Jul 25 2021

Green Leafy Vegetables are Among the Healthiest for the Gut

Published by at 1:21 pm under Immune System,Organic,Superfoods

Green leafy vegetables are among the healthiest for the gut.

Explore the many benefits of adding green leafy vegetables to your diet for better gut health.*

Do you ever stand in front of the leafy green section of the produce department and wonder just how to incorporate them into your cooking? There are so many to choose from, they all look similar, and unless you have really dived into cooking and using leafy greens in your recipes, you might feel a little overwhelmed. I know I tend to grab the same ones. For me, spinach, cabbage, lettuce of various types, and microgreens are on my list. But there are many more and when it comes down to it…these are the healthiest foods we can be putting into our body and they are excellent for gut health as they are a great source of fiber and phytonutrients. So today let’s look at the different types of leafy greens out there, their nutritional benefits, and also how to incorporate them into your cooking so that the leafy green section of the produce aisle becomes a little less intimidating.*

So we know that eating more plants, whether it is fruits, vegetables, legumes or nuts is best for overall gut health. They are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that act as food for the good gut bacteria that we want to flourish. They are full of phytonutrients which are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents which “…enhance immunity and intercellular communication, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens and alter estrogen metabolism. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that consuming a phytonutrient-rich diet seems to be an “effective strategy” for reducing cancer and heart disease risks…”  (1,2,3)*

But some vegetables are the winners when it comes to an extra dose of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals and those are from the leafy green family. One reason they are so important for good gut health is that they contain a sugar molecule called sulfoquinovose “…that is essential for providing your gut with good bacteria…”. As we know, and we covered this last time, we want to keep the good bacteria in charge because they keep the bad bacteria in check and suppress our bad cravings for unhealthy foods such as sugar and increase our cravings for the foods our body needs to stay healthy.1*

Leafy greens offer our bodies a good amount of this sugar molecule, along with folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. And of course they are full of fiber which keeps us feeling full and keeps the digestive tract functioning properly.1*

So let’s look at the various leafy greens to choose from and how each is so good for us. By including a variety of these in your diet, you can reap the most benefits.

Kale

Kale is considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you can eat due to its many minerals, the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene as well as vitamins A, C, and K. When consumed raw, you get the most health benefit, as cooking kale, reduces its nutritional profile. Lutein and beta-carotene help reduce the risk of the disease brought on by oxidative stress. One cup of raw kale packs 684% of the Daily Value for vitamin K, 206% of Vitamin A, and 134% of Vitamin C. 2*

Kale can be chopped up and put in salads, added to smoothies, put in soups, or added to pasta. Look up kale recipes and you’ll be shocked at how much it is available.

Spinach

Spinach is a favorite leafy green by many because it is tender and tasty. It is packed with folate which is key for red blood cell production and is important for pregnant women as a source of folate as it is key in the prevention of neural tube defects including spina bifida. Eating spinach during pregnancy is a great way to increase your folate intake! 2*

One cup of raw spinach offers 181% of the daily requirement for vitamin K, 56% for Vitamin A, and 13% for manganese. 2*

Spinach is wonderful as a salad base along with lettuce or on its own. It is easy to add to smoothies as it disintegrates easily and is also great in pasta and added to soups. Lightly sautéed with a little olive oil, lemon, garlic, and salt and pepper is a great side dish to any meal.*

Arugula

Arugula is another popular leafy green with its slightly spicy flavor that hints of radish. It is deliciously eaten on its own with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper or topped on pizza or other Italian foods. It is stock full of nutrients such as vitamins B9 and K. It’s a good source of naturally occurring nitrates which are believed to help increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure by widening the blood vessels. 2*

Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce is a popular source for adding leafy greens to your diet. Used in many salads, especially Caesar salad, one cup provides 82% of the daily requirements for Vitamins A and 60% of Vitamin K. In research involving rats, romaine lettuce improved blood lipids levels which showed their potential for reducing the risk of heart disease. More research is needed to determine these benefits in humans.2*

Cabbage

Cabbage is in the same family as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and kale. Vegetables in this plant family contain glucosinolates, which give them a bitter flavor. Animal studies have found that foods that contain these plant compounds may have cancer-protective properties, especially against lung and esophageal cancer. Cabbage can be fermented and turned into sauerkraut, which has its own set of health benefits as it serves as a probiotic boosting good bacteria, improves digestion, and supports immune function. 2*

Microgreens

Microgreens are immature greens produced from the seeds of vegetables and herbs, measuring between 1–3 inches. They’re full of color, flavor, and nutrients and one study found that microgreens contain up to 40 times more nutrients compared to their mature counterparts. Among these nutrients are vitamins C, E, and K.2*

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard has dark-green leaves with a thick stalk that is red, white, yellow, or green and is often used in Mediterranean cooking and belongs to the same family as beets and spinach.

