Dark green leafy vegetables include kale, spinach, silver beet, rocket , broccoli, and bok choy.
What's good about them?
They are a rich source of carotenoids, antioxidants that protect cells and play a role in fighting off the early stages of cancer. They contain essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Dark greens are also a good source of folate which promotes heart health and prevents certain birth defects. Vitamin K found in dark leafy greens, helps protect bones from osteoporosis. Kale and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K. Broccoli and bok choy are a rich source of many of the B vitamins (3).
All offer a varying amounts of micro nutrients so it is a good idea to mix it up and not just stick to one kind of leafy green. I also recommend aiming for two serves per day.
Kale versus spinach - is one better than the other?
Both have similar iron and fibre content but spinach has greater Vitamin A, which is improtant for eye and skin health. Kale is better for Vitamin B6. Both are great sources of Vitamin K, necessary for bone health and required for blood clotting (2). Spinach has the highest folate content, important during pregnancy.
Kale is the the winner when it comes to calcium. Don't just think dairy for your calcium intake. Kale has a higher copper content, which is required for red cell production. Kale again has the highest content of manganese which is necessary for the formation of connective tissue and sex hormones (2).
The verdict? - both are fantastic sources of many vitamins and minerals but they do vary. So have both or vary every week.
Broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables to help rid the body of excess oestrogen. Indole-3-carbinol and its biologically active form DIM, are obtained from cruciferous vegetables. Studies increasingly indicate that indole-3-carbinol found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables prevent the development of oestrogen enhanced cancers such as breast, endometrial and cervical cancers (1).
If you have a sweet tooth and are trying to control it, I recommend including more bitter tasting foods.
Bitter foods help liver function and detoxification. Nutrients found in leafy greens such as sulphur, Vitamins A, D, E and K are necessary for the body to produce bile and in turn for optimum digestion and liver function. Bitter foods also help balance blood sugar levels. Try it for yourself. By adding more bitter tasting foods into your diet such as rocket and kale helps retrain your taste buds and reduce your sugar cravings.
Some of my favourite ways to enjoy leafy greens include a green juice, spinach omelette for breakfast. Lunch can be a baby spinach and rocket salad with lean protein or home made pesto with a combination of basil, baby spinach and kale. Dinner can be a silver beet filo pie or vegetable stir fry with bok choy.
Try adding baby spinach to your kids sandwich or wrap. If you like bacon and eggs on the weekend add a handful of rocket leaves.
One of my family favourites is spinach and feta quiche. The great thing about this recipe is you can use baby spinach, silver beet or kale. Make a double batch and lunch is ready the next day.
I would love to hear your recipe ideas for increasing leafy greens.
Have a great day.
Auborn, K., Fan, S., Rosen, E., Goodwin, L., Chandraskaren, A., & Williams, D. et al. (2017). Indole-3-Carbinol Is a Negative Regulator of Estrogen. Jn.nutrition.org. Retrieved 18 October 2017, from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/7/2470S.full
Kale versus Spinac: which is Healthier". (2015). Huff Post. Retrieved 19 October 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/07/02/kale-vs-spinach_n_3534191.html
Yen, L. (2013). Dark Green Leafy Vegetables. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 19 October 2017, from https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/