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The Hidden Health Benefits Of Leafy Greens

Image source: NYtimes

Image source: NYtimes

Before we get into a discussion about why you should eat more greens, it is important to define just what greens really are. Things like chard, lettuce, mustard, parsley, spinach, beet greens, arugula, endive, baby greens, beet greens and collards are all examples of leafy greens.

So, why should you eat more greens? There are countless reasons, but here are four:

1. Greens are loaded with antioxidants.

Greens contain a large supply of antioxidants, including beta carotene, which has been proven to both renew and repair skin. Beta carotene is the pigment that gives plants their color. Its name is derived from the Latin name for “carrot.”

Once in the body, beta-carotene is changed into vitamin A (retinol), which is necessary for good vision and overall eye health, a well-functioning immune system, healthy skin and healthy mucous membranes. Because beta-carotene is an antioxidant, it protects the body from free radicals that damage the skin through oxidation.

Leafy greens are also rich in other antioxidants, including vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, which protects against cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, a major part of cartilage that helps with joint flexibility, healthy skin, blood vessels and hair and has been shown to reduce the risk of arthritis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, people who eat diets rich in vitamin C are less likely to develop arthritis.

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Recent research shoes that eating more foods containing antioxidants can even help to lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.

2. Greens are rich in fiber.

One of the reasons you may feel hungry all the time is because you don’t eat enough fiber. A diet rich in fiber, like that found in leafy greens, can keep you feeling full and satisfied all day long. This reduces the temptation to snack and helps you maintain and even lose weight. Because leafy greens help to slow the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream, they can also help keep type 2 diabetes at bay. Fiber is also important to the regulation of cholesterol and blood pressure.

3. Greens contain folate.

Beet greens. Image source: aliabaad.com

Beet greens. Image source: aliabaad.com

Leafy greens are rich in folate, which can decrease your risk of memory loss and cardiovascular disease. Folate contributes to the production of serotonin, which means it can help keep your mood upbeat and help with sleep. One cup of spinach contains 65 percent of the daily recommended value of folate; collard greens are a close second at 44 percent.

4. Greens are low in calories.

There are some foods that you can eat pounds and pounds of and not gain any weight; leafy greens fall into this category. Three cups of most greens contain less than 100 calories. Greens make a great snack, side dish or even a meal. If you are watching your waistline, greens are the way to go.

Leafy greens are loaded with vitamins, minerals and health-boosting phytochemicals.

Here are just a few of the ways you can enjoy your leafy greens:

Green Smoothies and Juices

If you are not a big fan of eating greens on their own, consider adding them to fruit smoothies or juicing them. When you juice, you get a highly concentrated source of nutrients, so you really don’t need to use a whole lot to get a great benefit. Here is a great green smoothie recipe that the whole family will love.

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Glorious Green Smoothie

Combine the following and blend.

  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk (chilled)
  • 2 cups of chopped bay spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped pineapple
  • 1 frozen banana, chopped

Baked Kale Chips

These chips make a delicious and nutritious snack

  • 1 head of washed and dried kale
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
  • Sea salt

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Break the ribs for the kale and cut into medium-size pieces.

Spread on a cookie sheet and cover with oil.

Toss the kale with the oil and season with salt.

Bake until the chips are crisp.

Steamed Collard Greens

(This recipe is so easy that there is no excuse for not eating your greens!)

  • 1 bunch of washed collard greens
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the stems from the greens.

Place leaves in a large saucepan with one cup of cold water.

Put a lid on your pot and boil the leaves until they are tender — about 5-7 minutes.

Strain leaves and squeeze the excess water out of them.

Serve with olive oil and a little Parmesan cheese.

Greens are flexible, easy-to-grow and go great with lots of different foods. If you aren’t up for growing you own, check out your local farmer’s market for some organic greens and enjoy!

What are other health benefits of greens that you enjoy? Share them in the section below:

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