Veggie Talk: Mama Knows Best

July 17, 2013


“Eat your vegetables!”. It’s something we’ve all heard our mom tell us as we were growing up. It turns out she wasn’t just nagging, but she actually had a really good point and our health in mind. For most of us during childhood vegetables probably weren’t our favorite food. When it came to pizza, hamburgers, soda, and candy it was always yes, yes, yes, and yes. But when the green stuff from the ground was put on our plate our appetites and enthusiasm were likely lost. I can’t tell you why this was often the case, but I can tell you why we should no longer avoid some of the world’s best sources of life giving and supporting nutrients.

Let’s go green; and by this I don’t mean go and buy a hybrid (though they are great on gas mileage and very environmentally friendly). What I mean is go and eat green vegetables. Many green vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that offer a high number of health benefits; and with so many to choose from you should never get bored.

Within the last few years a kale craze has swept the country, and this once overlooked green leafy vegetable has now taken center stage. Kale has been a common staple in the diets of cultures spanning from Europe to Africa and to Asia. Besides offering a nice strong flavor, kale is an excellent source of Vitamin C which is a highly effective antioxidant that helps with inflammation and has an impact on cardiovascular disease through lowering cholesterol. Kale is also chock full of Vitamin K which is essential for human bone growth and density. Calcium is another nutrient found in Kale that’s linked to bone growth/density and preventing diseases like osteoporosis. Calcium is an important component of a healthy diet and is crucial to maintaining cartilage and joint flexibility. Strong bones and joints mean a stronger you who is able to do more with less risk of injury. Studies have also shown that the molecule sulforaphane which is present in kale exhibits anti-cancer properties.

Kale may be the hot and trendy vegetable right now, but how can we forget the longtime favorite spinach. If Popeye’s forearms are any indicator of the benefits of eating spinach, then pile it up on my plate! Spinach is another vegetable that is rich in antioxidants like Vitamin A and E. Vitamin A plays a critical role in maintaining our immune system and the health and integrity of our vision. It’s also responsible for skin and cellular health. Some studies have shown that proper levels of Vitamin E intake help to prevent and delay heart disease. Magnesium (treats magnesium deficiency which can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, and weakness), Potassium (reduces risk of hypertension), Omega 3 fatty acids (manages inflammation, fights against arthritis, asthma, and other autoimmune disorders), Iron, and Zinc are all found in spinach as well. 

Some other green vegetables worth noting include collard greens (soluble fiber and another good source of Vitamin C), chard (contains good amounts of Vitamins A, K, and C; and also rich in nutrients and protein), broccoli (Vitamin C and contains multiple nutrients with powerful anti cancer properties), and asparagus (full of folate which helps reduce the risk of hearth disease and is great for pregnant women). 

With so many great green options it’s almost impossible to not heed the words of your mom. Your best bet is to start by finding a few vegetables you like, figure out a way to prepare them in a way you enjoy, then eat them every day. Listen to your mom and start to live a healthier and better life.

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