It has an earthy taste and is rich in minerals and vitamins, such as potassium, manganese, and Vitamins A, C, and K  as well as a unique flavonoid called syringic acid, a compound that may be beneficial for lowering blood sugar levels through the research is limited.2*

In two small studies in rats with diabetes, oral administration of syringic acid for 30 days improved blood sugar levels. These were minor animal studies and there is little human research supporting the claim that syringic acid may aid blood sugar.

While many people typically throw away the stems of the Swiss chard plant, they’re crunchy and highly nutritious so next time try adding all parts of the Swiss chard plant to dishes such as soups, tacos, or casseroles.2*

Bok Choy

Bok choy is popular in Chinese cooking and its thick dark green leaves are often used in soups and stir-fries. This vegetable contains selenium, the mineral which plays an important role in cognitive function, immunity, and cancer prevention and is also important for thyroid gland function. The thyroid’s job is to release those hormones that play an important role in metabolism. Low levels of selenium are associated with such conditions as autoimmune thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and enlarged thyroid. 2*

Collard Greens

Collard greens are similar in texture to kale and cabbage and have a slightly bitter taste.

Common in many southern recipes, collard greens are a good source of calcium and Vitamins A, B9 (folate), and C. They’re also one of the best sources of vitamin K when it comes to leafy greens. One cup of cooked collard greens provides 1,045% of the daily requirements for vitamin K…” Vitamin K is important for its role in blood clotting and promoting bone health.2*

Collard greens can be simmered with olive oil, salt, and pepper and the more traditional way is to simmer them with bacon and onions.

Beet Greens

While beets are known for their health benefits, greens are often discarded. But not only are they tender and delicious they are full of nutrients. They are rich in potassium, calcium, riboflavin, fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K along with the antioxidants beta carotene and lutein which are beneficial for an eye disorder to include macular degeneration and cataracts. They can be added to salads, sautéed, and put in soups.2*

Turnip Greens

Turnip greens, the leaves of the turnip plant, are full of nutrients including manganese, calcium, and folate as well as vitamins A, C, and K along with several antioxidants such as gluconasturtiin, glucotropaeolin, quercetin, myricetin and beta-carotene which help reduce stress in the body. They also help decrease your risk of health conditions such as cancer, inflammation, and heart disease. 2*

Turnip greens have a strong and spicy flavor and are usually eaten cooked as opposed to raw and can be used similarly to kale or spinach in a recipe.2*

Watercress

Watercress is similar to arugula and mustard greens and for centuries has been used in herbal medicine for its healing properties..Studies in test tubes have found watercress extract to be beneficial in impairing cancer cell reproduction and invasion as well as targeting cancer stem cells. Its bitter and slightly spicy flavor make watercress a great addition to neutrally flavored foods.2*

Endive

Endive is curly and crisp with a nutty and mildly bitter flavor and  can be consumed raw or cooked. One-half cup of raw endive leaves contains 72% of the daily vitamins of vitamin K, 11% of vitamin A and 9% of folate. It is also a good source of the antioxidant kaempferol which has been shown to reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test tube studies.2*

How to eat more leafy greens

In addition to tossing your leafy greens into salads, try adding them to soups and pastas. It is a great way to sneak them in and provide your whole family that added nutritional punch without them even realizing it. Add them to pasta sauces, or try making pestos with them as well. There are thousands of recipes on the internet on how to include these into your diet. Start by going to the produce section and pick one new leafy green vegetable each time with the commitment to figure out how to cook and eat it! These powerful vegetables are among the healthiest for your gut and your body, so experiment to see how you can add more to your daily diet. Along with taking Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™ daily, your gut will thank you!

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

Resources:

  1. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7891357/the-best-vegetables-for-gut-health/
  2. https://www.livescience.com/52541-phytonutrients.html
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/leafy-green-vegetables#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

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