Greens: why are they so good for our health?

Libby Limon BSc NT mBANT / Jan 5, 2016

Everyone knows the old adage, ‘eat your greens’, but are they as good as they say? How much should you be eating? What is the best way to eat them, raw or cooked? We ask our in-house VITL nutritionist, Libby Limon, to come clean about greens...

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Green vegetables in terms of nutrient density to calories are, without doubt, up there as the most nutritious foods of the planet. Spinach, kale, sprouts, cabbage, cavolo nero, chard, pak choi, broccoli, rocket, watercress the list goes on….. are all related, part of the brassica family and have similar nutrients and benefits.

Forget orange juice if you want vitamin C, greens are where it is at, 1 cup of raw kale, gives you 124% of your RDA of vitamin C for only a mere 33Kcal. Vitamin C is one of our most needed vitamins, as it is water-soluble we cannot store it very well so need daily top ups. Vitamin C is needed for collagen to keep your skin looking plump and young as well as being a major anti-oxidant supporting liver detoxification, growth and repair and the immune system.

Green leafs are also good sources of many of the other essential vitamins and minerals, however, the real key to their superiority over other healthy natural foods is the plant chemicals, known as polyphenols that they are an abundant source of. They contain high levels compounds called glucosinolates which are anti-oxidants protecting against oxidative stress and helping the body detoxify harmful chemicals and hormones. In terms of the big picture, they have been shown to reduce cancer rates particularly colon, prostate, lung and breast cancer. As they can increase the detoxification of oestrogens by up to 50%, they can be really helpful for female hormone balance and for alleviating hormonal acne and PMT.

Lastly, Brassica’s are a great source of glutamine. Glutamine which was originally known as Vitamin U, until it was recognised as protein, is the most needed amino acid in the body. It is used for repair and regeneration of cells. It can be helpful post surgery or burns for healing, as well as used to promote muscle recovery after exercise and it keeps your gut lining healthy.

Green leafy vegetables are not all good news though; they contain goitrogenic compounds, which can block the absorption of some minerals such as iodine, thus negatively affecting thyroid health. However, this can be easily solved as these compounds are broken down by cooking. If you have no thyroid issues a daily combination of 1-2 portions of green leafy veg both raw and cooked will optimise the health benefits you can glean from these super green foods.

It is hard to get enough greens everyday so taking a supplement in the form of VITL’s supergreen capsule or adding our superfood VITL Greens powder to your daily routine will help to support healthy lifestyle choices and compliments nutritional intake.