Skip the green food coloring. Add more leafy greens to your diet this St. Patrick’s Day – and every other day of the year – to help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. WVU Medicine dietitian Judy Siebart, RD, discusses the benefits of a greener diet and how to prepare leafy greens so that you’ll be craving seconds.
1. Manage your weight.
- Leafy green vegetables are ideal for weight management as they are low in calories, but salads can get boring fast. Rethink your salad by experimenting with new leafy green varieties, like spicy watercress and arugula. Find salad mixes at the grocery or toss together your own combination.
- These simple salads can be prepared in minutes: strawberry spinach salad or apple carrot salad.
2. Prevent cancer and heart disease.
- Green foods are useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease since they are low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
- Enjoy a fruit smoothie for breakfast or an afternoon snack: 1 banana, ½ cup mango diced, 2-3 handfuls of spinach leaves, and ½ cup almond milk. Add a teaspoon of flax or chia seeds for an extra nutritional kick.
3. Get rid of toxins.
- Did you know that leafy greens may help remove toxins from the body? Kale, collards, spinach, and others are filled with a green pigment called chlorophyll, which aids the liver in removing environmental toxins from the body.
- Be sure to clean your greens before eating by filling a large bowl with cool water and completely submerging the greens you want to use. Swish the greens around to get rid of hidden dirt.
- Get a green boost with easy Mediterranean collard snack wraps. Cut out the stem of one collard leaf and use each half of the leaf for small wraps. Fill the center of the collard leaf with your favorite spreads, like hummus or avocado, then add thinly sliced veggies, like bell peppers, shredded carrots, or roast some of your favorite veggies. Roll one side of the collard leaf over the veggies, then roll it up as you would a burrito.
4. Reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
- Leafy veggies may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes because of their high concentrations of magnesium, vitamin C, and beneficial nutrients called polyphenols.
- Try kale chips instead of potato chips: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and dry a large bunch of kale, remove the stems and tough center ribs. Rip the kale into large pieces, toss with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with some sea salt and pepper. Experiment with other spices like minced garlic, curry powder, or turmeric for added flavor. Bake about 10 to 15 minutes. Check the kale chips often while cooking as they can burn easily.
5. Boost your bone health.
- The high level of vitamin K in leafy greens makes them an important part of your diet for bone health. Research shows that the risk of hip fracture in middle-aged women may decrease with one or more daily servings of leafy greens. If you’re on a prescription blood thinner, please check with you healthcare professional before adding more greens to your diet. Vitamin K found in leafy greens can interfere with some blood thinners.
- Any side of greens can be easily prepared by tossing clean leaves into a hot, oiled skillet with garlic and stir until wilted. Season with sea salt and pepper, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, or vinegar, and serve as a side dish with your favorite meat, fish, or vegetarian option.
Learn more: 7 delicious ways you can "Go for the Greens"