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10 AMAZING LEAFY VEGETABLES FOR GREAT HEALTH

There are many advantages to embracing plant foods as our main sustenance. For instance, including lots of leafy vegetables for health in our meals. We not only get the natural nutrients we need. In addition, we get to enjoy the different edible parts of the plant as food. And, we can eat them raw. Perhaps, slightly cooked or blanched. Or cook them the usual way, as in following a recipe. And don’t forget that you can juice them.

Although cooking leafy vegetables could destroy or decrease some of their nutrients, others are not.  And remember that raw vegetables need to be chewed well to release valuable nutrients. So, if you believe as others do, that consuming vegetables bolsters longevity and health, then read on. Learn a little more about these ten amazing leafy vegetables, and the advantages they provide for your health.

 

# 1 ARUGULA (Eruca vesicaria)

Arugula leafy vegetables

Arugula leafy vegetables

 

The arugula plant is also called garden rocket, colewort, and rucoli. Way back in the ancient Roman period, the arugula plant was used mostly as an herb. And it still is being used as one. The deep notches along the leaves’ edges make them distinctive and nice to look at. And the leaves’ tips are either rounded or pointed. Arugula falls under the cabbage and mustard family. And they are easy to prepare and consumed raw as a salad ingredient. This leafy vegetable is quite versatile as it can be added to many kinds of dishes.

Arugula salad with berries and nuts

Arugula salad with berries and nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Here’s another member of the leafy vegetables for great health. Arugula has many health and nutrition benefits. For one, it helps in reducing cancer risk.  They contain glucosinolates which make them taste bitter but are responsible for their anti-cancer properties. Also, being high in calcium and vitamin K, they give protection against the onset of osteoporosis. Lastly, as a cruciferous vegetable, their high amount of polyphenols and organosulfur compounds protect the heart.

Salad with arugula, strawberries, cottage cheese, and olive oil

Salad with arugula, strawberries, cottage cheese, and olive oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2 BEET GREENS (Beta vulgaris)

Beet tops are rich with antioxidants, high minerals, vitamins and low in fat and cholesterol

Beet tops are rich with antioxidants, high minerals, vitamins and low in fat and cholesterol

 

Just as the beetroot is used for cooking, the leaves should not be discarded. Beet greens also contain nutrients and are versatile ingredients for many popular dishes. Beet greens are quite easy to spot as they are spade-shaped, with green to dark green leaves. Some have purplish-red veins on the leaves extending a bit horizontally. The beetroot or bulb and the stem running up to the leaves have the same color.

Beet or beetroot salad with greens, cheese, nuts, cranberries

Beet or beetroot salad with greens, cheese, nuts, cranberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

 Beet greens help strengthen the immune system because it contains vitamin C.  Therefore, they should be regarded as among the leafy vegetables for great health. They’re also packed with nitrates that our body transforms into nitric oxide. It stabilizes blood pressure and enhances blood health. And the calcium they contain strengthen the bones. Lastly, our eyes are important to living life fully and functioning well. And the beta-carotene and lutein you get from eating beet greens make sure that you do.

Beet greens salad with nuts

Beet greens salad with nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3 COLLARD GREENS (Brassica Oleracea)

Collard greens

Collard greens

Collard greens are green leafy vegetables in the cruciferous vegetable group. It includes many healthy plant foods such as broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, and turnips. And globally, they are popularly used in cooking in many ways. They are ingredients added to soups, main and side dishes, salads, and stews.

A traditional Mediterranean dish - collard green rolls with mashed potatoes and roasted cherry tomatoes

A traditional Mediterranean dish – collard green rolls with mashed potatoes and roasted cherry tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Like other cruciferous vegetables, the leaves of the collard vegetable hold many nutrients our body requires. They contain cancer-fighting compounds like glucosinates. And because there are many types of cancer, we should have them in our diet. Moreover, the high fiber content of collard greens can reduce inflammation and normalize glucose levels. And it contains alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), an antioxidant. It helps bring down glucose levels, promotes sensitivity to insulin, and can induce liver tissue regeneration.

Collard greens and bacon on a red plate with apples

Collard greens and bacon on a red plate with apples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4 ENDIVE (Cichorium endivia)

Group of fresh green Belgian endive or chicory and red Radicchio vegetables

Group of fresh green Belgian endive or chicory and red Radicchio vegetables

There are two varieties of endives. The broad-leafed endive (Cichorium endivia latifolia, image above), also called escarole. And the endive frisée or curly endive (Cichorium endivia crispum, image below).

