to select vegetables?
Although choosing organic is recommended, eating non-organic greens is still preferable to not eating any greens at all. One should always choose crisp leaves with a fresh vibrant green color. Yellowing is a sign of age and indicates that the greens may have an off flavor. Whenever possible, go for organic farm vegetables to get maximum health benefits. They are not very expensive if you can find them from the nearby local farm owners. Look carefully for blemishes, spots, fungal mold and signs of insecticide spray.
How to use vegetables?
After shopping your choice of vegetables wash them thoroughly. Rinse in salt water for few minutes, and gently swish in cool water until you are satisfied with cleanliness. This way, you ensure them free from dirt, sand and any residual chemical sprays.
Use them early while fresh because, firstly, certain vegetables have very short shelf life and secondly, the health benefiting properties of a vegetable declines with time. However, if you need to store them, then place inside plastic wrappings or in zip-lock bags in order to preserve their nutrition for short-periods until you use them.
Experiment with different greens, and try out the ones you’ve never had before. Common greens include spinach, pumpkin leaf, water leaf, cabbage, okra, kale, lettuce, bok-choy, broccoli, green pepper and green peas.
(Health and Wellness Coach)