How Often Should I Eat Greens?
The word “greens” just oozes healthy, right? But don’t confuse it with a restrictive diet. You can enjoy a variety of greens in beautiful, appetizing ways. Leafy greens offer a powerful combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, inflammation fighters, and overall health boosters. There are countless reasons to eat (and love!) your greens.
How often should I eat greens? The USDA recommends two to three cups of vegetables per day for adults. That sounds like a lot, right? True, if measured it out and put it on a plate, it would be a high pile of leafy greens. But there’s good news…. greens are not very dense. So incorporating greens into other foods is really easy to do. A cup of greens cooked down suddenly becomes a tiny pile of greens and you may want to add even more leaves to it. This means that it actually takes about two cups of raw greens to make the nutritional equivalent of a one-cup serving of vegetables.
What are considered greens?
Leaf vegetables, also called potherbs, greens, vegetable greens, leafy greens or salad greens, are plant leaves eaten as a vegetable. Leaf vegetables most often come from short-lived herbaceous plants such as lettuce and spinach. You may be familiar with other kinds of leafy greens such as kale, chard, collards, and bok choy. You may not love all leafy greens, and that’s ok! Here at Toss Salads & Wraps we let you build your own salad starting with a base of greens which include iceberg, romaine, spinach and spring mix!
Why should I eat greens? They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber but low in calories. Eating a diet rich in leafy greens can offer numerous health benefits including reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. They are also shown to keep your mind sharp!
What are the health benefits of leafy greens?
Leafy greens are packed with health benefits. Here are some examples of how these vegetables can improve your well-being: (The following information was written by Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. and can be found at https://www.sfadvancedhealth.com/blog/eat-your-greens.)
- Weight management: Most green vegetables are low in calories. You can eat as much as you like without putting on extra weight.
- Mortality rate: Frequent consumption can substantially lower your mortality risk. Leafy greens contain vitamin K, Magnesium, the B vitamins, Calcium, amongst many other essential nutrients. These nutrients are critical for every cell function and hence, prevent the aging process and help us look youthful.
Cardiovascular disease: Greens are low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and rich in folic acid, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and phytochemicals. One extra serving per day can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11%.
Type 2 diabetes: The high level of magnesium and low glycemic index that can be found in greens is ideal for preventing and treating diabetes. Studies showed that if you increase your intake of greens by just one serving per day, your risk of diabetes is lowered by 9%.
Bone health: The high levels of vitamin K, Magnesium, and calcium in leafy greens produces osteocalcin, the bone builders. Middle-aged women who eat over one serving of greens per day will lower their risk of a hip fracture by 45%.
Immune function: The rich beta-carotene and Vitamin A improve the immune system.
Protect eyes: Children who consume inadequate amounts of Vitamin A have a higher risk of going blind. Carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) found in leafy greens are concentrated in the macular region of the retina and the lenses of the eye. A diet dominant in leafy greens protects the eyes from needing eye glasses in kids to macular degeneration and cataracts in adults.
Which green vegetables should I eat? There are many leafy greens you can eat. Here is a list of the healthiest greens commonly available: (The following information was written by Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. and can be found at https://www.sfadvancedhealth.com/blog/eat-your-greens.)
- Kale: It contains almost all the goodness leafy greens can offer. Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate, potassium, and fiber. It protects the heart and can prevent or slow down cancer.
- Collards: Collards contain nutritional value very similar to Kale.
- Green leaf, red leaf, and Romaine lettuce: These are full of vitamin A and folate. The darker leaves are more nutritious than lighter varieties.
- Turnip greens: The tops of turnips are low in calories, and are loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, and calcium.
- Swiss Chard: These vegetables have a beet-like taste and a soft texture. They contain a healthy amount of vitamins A and C.
- Broccoli: It is rich in vitamins C and A, potassium, folate, fiber, protein, and iron. Broccoli also contain cancer-fighting sulforaphane.
- Spinach: Spinach contains folate, vitamins A and C. Cooked spinach is more nutritious than raw.
- Mustard greens: These greens have a similar nutrition profile to turnip and collards.
- Cabbage: This vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds.
- Small leafy greens, like cilantro, parsley, mint, spearmint, sage, thyme, and fenugreek: These greens are potent in nutrients similar to the large leafy greens noted above.
What are easy ways to incorporate greens daily?
- Salad– You could eat a salad every day for a month and never repeat the same combination of ingredients! At Toss Salads & Wraps we have 12 custom salads that we love. But with the build your own salad option, you can create a combination of things such as mandarin oranges, cucumbers, banana peppers or boiled eggs. Happy green eating!
- Pasta with sauce- Sauté leafy greens in a skillet. I like to add spinach and cook it down with butter, tomatoes, bacon bits, garlic and then mix it in with bowtie pasta noodles. Boom! You’ve got a serving of greens in a tasty dish.
- Scrambled eggs and greens- You can easily add a cup of spinach leaves to your scrambled eggs. The leaves will wilt down so small that you won’t even realize you added a whole serving to your breakfast. Boom! That was easy!
- Green smoothie– Grab your blender and add nearly anything you want. You can “hide” greens in a peanut butter and chocolate protein smoothie, a strawberry and banana smoothie or literally any flavor that you’re craving.
- Green juice– In a juicer or a blender with water, liquify yummy ingredients such as apple, pineapple, ginger, celery, and a cup or two of spinach. The natural sugars from the fruits will make you forget that you are drinking a cup of greens!
- Wrap– Roll up your greens in a tasty wrap! Each bite will be packed with flavor and nutrients. At Toss Salads & Wraps all salads can be made into a wrap for 30₵ less!
Will eating greens help me lose weight?
Vegetables generally have a low calorie density — they contain very few calories for the volume they take up in the stomach. Vegetables are also rich in fiber, which can help you feel fuller for longer. Thus, adding vegetables to your diet may help you lose weight by relieving hunger and reducing calorie intake. In fact, several studies link increased vegetable intake to weight loss and slower weight gain over time.
How do greens get stored for maximum freshness? A key to storing leafy greens is to keep them dry. With proper storage, greens can keep for a week or longer in the refrigerator. If you bought your leafy greens in a plastic prewashed bag, you can store them as is. If you bought loose greens that you need to wash, make sure you let them dry out all the way so they don’t wilt. Lay the clean, dry leaves on paper towels. You can line a large airtight container with paper towels and loosely fill it with greens. Top with another paper towel layer and snap on the lid. Store in a cold part of the fridge.