Top 5 Leafy Greens

Green vegetables are a love it or hate it topic for some, but leafy greens boast a wide range of health benefits. Their nutritional attributes are valuable to overall human health and are important to include in your plant-based diet. From high iron content, to antioxidants and a plethora of vitamins, leafy greens are a must-have.
Research has found that the dark green colour of these vegetables is due to the high levels of chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis in plants, helping them absorb energy from light. It also contains carotenoids (fat soluble phyto-chemicals that are believed to have anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory properties). Chlorophyll oxygenates and detoxifies the blood, and is rich in amino acids and enzymes. Folklore tales also say that high levels of chlorophyll in food can block carcinogens, believed to work as an ‘internal deodorant’, but much more research is needed to quantify this.

1. Kale
kale

Considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet, kale is one of the best natural sources of vitamins and minerals. As well as containing antioxidants, kale features lutein, carotenoids and beta-carotene, all of which can contribute to the prevention of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and some cancers (the causes of which are often linked to oxidative stress). Kale is also high in alpha linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Cooking kale can reduce its nutrient profile, so it’s best eaten raw to get the benefits of the vitamins and minerals.

2. Swiss Chard

swiss chard

Available in a range of different colours, Swiss chard is rich in vitamin K, which helps blood to clot, but also aids bone strength, and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. It also has anti-inflammatory and phytonutrient antioxidant properties, as well as plenty of potassium, which helps reduce blood pressure and stress on the cardiovascular system. Swiss chard is the perfect accompaniment to dishes such as casseroles, soups and stir fries, to name just a few.

3. Spring Greens

spring greens

Otherwise known as collard greens, this leafy green vegetable isn’t as popular in the UK, compared to common cabbages. Spring greens are a type of cabbage, and have sweeter and fresher taste than traditional cabbages, so work well in fresh, spring and summertime dishes. Boasting high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K, regularly eating spring greens is great for both your immune system and bone health. They’re also full of iron, potassium and fibre – all of which contribute to great overall health. You can make delicious Chinese crispy seaweed with spring greens, when finely shredded and fried.

4. Beetroot Greens

beetroot greens

Whilst beetroots are mostly used for their bulbous root, the leaves hold high levels of potassium, calcium, riboflavin, fibre, and vitamins A and K. Beetroot greens also have high levels of magnesium, copper and manganese, which offer health benefits for the whole body. The beta carotene and lutein antioxidants are known to help prevent some eye disorders, including cataracts. Beetroot greens even have a higher level of iron than spinach, so they’re definitely worth including regularly in your meals. The leaves can be added to salads, sautéed or included in soups.

5. Spinach

spinach

Famed for its high iron content, spinach also contains an array of beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as folate, vitamins K and A, and manganese. Folate is an essential vitamin for pregnant women, and for those planning on having a baby, as low levels of folate are linked to neural tube defects in foetuses in the early stages of pregnancy. Spinach is readily available all year round, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked in almost any dish – from lasagne to salad.

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