Endive (Cichorium endivia var. crispum)

Endive (Cichorium endivia var. crispum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The leaves of the escarole can be used for canapés instead of bread or pastry to hold the ingredients. For finger foods like hors d’oeuvres, the escarole can be added for a bit of zing and crunchy texture. And it would go well with a Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Or a white wine like Pinot Grigio.

A salad with walnuts, carrot, endive and lettuce on a silver tray.

A salad with walnuts, carrot, endive and lettuce on a silver tray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Endive provides a decent amount of provitamin A that the body transforms into beta-carotene, an antioxidant. That’s not all, as it also maintains our eyes, the mucous membranes, and the skin. Consumption of endives helps a patient recover from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. It’s a great source of fiber and promotes digestion. Other nutrients they have are the B-complex vitamins like folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and thiamine. As regards essential minerals, they provide copper, iron, manganese, and potassium.

Curly endive salad with pomegranate, nuts, rose petals, peppermint, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5 KALE (Brassica oleracea)

Fresh curly kale

Fresh curly kale

Also known as leaf cabbage, kale is a cultivated variety propagated for its leaves as plant food.  This vegetable has either green or purple leaves. But unlike a cabbage, the leaves do not take the shape of a head. It is classified as a cruciferous, green leafy vegetable. And it is in the mustard family together with Brussel sprouts, cabbage, rutabaga, and turnip. Kale is among the many leafy vegetables for great health we should have in our meals.

Vegan toasts with kale, tomato, tahin and rye bread

Vegan toasts with kale, tomato, tahin and rye bread

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Besides fiber, kale is a great source of a wide spectrum of nutrients our body needs. Many diseases we humans are heir to can be prevented. It’s possible by including them in our everyday meals. Just like cancer. It’s a horrible disease that can be prevented and even cured. The trick is sticking to a diet of full of healthful plant-based foods. That includes kale. It contains beta-carotene, vitamin C, selenium, and other powerful antioxidants that can shield us from cancer.

And include other fruits and vegetables as plant-based foods have them in varying degrees. To further strengthen the defense against cancer, get chlorophyll from kale and other plant foods. Chlorophyll is found to block heterocyclic amines or HCAs. Additionally, the fiber and potassium in kale protect from cardiovascular disease. While calcium and phosphorus in kale promote bone health.

Green kale smoothie in a glass

Green kale smoothie in a glass

#6 ROMAINE LETTUCE (Lactuca Sativa L. var. longifolia)

Romaine lettuce on kitchen board

Romaine lettuce on kitchen board

Romaine lettuce is one of the many types of lettuce that is a favorite in vegetable salads. And the leaves are quite long. They tend to be thicker and tougher at the base. Although the ribs at that part contain a bitter taste. If you don’t like that, you can cut away that thick portion of the stalk.

Salad with Romaine Lettuce, walnuts, and Creamy Ranch Dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of the many types of lettuce, Romaine lettuce is a favorite in vegetable salads. The leaves are pretty long and taper slightly towards the base. But they tend to be thicker and tougher at the base. And the ribs at that part contain a bitter taste, too. If you don’t like that, you can cut away that thick portion of the stalk.

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Free radicals are unstable molecules released naturally in the body due to metabolism. And they can increase and result in oxidative stress which can lead to health problems. With the help of antioxidants, our body can fight and eliminate them faster. As an example, unrestrained free radicals in the body could bring about cancer, heart disease, eye cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Romaine lettuce also contains potassium which strengthens and regulates the heart muscles’ contraction. So, it indicates that more potassium in the body may normalize blood pressure. And healthy, normal blood pressure lowers the risk of stroke.

 

#7 SPINACH (Spinacia oleracea)

Fresh spinach leaves

Fresh spinach leaves

Spinach is among the top, if not the number one, of the leafy vegetables for great health that we know. And that means we should have them in our diet. On the other hand, a person’s nutritional requirements and health status must be identified. That information would also determine the vegetables he most needs to consume. If you prefer to eat spinach greens raw, pick out the younger leaves. However, be aware that raw spinach leaves may also have oxalic acid. It affects the absorption of nutrients in the system. So, if unsure, err on the safe side, and cook your spinach. But don’t overcook it.

