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Lean, Mean, Greens: The Benefits of Dark Leafy Greens

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Have you ever wondered why (some) would describe man and woman's first home (on earth) as being in a garden (The Garden of Eden)? Well, probably because gardens have, besides lots of beauty to offer lots of good eats to offer as well...and among these dark leafy greens. In fact, some would suggest that our ancestors consumed up to six pounds of leafy greens daily....perhaps that is why some (biblical) characters lived well into their (several) hundreds.

Oh, how times have changed. Today, salads and leafy greens remain high on the food chain but low on the menu with most us getting less than the minimum USDA recommended 3-cups of dark green veggies weekly. Still they offer the most nutrition with the least amount of calories and are packed with tons of healthy vitamins, minerals, and phytonutients.

Did you know that calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens offer the most concentrated source nutrition, bar none. Abundant in rich, vibrant hues, they are also full of essential minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium; and in vitamins K, C, E and many of the B vitamins.

In addition dark leafy greens give us a host of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all which guard our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related degeneration and related problems. And, dark leafy greens even offer some Omega-3 fats.

The most important nutrient of all however is the vitamin K. Just one cup of cooked greens offers at least nine times the minimum recommended intake of vitamin K...and even a few cups of dark salad greens give the minimum on their own. In fact recent studies suggest that this vital vitamin may prove more essential than we once thought or even know and that most of us need to make a conscious effort to get more of it (as even the current minimum may not be enough).

According to research vitamin k has many benefits including:

* regulating blood clotting

* protecting bones from osteoporosis

* helping guard against and even potentially reducing atherosclerosis by lowering calcium in arterial plaques.

* regulating inflammation and protecting us from inflammatory diseases including arthritis.

* helping prevent diabetes.

In addition, vitamin K is a fat-soluable vitamin...giving you the freedom to top your salad with some heart smart healthy dressing or to cook your green veggies with oil.

Dark leafy greens contain very few carbohydrates and those they "do" contain are packed in layers of fiber, which make them slow to digest....which is why dark leafy greens have little effect on blood glucose. In some cases "diet systems" greens are considered a "freebie", at least as far as carbohydrates are concerned...and I've heard some suggest that sans dressing or other potentially "fatty" toppings you can almost eat as many dark veggies as you want virtually guilt-free.

Keep in mind however that some greens have substances known as oxalates which may bind some percentage of the calcium to the greens.

Long Island Health, Fitness & Beauty Articles > Lean, Mean, Greens: The Benefits of Dark Leafy Greens

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