We all know when we come to a traffic light that’s green, that we can continue through the intersection and move forward to wherever our destination may be. Along those same lines, I want you to start thinking about green vegetables. Green means go, and if you want to continue through life full speed ahead, you need green vegetables fueling your tank. Green leafy vegetables along with cruciferous greens supply many vital nutrients and phytochemicals that fuel the body as well as protect it from disease.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards, and kale, just to name a few, are rich in vitamins A, C, E, K and many B vitamins as well. They also contain carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants which play a role in blocking the early stages of cancer. If that’s not enough, green leafy vegetables also contain large amounts of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
The B vitamin, folate, promotes heart health and provides protection again neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Folate also helps in the prevention of cancer because it is necessary in DNA duplication and repair. Diets high in folate reduce the risk of colon polyps by 30-40 per cent.
I’m all for preventing cancer, heart disease and birth defects, and we can accomplish all these just by eating adequate amounts of leafy greens every day. Another thing we can expect green leafy vegetables to deliver is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an important molecule made by the lining of our blood vessels, or endothelium, which Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. calls the “life jacket” of our cells. Nitric oxide causes the blood vessels to expand, thereby increasing blood flow and decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting. Nitric oxide also inhibits inflammation. Wait a minute, if nitric oxide is made by the lining of the blood vessels, what do green leafy vegetables have to do with anything?
As we age, we do things that cause damage to our endothelial cells, and by the time we’re 50, they produce only about half as much nitric oxide as when we were 25. Dr. Esselstyn says that it’s the typical western diet of processed oils, salt, sugar, dairy, and meat that destroys our endothelial cells, leaving us with far less protection.
However, you needn’t despair, because you can still make sure you get the nitric oxide you need to keep your blood flowing smoothly and those blood vessels dilating properly if you just eat your green, leafy vegetables! As it turns out, when you eat green leafy vegetables, they help your body to produce nitric oxide. How amazing is it that we get a second chance? I hope now that you know what the effects of the Standard American Diet are on your precious endothelial cells, that you’ll begin to opt for more green, leafy vegetables and take full advantage of the second chance you’ve been given.
Bok choy, mustard greens, turnips, collards, and kale are all green, leafy vegetables that help the body produce nitric oxide, but they are also considered cruciferous vegetables as well, so they have double super powers! They, in addition to foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts, contain sulphoraphanes. Sulphoraphanes have very powerful immune-boosting effects as well as anticancer activities. As if that weren’t enough, the same mechanism by which these compounds deprive cancerous tumors of their blood supply, angiogenesis inhibition, is the same mechanism that also inhibits fat deposition and growth. What, what? You heard me right; cruciferous vegetables also help you to maintain a healthy weight by preventing fat cells from expanding. Would someone please pass the broccoli?
With roughly two-thirds of our nation being overweight or obese and heart disease still being the number one killer of Americans, it’s apparent that green, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables should be our go-to vegetables. We’ve become a nation that desires a pill for every ill, all the while ignoring the medicine in the produce aisle. While pharmaceutical medicines are normally prescribed to treat a specific illness, and may have many negative side-effects, the medicinal value of a single plant can extend to many illnesses while producing no negative side effects.
I hope you’ll remember all the good green vegetables can do for you the next time you go to the grocery store. If you go for the green, the green will keep you going! Remember to keep it real and eat as many whole plant foods as you can each day including a few servings of greens. You are a miracle of creation and deserve the very best nature has to offer. Now GO FOR THE GREEN!
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