ua en ru

Nutritionist reveals top foods for health and youth

Nutritionist reveals top foods for health and youth What are the benefits of green vegetables (photo: Freepik)

Ensuring proper health can be achieved through a balanced diet enriched with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds. Green leafy vegetables are rich in such substances, making them essential in one's diet, according to dietitian Oleg Shvets.

What are the benefits of green vegetables

"To meet the basic requirements for essential nutrients, it is recommended to consume over 300 grams of green leafy vegetables daily. Food with a green color is considered a benchmark for balancing a full spectrum of the most beneficial nutrients with minimal calorie content," explains the dietitian.

The doctor explains that incorporating such food into one's diet can be challenging for many people because greenery has a short shelf life even in the refrigerator, and some individuals may not appreciate the bitterness and texture of these products.

"Technologically processed food and dishes that are typical representatives of the 'Western diet' compete with green vegetables because they are easier to cook and offer a variety of flavors. Many people lack skills in preparing tasty dishes based on a variety of green leafy vegetables," adds Shvets.

The doctor elaborates on the benefits of green vegetables and discusses the recommended daily intake.

Cellulose

"All whole plant products contain cellulose. These are simple carbohydrates that are not digested. Cellulose in green leafy vegetables serves as fuel for beneficial bacteria in our intestines, promoting normal digestion and a healthy metabolism," says the dietitian.

Vitamins

Dark leafy green vegetables contain a plethora of vitamins, especially folic acid and vitamin K. Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is a crucial nutrient during preconception and pregnancy, contributing to successful conception, gestation, and the birth of a healthy child. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient for blood clotting.

Minerals

Green vegetables provide calcium, magnesium, and potassium, helping maintain an alkaline pH in the body. Greens also serve as a plant-based source of iron.

Phytonutrients

"Dark leafy greens contain thousands of phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, covering the entire spectrum of the rainbow. We may not see most colors because the green chlorophyll in plants masks other compounds. For instance, leafy greens are a source of red, orange, and yellow carotenoids, acting as antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and supporting reproductive health," adds Shvets.

Benefits of green vegetables

Reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases. The consumption of vegetables (and fruits) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. The overall volume and variety of consumed vegetables play a crucial role.

Efficient neutralization and elimination of end products of metabolism. Chlorophyll can bind to toxins and carcinogens in the body, aiding in their removal.

"The vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in green vegetables support liver detoxification. For example, sulforaphane (found in broccoli sprouts, leafy cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables) plays a vital role in liver detoxification. Additionally, sulforaphane activates the production of antioxidants that protect against harmful compounds," explains the doctor.

Immune health. Many green vegetables contain essential nutrients for strengthening the immune system, including vitamin C, B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Moreover, consuming vegetables supports a healthy gut microbiome, which directly interacts with the immune system.

Slowing down aging. Phytonutrients and antioxidants are anti-aging compounds associated with healthy aging. Just 200 grams of green vegetables per day can slow down age-related cognitive decline.

Improving mineral status. Ukrainians currently have an increased need for minerals due to stress, toxins, processed food, and other factors. Consuming a significant amount of dark leafy green vegetables is one strategy to enhance mineral intake. They are rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium — electrolytes or alkaline minerals that support mineral balance and homeostasis.

Psychological comfort and better quality of life. Vegetable consumption is also crucial for psychological health. Several studies link the consumption of a diverse range of vegetables with feelings of happiness, overall well-being, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Which vegetables to eat and how much

Shvets recommends incorporating alfalfa, arugula, asparagus, beet greens, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), broccoli, cilantro, Swiss chard, chlorella, collard greens, kale, nettle, parsley, wheatgrass sprouts, Romaine lettuce, seaweed, spinach, spirulina, watercress, and more into your diet.

It is recommended to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily (about 500 g), including over 300 grams of vegetables per day.

"Research shows that when it comes to vegetables, the more you eat, the better. A serving should be approximately 100 grams of raw vegetables or 75 grams of cooked," notes the dietitian.

Choosing a variety of green vegetables is one beneficial rule. By adding more diversity to your meals, you increase the quantity of nutrients and phytonutrients, hence maximizing their benefits.

How to add more vegetables and greens to your daily menu

  • Set realistic goals. Start by setting a realistic goal. Begin by adding just one serving of greens to your daily diet and gradually increase the quantity.
  • Use convenient options. If you're busy and dislike dealing with fresh greens, opt for pre-washed, pre-cut, or frozen options. They offer convenience without compromising on nutrition.
  • Make vegetables tasty. Enhance the flavor of vegetables by sautéing them in healthy fats, such as olive oil or coconut oil. Add some onions, garlic, and sea salt. Combining greens with fats improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients. Vegetables are both nutritious and tastier with a touch of fat.
  • Grow your own greens. Consider growing your own herbs or vegetables if you have a bit of fertile soil and seeds. You can easily cultivate parsley, cilantro, or spinach at home.
  • Don't ignore greenhouse vegetables. Greenhouse vegetables may not have the same taste as their open-field counterparts during the peak season and might contain slightly more nitrates. However, they are almost identical in nutritional content and can provide essential nutrients throughout the year.