“Eat your greens” is a constant refrain heard across dining tables, but are we getting enough of green foods? Leafy vegetables constitute a major group of greens, but there several other equally good green foods. Here are a few must-haves and why we should include them in our diet.
Green Tea – Anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-cancer properties of green tea may be attributed to the epigallocatechin gallate in this healthful brew. The amino acid L-theanine in the tea has a neuroprotective effect. It enhances memory and cognitive function. Drinking 2 to 3 cups of unsweetened green tea may help in diabetic control and weight loss too.
Asparagus – An excellent source of folic acid, asparagus is important as a heart-healthy food. A serving of asparagus spears provides just 20 calories while it supplies half of the daily requirement of this vitamin. This sulphur-rich vegetable also contains glutathione, known as the “mother of all antioxidants.” Asparagus saponins have anti-cancer properties, while rutin promotes immunity. Asparagus may cause an offensive smell in the urine of some people, but it’s a small price to pay for its abundant health benefits.
Avocados – This thick-skinned fruit with light green, creamy flesh is high in fat and calories. However, the high amount of soluble fiber, and the omega-3 fatty acid, makes it a heart-friendly food as it lowers cholesterol. Eating an avocado everyday for just a week has shown 17% reduction in cholesterol levels. Regular use of this fruit is associated with weight loss and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Avocado is known as an anti-aging food. The D-mannoheptulose in avocado increases collagen production, reducing wrinkles and making skin look younger.
Broccoli – This dark green flower head is a storehouse of vitamins and minerals, which make it the star among green foods. Containing powerful antioxidants kaempferol and quercetin, besides vitamins C and E, this vegetable is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Besides acting as a natural detoxifier, broccoli lowers cholesterol even better than the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine. Regular consumption assures eye health and helps maintain gastrointestinal health.
Green Pepper – Rich in vitamin C and B-group vitamins, green peppers are known for their capacity to raise the basic metabolic rate of our body even without capsaicin. The fiber content in this low calorie food also make it an ideal inclusion in the weight watchers’ diet. Luteolin is a phytochemical in bell peppers that prevents the proliferation of cancer cells. Regular consumption of green pepper may keep you in good health.
Kale – The dark green leaves of kale are loosely arranged, and they do not form a tight head like that of cabbage. Low in calories, but rich in fiber, they are the best bet for shedding pounds. The fiber, acting as a bile acid sequestrant, forces the liver to utilize more cholesterol reserves for bile production, resulting in reduced blood cholesterol levels. The anti-cancer property of kale comes from the sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol in these leaves, while the lutein and zeaxanthin take care of eye health. As a non-dairy source of calcium, kale even beats milk in the bioavailability of this mineral essential to bone health.
Kiwi Fruit – This small, oval fruit with fuzzy brown skin and green flesh is an excellent antioxidant food due to its high vitamin C and E content. Rich in potassium and fiber, and having the ability to reduce platelet aggregation, regular consumption of this fruit can promote cardiovascular health. Serotonin in Kiwi ensures good sleep, while the carotenoids offer protection against macular degeneration. People who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome greatly benefit from including this fruit in their diet.
Nopales – This Mexican staple is the tender pads of prickly pear cactus. They contain high amounts of vitamin C, magnesium and manganese. Since calcium occurs in combination with oxalates, its bioavailability is poor. The flavonoids in this cactus offer anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It has been traditionally used to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The mucilage from the leaves has a protective effect on the stomach lining and is known to prevent gastric ulcers. Nopales cut into thin slices make a nice addition to salads.
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