28 Oct 2016
Leafy Green Veggies – The Ultimate “Superfood”
Despite all the hoo-ha in the media about vegetarians, vegans, and the fear over nutritional deficiencies, well-planned plant-based diets have many health benefits and can provide all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for a long and healthy life. Overwhelmingly, the research shows that well-planned plant-based diets are associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases, including: obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, several forms of cancer, and lower rates of illness and death from a number of degenerative diseases. Well I’m convinced!
You’ve heard me go on before about why I’m not the biggest fan of this whole “superfood” labelling of foods that seems to be the current rage at the moment. Why? Because it misleadingly gives the impression that expensive, often highly processed powdered “foods” are superior to our everyday, much more affordable, wholesome foods, such as fresh berries, wholegrains, pulses and, yup, the ultimate “superfood” in my books, vegetables (particularly leafy greens)!
As a tribute to the ultimate superfoods – leafy greens (including kale, collard greens, turnip greens, chard, spinach, silverbeet, lettuce, Asian veggies etc) – I’ve decided to dedicate this post to why this often overlooked superfood should form a central component of any FODMAP-friendly vegan (or, as a matter of fact, any person’s) diet. One study has shown that an increment of ONLY one daily serving of green leafy vegetables lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11% …. that’s huge! In the Adventist health study, the frequent consumption of green salads was associated with a substantially lower risk of mortality.
Let’s take a quick look at just some of the health benefits that come with including leafy greens into your diet on a regular basis:
- They are great for weight management as they are typically low in calories
- 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
- They contain a host of phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene
- They have a high magnesium content and low glycemic index, making them great for persons with type 2 diabetes
- They help maintain regularity and digestive health
- The high level of vitamin K in greens makes them important for the production of osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis
- They are rich in beta-carotene, which can also be converted into vitamin A, and improve immune function and eye health
- They contain quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and displays unique anticancer properties
In terms of flavour and variety, the options are endless! Green, leafy vegetables come in a range of colours and sizes and all offer slightly different unique nutritional benefits. From the bluish-green of kale to the bright green of bok choy, each variety of green veg offers a unique flavour, from sweet to bitter, from peppery to earthy. Young plants generally have small, tender leaves and a mild flavour – for example, bok choy or many of the Asian veg varieties. Most mature plants have tougher leaves and stronger flavours, like kale for instance. When choosing leafy greens, try choose crisp leaves with a fresh vibrant green colour. Yellowing is a sign of age and indicates that the greens may have an off flavour that just isn’t quite right.
When it comes to which leafy green offers the largest host of health benefits, while all are great, kale takes the number one spot. New research has shown that regularly enjoying kale can help regulate detox at a genetic level. Now, I have a confession to make … out of all the leafy greens kale is definitely not number one on my flavour favourite’s list. But the great thing about kale is that you can disguise its taste in the preparation, and enjoy it throughout the day as a snack, with kale chips being perhaps one of my favourite (and healthiest) snacks of choice. While making kale chips is relatively easy, sometimes I just can’t be bothered destemming, preparing, placing in the oven/dehydrator, and (the most torturous part) waiting for it to bake or dehydrate. This is where my lovely friends from Extraordinary Foods come in! While pretty much every pre-prepared kale chip on the market contains onion & garlic powders (boo for us FODMAPP-ers!) Extraordinary Foods has released a “naked kale chip” which contains nothing but apple cider vinegar (recently declared FODMAP-friendly), fresh organic kale, sesame seeds (one of the richest sources of vegan calcium), lemon juice, black pepper (but they’re not too spicy so sensitive bellies can enjoy) and sea salt. That’s it! Talk about a great FODMAP-friendly ingredients list. What’s more, these chips are dehydrated, not baked, so they retain much more of the kale’s nutrients. Best of all, they taste like little pizza crisps, so even those like myself who aren’t totally enamoured with the taste of kale will be scoffing them down by the handful.
So there you have it, my little ode to green leafy veggies and why they will always be the ultimate “superfood” … despite what the media or some girl in a bikini sipping some blue tea-tox contraption might have you believe! If you’re not the biggest fan of the taste of leafy greens, try adding even a handful of spinach to your main meals. The flavour is so mild you won’t even notice it. If you’re like me and love your salty snacks, try some kale chips. As mentioned, research has shown that even a small inclusion of leafy greens can offer a range of health benefits …. It’s definitely worth the effort! 😀