The health benefits of green leafy vegetables are many, and as such
they should be an important part of a healthy diet.
Greens are packed with vitamins,
minerals, and other nutrients that prevent cancer and other diseases.
According to the food pyramid guidelines, an average adult needs 3 cups
of leafy greens per week.
The variety of green leafy vegetables available makes it easy and
interesting to include them in our meals. Some of the more popular
greens are spinach, bok choy, fenugreek, amaranth, collards, mustard
greens, and kale. These provide a great way for vegans, vegetarians,
and omnivores to get their nutrients.
Greens that are commonly used in Indian recipes include spinach
fenugreek leaves (methi), mustard greens (sarson ka saag), amaranth
(thotakoora), gogu (gongura), bachchali (a kind of spinach), and
chukkakura (a tangy leaf).
Green Leafy Vegetable Nutrition
Dark leafy greens are a rich source of vitamin C, K, E, and B, as well
as iron, calcium, and fiber, which are essential for good health.
Recent studies have shown that Vitamin
K plays an important role in
preventing osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.
Vitamin E has been shown to prevent skin cancer.
Greens contain beta carotene (vitamin A), lutein, and zeaxanthin which
antioxidants that destroy free radicals (that damage and weaken our
body cells), and help protect our bodies from cancer. Beta carotene
strenghtens the immune system, while lutein and
zeaxanthin prevent degenerative eye diseases like cataract.
They are also
known to slow down general age-related cellular degeneration, and
are great for
our skin, hair, and nails. Our bodies convert the beta carotene in
leafy greens like spinach to vitamin A which regulates the production
and turnover of cells so skin's surface is smooth.
Vitamin A has also
been shown to reduce skin sensitivity to sun. For excellent skin
health, include three 1-cup servings of foods rich in beta-carotene
as spinach and other greens.
Greens also contain folate, which plays an important role in the repair
of damaged cells. Folate is known to reduce the risk of colon, lung,
cervix, and breast cancer.
The phytochemicals or antioxidants in greens like bok choy and kale
enzymes that help fight cancer. These enzymes also help with digestion
and keep our digestive tract healthy.
Greens are a rich source of potassium and magnesium. Potassium helps
regulate blood pressure, and magnesium regulates blood sugar. A new
study conducted at University of Leicester, UK, has shown that eating
one and a half cup of extra servings of green leafy vegetables a day
reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent. Greens such as
spinach may also help reduce type 2 diabetes risk due to their high
Greens are low in calories, have no cholesterol, and are fat-free, and
as such a must for any weight-loss plan. A diet rich in green leafy
vegetables coupled with physical exercise, whether yoga
else, is great for your health.
Wash greens well to remove dirt. Rinsing multiple
times is a good idea. Or you could fill a large bowl with water and let
the greens rest in the water for a few minutes. When the dirt settles
at the bottom of the bowl, remove the leaves and repeat.
Remove the thicker part of the stems and cut or tear
the leaves. For most greens, such as spinach, bok choy, and amaranth,
the tender part of the stems work quite well in recipes.
Saute the leaves with a little oil, or blanch the
greens. Some greens cook faster than others and all greens release a
lot of water, so whether or not you add water to the greens when
cooking, depends on the recipe and dish you're trying to make. For
instance, if you're making a dry curry with the greens, you don't need
to add water, but if you're making a soup or dal, you do. Also when
making Indian recipes that call for tamarind, the greens take a little
longer to cook, as tamarind tends to slow down the cooking.
Do not overcook greens as overcooking would destroy
To preserve their green color, cook the greens
uncovered for the first 5 minutes.