Let Thy Greens be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine be Thy Greens.
Your mom was right when she said, “finish your spinach dear.” Leafy greens are phenomenal foods to incorporate into the diet on a daily basis. Not only are they almost calorie free, but they pack an immense amount of nutrition and hard to obtain trace minerals. In fact, Rush University reports, “eating multiple servings of greens per day may slow cognitive decline (a.k.a. Alzheimer’s and dementia).” More specifically, greens are loaded with fiber, plant protein, essential omega 3’s, chlorophyll and antioxidants–all wonderful reasons to fill your plate with giant heaps of organic leaves. So, let’s get into the details of the types of leafy greens, what minerals they provide and why one should consume at least 3-4 servings of greens per day (more if chronically ill) to achieve the recommended daily values (RDV) of vitamins and minerals.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are naturally occurring compounds obtained through food and sometimes water, which are necessary for proper health and immune function. The following 15 minerals are essential for optimal health: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, copper, fluoride, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. Minerals are co-factors for hundreds of different enzymes in your body.
The best way to obtain optimal levels of the above minerals is to eat a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet following the S.O.U.L standard–Season, Organic, Local and Unprocessed. Why is it important to use the S.O.U.L rule of thumb? If your fruit and veg is not seasonal, organic, local and unprocessed, you are not getting all of your RDV of vitamins and minerals for optimal health. To be specific, the food group with very high levels of the above essential minerals is Leafy Greens! So, let’s talk greens…
Varieties of Leafy Greens…
Spinach Collard Greens Mustard Greens
Kale Beet Greens Arugula Swiss Chard
Turnip Greens Parsley Romaine Butter Head
Beet Greens Water Cress Mache Dandelion
Top 5 Minerals from Leafy Greens
Calcium Magnesium Potassium Manganese Folate
Function: Builds and maintains strong bones and teeth; also critical for muscle contraction, heartbeat regulation, hormone production, blood clotting, and nervous system support.
Deficiency Signs: Only evident when long term, but include osteoporosis and risk for bone fracture, lethargy, and poor appetite.
Excess Signs: Kidney stones, constipation, calcification of heart vessels, excess muscle
Function: Required by over 300 body processes for them to function optimally, including the ability to make energy and relax. Helps maintain blood sugar and nervous system balance; regulates toxicity levels by getting nutrients in and waste out of cells.
Deficiency Signs: Fatigue, insomnia, irritability, constipation, white spots on nails, high blood pressure, inflammation, muscle cramps, and migraines.
Excess Signs: Risk of toxicity from dietary intake is very low, but too much from supplements can cause loose stools. Click here for more on magnesium.
Function: Part of sodium-potassium pump, which moves potassium into the cell and sodium out of it, in turn getting nutrients into the cells and wastes out. Also regulates fluid and pH balance, and aids in converting blood sugar to glycogen, the storage form of energy in your muscles.
Deficiency Signs: Fatigue, muscle weakness, confusion, irritability, and heart disturbances.
Excess Signs: Most individuals can handle excess, but people with kidney disease can experience heart disturbances due to not handling potassium normally.
Function: Used by mitochondria to manufacture superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant that guards against cell damage and inflammation. Important for skin health and blood sugar control.
Deficiency Signs: Epilepsy and seizures, itchy skin rash, and low blood cholesterol.
Excess Signs: No known toxicity from dietary intake to date.
Function: Critical for fetus nervous system development and helps prevent neural tube defects. Regulates red blood cells and DNA production, crucial for cancer prevention. Inadequate intake can elevate homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart disease.
Deficiency Signs: Fatigue, poor growth, anemia, skin, nail and hair pigment changes, abnormal pap smear, decreased appetite, tongue and mouth ulcers, and birth defects.
Excess Signs: At very high doses, folate can trigger insomnia, irritability, and intestinal dysfunction.
More Reasons to Eat Leafy Greens…
- Cleanse & Detoxify
- Improve Eye Health
- Help Control Weight
- Clear the Skin
- Boost Bone Strength
- Boost Energy Levels
- Help Cleanse the Liver
- Improve Brain Function
- Improve Metabolism
- Protect the Mitochondria
- Cancer Preventative
- Contain High Fiber (necessary for digestion)
- Contain a Wealth of Antioxidants (read more)
According to Dr. Terry Wahls, she healed her Multiple Sclerosis with a diet containing an immense amount of dark leafy greens. In her below talk, “Minding Your Mitochondria,” she recommends a “hunter gatherer” diet, void of processed foods and instead she emphasizes foods that one would hunt or pick, including fish, grass fed meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and plenty of LEAFY GREENS. Wahls states that for optimum health, individuals should eat 9 cups of colorful fruits, vegetables and leafy greens per day. Moreover, she favors kale the most and states that it has the most nutrition, per calorie, of any plant. Kale contains B vitamins, plus A, C, K and minerals. B Vitamins protect your brain cells and mitochondria. Vitamin A and C support your immune cells, vitamin K keeps your blood vessels and bones healthy. Dr. Wahls story is truly inspiring!
Click here for Dr. Wahls’ TED TALK.
With all this talk about the health benefits of leafy greens, how can we not come to love them! Get creative and make your own wraps with the leaves, use your greens as alternatives to buns for your grass-fed, organic burgers, dress up your main dishes with a large salad, throw green leaves into your smoothies and even finely chop some spinach into your favorite chocolate donuts. You really cannot go wrong. Basically, one can eat leafy greens to their heart’s content to feel fit, fine and fabulous! Hence, the inspiration for the name of my blog: Eat Your Greens Out! Basically, it alludes to the idea, “Yeah, look at me! I’m a health nut. I eat tons of plants, I love it and I look and feel amazing!” Bottom line, don’t forget to love your body and feed it well!
<3 Eat Your Greens Out
World’s Healthiest Foods Website. Retrieved from: http://www.whfoods.com
NC106.1 Micronutrients (PowerPoint Slides). Bauman, E.
NC106.2 Micronutrients (PowerPoint Slides). Bauman, E.
NC106.5 Micronutrients (PowerPoint Slides). Bauman, E.
6 Good Reasons To Eat Leafy Greens Everyday
Sisson, M. (2012). Why You Should Eat Leafy Greens. Retrieved from: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-‐you-‐should-‐eat-‐leafy-‐greens/