We're excited about this next featured color...GREEN! A powerhouse group that has so many shades, nutrients, and health benefits we can't get enough of it! Arguably, one of the most important colors to incorporate on to your plate. There are so many wonderful green foods that we couldn't possibly include all of them on our list today. We will be focusing on our Dietitians' favorites due to their amazing health properties and high nutritional value. But don't think we don't appreciate any and all green fruits and veggies that you can incorporate on to your plate!
What classifies a food as a powerhouse? According to the CDC it is its nutrient density and association with reducing the risk of chronic disease. A powerhouse classification are foods that provide, on average, 10% or more daily value per 100 kcal.
What are some specific health benefits when consuming these nutrient dense foods? Read the list below to see what benefits you could be reaping every time you eat a scrumptious leafy green meal.
1. Watercress -
Surprise, surprise! Our number one isn't kale or broccoli. Watercress is actually the most nutrient dense green based off the the CDC's guidelines for a powerhouse food. It's benefits are related to decreased DNA damage and increased regulation of antioxidant-detoxification defenses. 2 Watercress can be found at grocery stores like Safeway, Sprouts and Whole Foods in the fruit and vegetable section.
2. Chinese/Napa Cabbage -
Cabbage is actually in the cruciferous family. Known for managing inflammation in the body. "Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage contain many different antioxidants that have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation. In fact, research has shown that eating more cruciferous vegetables reduces certain blood markers of inflammation. One study including over 1,000 Chinese women showed that those who ate the highest amounts of cruciferous vegetables had considerably lower levels of inflammation, compared to those who ate the lowest amounts." 3
3. Beet Green -
The bulbs on a beet get most of the attention, but what about the green stem part? The greens of the beet bulbs contain a wondrous amount of vitamins and minerals in them that have shown to help lower blood pressure, improve athletic ability by improving oxygen levels, support brain and digestive health, and has anti-cancer fighting properties. You can easily saute the greens up for some added color and extra nutrients in your meal.
4. Spinach -
Popeye had the right idea eating spinach to gain strength. Spinach is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that fight high blood pressure, cancer and oxidative stress. 4 There are so many ways to eat it from raw, cooked, alone or extra flavor in a dish. Spinach is easy to sneak into your food for an added nutrient boost.
5. Leaf Lettuce -
Leaf lettuce resembles romaine lettuce up until its tips, where it shines its true colors. Loaded with powerful antioxidants, like beta carotene, and hydrating. Leaf lettuce is easy to add to your diet and reap good benefits from it.
6. Parsley -
"Often labeled as one of the most powerful disease-fighting plants, parsley provides great nutritional value and offers many potential health benefits." 5 Another great plant for fighting cancer, reducing inflammation and rich in antioxidants. Parsley is an herb that pairs well with many recipes. This makes it easy to incorporate to your dish and feel good knowing not only that you're getting extra flavor but also extra nutrients.
7. Romaine Lettuce -
Crunchy, sturdy and packed with nutrients, romaine lettuce is a powerful salad green. "Although it’s low in fiber, it’s high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It’s naturally low in sodium. Plus, romaine lettuce is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It’s a good source of beta carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body." 6
8. Chive -
Sometimes thought of as a weed, the chive is actually part of the alliums family which includes chives, scallions and leeks. The chive has nutrients that helps prevent cancer, osteoporosis, and improves memory. 7 Definitely worthwhile to add as a topping or incorporate into a salad for an extra boost with lots of flavor!
9. Kale -
Kale definitely had its time in the limelight and for good reason. It really is a great dark, leafy green that's full of Vitamin A, B, C, K and folate. Awesome for bone building, eye health and immune support. Its no wonder everyone is putting it in their smoothies. But it has more versatility than that! Homemade kale chips are easy to make, or whip up a kale Caesar salad for an extra nutritional side dish.
10. Arugula -
Arugula's distinctive peppery flavor adds a unique taste to any dish. While actually a member of the cruciferous family, arugula is a powerhouse food no one expected. "This delicious green is nutrient dense, high in both fiber and beneficial phytochemicals, which are compounds in plants that contribute to their color, taste and smell. Arugula is also full of antioxidants, which can reverse damage to your cells." 8
Remember, there are plenty of other rock star greens out there that have great nutritional benefit too. The above are some of our favorites and rated highly on the powerhouse food index for fruits and veggies. Always try and have at least one green on your dish. This color is too high in nutrients to not incorporate at least daily. The body will reap amazing benefits from it and there's a lot of long term benefits from having a diet heavier on the green side.
Also, a friendly reminder to know your Dirty Dozen when determining to buy organic vs. non-organic.
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