Turns out, your mother was right – green things in your diet do matter. Leafy greens, pound for pound, supply more vitamins and minerals than red meat. And we’re not talking about lettuce, here. While there is some overlap between lettuce and leafy greens, leafy greens are far more nutrient-dense. They’re packed with iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folic acid. They’re low in fat and calories, and high in fiber and phytochemicals.
No wonder they’re considered superfoods!
Varieties include collard, mustard, dandelion and turnip greens, spinach, red and green chard, several varieties of kale and cabbage, among others. They taste wonderful whether you are using them in a smoothie or a salad and they are so versatile they can be cooked several ways: roast, boil, steam, stir-fry or braised.
There is no question that leafy greens are your best defense against aging. Numerous studies have been conducted on people in their ‘70s and beyond. The health differences between people who eat their greens and those who don’t are staggering.
Here’s just a few of the findings:
- Older people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens every day had a slower rate of cognitive decline.
I was happy to discover this while sipping on a green breakfast smoothie as I flipped through the morning paper. Yes, I still have the morning paper delivered to my house and I read it every day. Over a period of five years, those who rarely eat leafy greens experience twice the cognitive decline as people who ate their daily serving. That means that two 80-year-old people with opposite dietary habits will have dramatically different test results in memory and the “speed and flexibility of [their] thinking”. The 80-year-old that eats her leafy greens on a daily basis will have the brain of a 75 year old. Meanwhile, the one who never eats leafy greens will have the brain power of an 86-year-old.
If this isn’t reason enough to eat a bowl of leafy greens per day, than I don’t know what is!
And that’s not the only reason why leafy greens are the anti-aging miracle food.
- Eating leafy greens has been found to promote skin health by protecting against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
The sun’s contribution to skin aging can hardly be underestimated. Whenever you’re about to spend time in the sun, it’s important to wear a hat, sunglasses, and put on sunscreen. But it’s also important to protect your skin from the inside.
The beta-carotene found in leafy greens is an antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A. (Side note: did you know that Vitamin A is straight-up retinol? Eat your way to healthy skin!) Retinol aids in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, smooths the complexion, reduces dullness, and stimulates cell turnover for clear skin.
- Leafy greens are chock full of heart-healthy antioxidants that could cut your risk of heart disease by 40%.
Kale especially contains a compound called glucoraphanin, that protects the arteries against the formation of plaque. This, along with a wealth of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin E are your go-to in preventing blood clots, diseased vessels, and structural problems in the heart that lead to cardiovascular disease.
Studies show that people who eat a daily serving of leafy greens have a decreased risk of an enlarged left ventricle and higher blood pressure that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.
Seeing as heart disease is the #1 leading cause of death in America, it’s safe to say that this superfood can help curb our leading public health crisis.
- Post-menopausal babes listen up: increased consumption of leafy greens reduces loss of bone mass in postmenopausal women.
Women are vulnerable to increased bone loss during and after menopause. This loss in bone mass leads to frailty, disability, and fractures, which can severely affect mobility. Don’t lose those dance moves yet, ladies! Eat your leafy greens so you can absorb vitamins K and D so you can anchor calcium in those bones!
- The antioxidants in leafy greens aids in the prevention of cataracts.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that lutein and zeaxanthin found in leafy greens protects the eyes from the damaging rays of ultraviolet light. The risk of cataracts increases with age, but eating your greens can reduce this risk by a whopping 50%-60%.
I have eaten leafy greens every day and I have my whole adult life. Don’t wait until you are old! Eat your greens now to get immediate and long-term results. Besides, you’ll be considered cool for eating green, and you’ll enjoy a stronger memory, glowing skin, and countless other benefits that will help you look and feel younger!
Both women and men who are 51 and older should eat 1 ½ cups every day. Leafy greens are accessible, you can find them in most grocery stores and they are simple to prepare. No excuses!