Grandma was right – you should eat your greens.
You’ve heard it a million times – you need to eat more vegetables, particularly those greens. Yet research shows that most of us don’t. In fact our latest dietary survey showed that only 7% of Australian adults met the recommended guideline of at least 5 serves of vegetables per day. That’s plenty of room for improvement!
Despite all the current confusion and conflicting ideas on what to eat, eating more vegetables, particularly the green variety, is one thing everyone agrees on. Why? Green vegetables are an excellent source of fibre and provide a range of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. In fact, research has found that those who have the highest intakes of green leafy vegetables have a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease compared to those with the lowest intakes. Green veggies are also high in fibre and low in energy so help to fill you up without adding up the kilojoules, and can help with weight management.
So what is it about ‘greens’ that might explain their health benefits?
- They are an excellent source of dietary fibre, both insoluble fibre which helps to keep us regular, and soluble fibre which can lower cholesterol levels and help with blood glucose control. Fibre also helps to fill you up, assisting with weight management.
- They are rich in folate, an important B-group vitamin which lowers the amino acid homocysteine (Hcy) in the blood – high levels of Hcy are linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Folate is particularly important for women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant, as it reduces the risk of birth defects in their child.
- They are a great source of antioxidants, which form part of the body’s natural defence network against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are produced through the process of oxidation which occurs during many of the normal chemical reactions that take place in our bodies, as well as being triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke, sunlight and other pollutants. They cause damage to the cells in our body and are believed to be an important factor in the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants are found widely in plant foods and destroy free radicals, preventing the damage that they can cause and reducing disease risk
Top Tips for eating more greens.
Eating more greens doesn’t have to be boring or difficult. Here are ten ways to build more greens into your diet.
- Try asparagus on toast or poached eggs with spinach for breakfast.
- Eat a green salad daily at lunch or dinner– include a variety of salad leaves, cucumber, snow peas, capsicum, green beans, asparagus, a few cubes of avocado and some fresh herbs
- Include 2-3 different greens with your main meal each day, choosing something new each time you shop, depending what’s in season. Team with some red, orange and yellow vegetables for optimum nutrition and plate appeal.
- If greens aren’t your favourite food, try mixing them in with other foods –grated zucchini can be added into mince, spinach goes well with ricotta in pasta, and most greens go well in curries and stir-fries. Or toss them quickly in a small amount of olive oil and garlic before serving.
- Add salad greens to your sandwich, and not just lettuce – try rocket, baby spinach, cucumber or roasted zucchini and salad sprouts
- Use avocado as a spread on your sandwiches or toast in place of butter.
- For colder weather, broccoli, cabbage, peas, spinach and asparagus all go well in soups.
- If the time to shop and prepare them is an issue, keep some frozen vegetables on hand for a quick and easy addition to any meal – peas, beans, spinach and broccoli are all readily available.
- For a healthy snack, serve hummus or salsa with sticks of cucumber or zucchini, sliced capsicum and fresh snow peas.
- Add spinach, kale and celery to fresh juices.