We all know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for our health, and that greens, specifically, have numerous benefits — especially for older adults. Veggies are generally low in calories and packed with vital nutrients. But what makes kale, spinach, arugula, broccoli and other greens so special?
Studies show that eating leafy greens may help slow cognitive decline, and some varieties may even help prevent heart disease, inflammation, cancer and osteoporosis. To help you work more greens into your diet, here is a guide to several types and the vitamins, minerals and benefits each kind delivers. Please note this list is not all-inclusive.
Kale is a dark, leafy green that rules the nutrient-dense roost. You can roast, steam, or sauté this superfood and enjoy it in a salad, soup, side dish or smoothie.
- It’s a good source of vitamins A, D, C and K, as well as beta carotene and lutein antioxidants, fiber, potassium and calcium.
- Research suggests that kale supports brain health and may help prevent heart disease, lowers cancer risks, contains anti-inflammatory agents and promotes bone health.
Spinach is a dark, leafy green that’s popular in dips, salads and wraps. It’s especially easy to include in smoothies, as it doesn’t have a very strong taste and can be added to delicious fruits or milk.
- This native Persian vegetable contains protein and fiber and packs in many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, K, B6, B9, E, folic acid, iron and calcium.
- Other nutrients include potassium, magnesium and iron.
- It has cancer-fighting antioxidants, lowers risk for macular degeneration, promotes heart disease prevention and helps with blood pressure stabilization.
Arugula hails from the Mediterranean and is a dark, leafy green known for its sharp, peppery taste. You can add it to salads, eat it alone, toss it into a pasta dish or use it as a pizza topping!
- Filled with essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin C and folate (Vitamin B9).
- Promotes bone health, muscle and nerve function, heart health/function, immune system support and iron absorption.
- Folate is particularly important during pregnancy.
This tasty green veggie is especially delicious when grilled and can be added to salads, pizzas, pasta and eggs.
- It’s packed with antioxidants, protein, fiber, vitamins C, A, K and E, as well as folate, potassium, zinc, iron and phosphorus.
- It may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, promotes bone and heart health and has anti-inflammatory properties.
You’re probably not alone if you didn’t know you can eat the greens at the top of beets. Guess what? They’re also a superfood.
- These greens contain fiber, which promotes digestive health and lowers blood sugar and cholesterol.
- They also contain vitamin A, which supports bone health, reduces certain cancer risks and promotes immune system health.
- They have vitamin K, which assists in blood clotting, promotes bone health and helps wounds heal faster.
Bok choy leaves are thick and dark green. This popular Chinese cabbage is often used in stir-fries (but you can really put it in anything).
- They contain vitamins C, E and K, beta carotene and folate.
- They have fiber, which promotes digestive health, and selenium helps decrease inflammation and stunts tumor growth.
- Iron, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium promote bone strength.
Even if you’re not a big leafy green fan, you can still get wonderful nutrients from broccoli. This popular cruciferous vegetable tastes good raw or cooked (or with cheese on top).
- Broccoli has been called a superfood due to its high level of potent nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, K, B9, potassium, phosphorus and selenium.
- It’s widely appreciated for its cancer-fighting antioxidants, such as lutein and sulforaphane.
- Other vital benefits include digestive health, immune system boost and heart disease prevention.
Cabbage is a leafy green vegetable that also grows in red and white varieties. Many cultures and countries enjoy it in soups, salads, sauerkraut, casseroles, and as a roll.
- This abundantly available vegetable contains numerous vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, C, K, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, zinc, riboflavin, and folate.
- Also a good source of protein and fiber.
- Health benefits include anti-inflammatory agents like glutamine which reduces joint pain, allergies, and fevers.
- It also promotes bowel regularity, heart and skin health, and eye health, and cataract prevention.
Collard greens stand out among the pack for their unique texture and bitter taste. You can shred them into casseroles, add them to soup and chili or mix them into salads.
- These leafy nutritional staples contain calcium, vitamins A, C, K and folate.
- Calcium promotes bone strength and is a leading source of vitamin K, which plays a key role in blood clotting.
Overall, eating one or more servings of greens each day could put you on the path toward a healthier future.
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