Eight super-healthy leafy greens – and why you should eat them

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Eight super-healthy leafy greens – and why you should eat them


Eight super-healthy leafy greens – and why you should eat them

Leafy greens are a great way to improve your health as they possess many vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. As a nutritionist, I would highly recommend getting more of the following salad leaves in your diet.

Spinach

Spinach is easy to get all year round, and is chock full of iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins B6, C and K. It is also a good source of antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers.

It’s best eaten uncooked, as part of a salad, as cooking tends to destroy the naturally occurring polyphenols and flavanols in the leaves. Certain polyphenols and flavonoids may reduce the chance of developing certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Kale

Kale has a unique taste that can vary somewhat depending on its variety and how it’s prepared. If you can handle bitter taste, kale is packed with important micronutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. It is also a good source of vitamins, including vitamins A, B, E, C and K.

Avoid blanching and boiling kale as it can reduce the amount of water-soluble minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals in the leaves. Kale can be eaten uncooked in salads.

A cup of uncooked kale (21g) is just nine calories.

Swiss chard

My third choice is Swiss chard, which has a slightly sweet flavour, and has good amounts of vitamins A and C. And even a small amount of Swiss chard (around 175 grams) can fulfil your daily requirement of vitamin K – which is important for blood clotting and healthy bones.

Swiss chard, which comes in a variety of colours, also has essential minerals such as iron, copper, potassium and calcium.

Collard greens

Collard greens are a good source of lutein, which is important for eye health. They are full of vitamins A and C and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, copper and selenium, and are a good source of fibre. As with spinach, you can get this all year round.

Rocket

If you’re in the mood for a leafy green with a fresh, tangy, slightly bitter and peppery taste, consider adding rocket to your plate. It’s been consumed by humans since at least Roman times, and is a popular topping on pizzas.

Rocket, also known as arugula and eruca, is packed with nitrates – which studies have shown can boost performance in sports. Rocket is also rich in vitamins K and C, and calcium and polyphenols.

 

Romaine lettuce

The crunchy and mild-tasting romaine lettuce is full of nutrient-rich goodies. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, K, C and folate (a B vitamin that is especially important during pregnancy). These nutrients are essential for maintaining overall health and supporting a healthy immune system.

Romaine, also known as cos lettuce, is a source of fibre too, which is known to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

Watercress

If you enjoy a bit of spice and want to incorporate a leafy green with a distinct flavour into your meals, watercress is a great choice. It not only adds a burst of taste but also provides a rich source of vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Research suggests that watercress could be a therapeutic agent in oral cancer.

Bok choy

If you’re looking for a leafy green with a gentle flavour and satisfying texture, bok choy is a great choice. This variety of Chinese white cabbage can be used in stir-fries, soups, salads or simply sautéed as a side dish.

It is rich in fibre as well as various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This leafy green can help maintain bone health, immunity, vision, heart health, blood pressure and possibly prevent certain types of cancer.

I prefer to have a balanced diet and adding these leafy greens can help me stay healthy, improve my immunity, and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases. They are also low in calories, making them a good choice for those who want to manage their weight. So enjoy them in salads, smoothies, soups or as a side dish with your favourite meals.



By Swrajit Sarkar
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Senior Lecturer in Nutrition, City, University of London

Swrajit is a registered public health nutritionist with the association for nutrition (UKVRN), and a member of the Nutrition Society, a full member of the Royal Society of Biology and chartered biologist (CBiol), and fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH). His educational background includes a BSc (H) in Biosciences: Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Masters by Research (MRes) in Public Health Nutrition and a three year doctoral programme in Public Health Nutrition.

Previous to his current role has worked as an Associate Dean Student Experience (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences) at Bournemouth University, he was also a senior lecturer in nutrition, he was working as an associate senior lecturer in food and nutrition at Leeds Trinity University and he was a lecturer of nutritional sciences at the University of Central Lancashire. He has also worked as an associate of access and widening participation unit and part-time Lecturer of the University of Greenwich.

His key research has been in the field of non-communicable diseases risk identification among south Asian Communities living in the United Kingdom, although he has a broader interest in nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NR-NCDs) in developing countries and the impact of the nutrition transition on NCD prevalence among migrants from developing countries into developed countries. He is a member of the Africa Nutrition Society (ANS) and have assisted the ANS in organising the African Nutrition Epidemiology Conferences (ANEC) in Kenya and South Africa.

(Source: theconversation.com; November 14, 2023; https://tinyurl.com/mttjxvxp)