Sauteed spinach with raisins and pine nuts, spanish catalan dish

Sauteed spinach with raisins and pine nuts, Spanish Catalan dish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable that’s full of nutrients. It provides calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamin A. While iron is needed in the blood with oxygen. Having spinach in the diet also toughens the immune response of the body. Moreover, it has alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that normalizes glucose levels and strengthens sensitivity to insulin. That benefits diabetic patients.  And to reduce the severity of asthma attacks, the antioxidants in spinach help. They are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Fresh Salad with Spinach, strawberry, feta, and pumpkin seeds

Fresh Salad with Spinach, strawberry, feta, and pumpkin seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#8 SWISS CHARD (Beta vulgaris)

Colorful Swiss chards leaf vegetable

Colorful Swiss chards leaf vegetable

The Swiss chard is a biennial plant with leaves that are green with a reddish tinge. It belongs to the beet family. As the leaves are full of nutrients, they’re a favorite fare in healthy diets. And you can eat them raw or cooked.

Swiss chard pie with eggs

Swiss chard pie with eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

As among the many leafy vegetables for great health, the Swiss chard is packed with nutrients such as provitamin A, vitamins C and K. Also, it has minerals like manganese and potassium. On top of that, an uncommon plant pigment or flavonoid, called syringic acid has been discovered to be present in Swiss chards. It has the potential to control blood sugar levels. However, that finding is based on minor laboratory studies that need further validation. This vegetable also contains a kind of chlorophyll that’s believed to be able to block cancer-causing agents released when grilling meat.

Boiled swiss chard with sweet potato, pomegranate and sesame seeds

Boiled swiss chard with sweet potato, pomegranate and sesame seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#9 TURNIP GREENS (Brassica rapa)

Fresh turnip tops or turnip greens in a wooden crate

Fresh turnip tops or turnip greens in a wooden crate

 

The turnip plant is a root vegetable with leaves that are edible and called turnip greens. Its flavor is quite strong but can be lessened when refrigerated. Due to their highly spicy flavor, they are mostly cooked rather than eaten raw.

 

Pasta called maltagliati with turnip greens, and cherry tomatoes

Pasta called maltagliati with turnip greens, and cherry tomatoes

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Turnip greens have more nutrients than edible turnip root. They are vitamins C and K. And also provitamin A which the body enzymes convert into beta-carotene. Other nutrients present are manganese, folate, and other antioxidants. These antioxidants are gluconasturtiin, glucotropaeolin, quercetin, and myricetin. As they belong to the cruciferous or cabbage family, diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, and inflammation can be prevented. Turnip greens also provide benefits to the skin and hair provided by vitamin A. Additionally, an adequate intake of vitamin K and calcium can lower the risk of osteoporosis. Undoubtedly one of the leafy vegetables for great health.

Dish of italian pasta with turnip greens

Dish of italian pasta with turnip greens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#10 WATERCRESS  (Nasturtium officinale)

Bunch of watercress

Bunch of watercress

As might be gathered from its name, it is a plant vegetable that grows in water.  It has green leaves that are oval with a hollow stem that can also be eaten. The taste is slightly bitter, and also peppery and tangy. Watercress is also known simply as cress or yellow cress.

Fresh and healthy watercress

Fresh and healthy watercress and physalis salad

Nutrients and Health Benefits:

Individuals suffering from high blood pressure must include watercress in their diet. It’s a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium that lower hypertension. Watercress and other fruits and vegetables in the diet can promote healthy and normal blood pressure. Research and studies that have been made indicate many vegetables have compounds that can fight cancer. One of which is called sulforaphane. And watercress has it, and it’s what makes many edible plants taste bitter. It could inhibit the cancer cells’ enzyme that causes cancer to grow. Also, include at least a cup of watercress in your daily meals. It is rich in vitamin K which is good for the bones. Vitamin K helps optimize the body’s absorption of calcium. It decreases the amount of calcium that goes into the urine.

Fresh watercress, pineapple, and ham salad

Fresh watercress, pineapple, and ham salad

 

Final thoughts

There are many kinds of leafy vegetables for great health. And with their cultivated varieties, we have a wider choice to add to our meals. So, getting different nutrients in different amounts would ensure we get enough that our body needs. Now, whichever kind of diet you adhere to may not matter much.  You may be a vegan or a vegetarian. Still, knowing a great deal about plant foods could be a huge step forward. Your knowledge of them would be deeper and wider. At the other end of the spectrum are the omnivores. They have no restrictions on what types of food they can eat. But wait till one sees the connection between nutrient-rich plant foods, on one hand, and enjoying great health and possible long life.

Most likely, in the end, he would gradually switch to healthful and satisfying food choices. Anyone at that crossroad only has to know how natural and plant-based foods can be life-promoting. And the various ways of preparing and cooking them make them truly delicious, satisfying, and healthful. Remember that nutrient-packed vegetables bolster longevity and health. That could easily tip the scale to a healthier you.

 

READ MORE:

 

Kinds of Lettuces for Health

 

Nutritious Types of Edible Plants

 

 

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