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How Green Is Your Diet?

Grandma knew what she was talking about when she told us to eat our spinach, so we could grow up to be strong like Popeye. The nutrient power in deep-green leafy vegetables to heal and rejuvenate the human body is unmatched by any combination of synthetic medicines or supplements, notes dietician Deepshika Agarwal.


Not vitamins or medicines, just deep-green leafy vegetables. Grandma knew what she was talking about when she told us to eat our spinach, so we could grow up to be strong like Popeye.

The nutrient power in deep-green leafy vegetables to heal and rejuvenate the human body is unmatched by any combination of synthetic medicines or supplements.

As most people are well aware, good nutrition and a balanced diet are important components of overall health. A healthy diet calls for many vitamins and nutrients; this partially highlights a number of healthy choices that can be directly beneficial for achieving optimum health.

Green leafy vegetables are considered to be the major contributor of vitamins and minerals in the diet. They are plants or parts of plants that are used as food. Leafy vegetables supply many nutrients besides providing variety to the diet. They make the food attractive by their colour, texture and flavour.

At present even in developed countries, because of increasing scientific evidence linking red meat consumption and heart diseases, the focus seems to be on the consumption of more plant materials as substantial sources of many nutrients, including micronutrients.

Though Indian population is mostly vegetarian, the intake of these vegetables has been too low in their daily diet. People do not eat greens or eat less in quantity without realizing its importance in their diet.

Researchers have found that daily consumption of leafy greens can cause 23% of reduction in coronary heart disease. It is advisable to include at least 50g of leafy greens daily in one’s diet.

Benefits of leafy vegetables:

  • Greens contain high amount of moisture. Hence they are not good sources of calories. They are the main ingredient in the diet of people looking out for weight loss. Green leafy salad should be a “must” for overweight girls.
  • Beet greens are excellent sources of iron and riboflavin. After the age of 40 women should concentrate on including spinach in their diet as spinach is a rich source of iron. A 60-gm serving of boiled spinach contains around 1.9 mg of iron. Many green vegetables contain less than 1 mg of iron for an equivalent serving. Hence spinach does contain a relatively high level of iron.
  • Green leafy vegetables like amaranth, spinach and mint are good sources of folic acid. (100g = 120-140ug). Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and those in the first trimester of pregnancy should consume adequate folic acid. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables contribute to the fibre content of the diet. Fibre helps to reduce constipation and diverticulosis. It is important for proper bowel function.
  • Spinach, collards, turnip greens are rich sources of carotenoids (Vit A) thus preventing night blindness, cataract and any kind of chronic fatigue. Free radicals generated by sunlight, cigarette smoke, air pollution, infection, and metabolism cause muscular damage. Dark green leafy vegetables contain two pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin that accumulate in the eye. These two pigments remove out the free radicals before they can harm the eye’s sensitive tissues. (Brown L, Rimm EB, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of carotenoid intake and risk of cataract extraction in US men. Am J Clin Nutr 1999)
  • Certain dark green vegetables like arugula, broccoli and kale are all members of the cruciferous family. These vegetables supply phytochemicals such as indoles that help stop cancer before it starts. These phytochemicals block enzymes that activate carcinogens and boost enzymes that detoxify them. Other antioxidant phytochemicals in these green cruciferous veggies help prevent and repair DNA damage that can lead to cancer. They also seem to interrupt the growth of cancer cells.

Quick And Easy Ways To Include Greens In Your Diet:

Although most of the greens are eaten raw, proper cooking methods (not overcooking) can preserve over 90% of their nutrients while their flavour becomes more concentrated and sweet. Dark leafy greens are tasty and easy to add in your daily meals. Try some of these recipes:

MAKE A SALAD: Leafy greens like spinach, cabbage and lettuce, broccoli taste great when mixed in a salad with different kinds of veggies such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and onions. You can use lemon, different herbs, garlic or vinegar for the dressing of the salad and thus enhance the taste of it.

ROLL IT UP: Make a roll with tuna, chicken or turkey and add spinach, arugula, cabbage and other veggies for some extra flavor.

ADD TO SOUP: Try mixing some leafy greens with your favorite soup.

STIR –FRY: Add chopped leafy greens like cauliflower greens, lettuce, spinach, broccoli to chicken or tofu or paneer and stir-fry with olive oil. One can add green chillies and other spices as per their taste.

STEAM IT: For something new, steam some kale or spinach. Steam them until the colour of greens changes to bright green colour. Avoid overcooking.

MAKE A JUICE: The recipes is as follows:

Green Mary juice
(1 serving/1glass)

Corriander leaves-10gms
Sweet lime-1in nos

1. Blanch spinach. Wash and chop mint and coriander leaves.
2. Blend all the ingredients together. Serve cold.

Nutrient Content:
Energy (kilocalories) – 53
Protein (grams) – 2.36
Fat (grams) – 0.4
Fibre (grams) – 1
Iron (milligrams) – 4.56
Calcium (milligrams) – 103.5
Carotene (micrograms) – 2198
Folic acid (micrograms) – 41.25

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