Health Benefits of Green Foods

Mayfair • Mar 23, 2018

Nutritionists often recommend including green vegetables as part of a healthy diet, but which ones to choose? In honour of March being Nutrition Month, and St. Patrick’s Day, we picked our five favourite green foods that help keep our bodies healthy in a number of important ways.

Asparagus and brain health

Despite its bad rap for its effect on urine, asparagus is actually full of nutrients that have a wide variety of health benefits. For example, it contains the amino acid asparagine, which is important in the development and function of the brain by enhancing learning and memory retention. Asparagus is also rich in glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can help destroy carcinogens and protect against bone, breast, lung, and colon cancers. Finally, it’s high in vitamin K, which helps the blood clot, and folate, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.

Avocado and weight loss

Full of nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, the avocado is a naturally nutrient-rich food. It is also the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. These acids are important in improving hearth health, but are especially helpful to weight-loss efforts because they are burned at a higher rate than other types of fats, they may increase the rate at which fat is burned, and not only cause your body to burn more calories after eating but also reduce appetite. Avocados also help to lower cholesterol.

Broccoli and bone health

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli appear on many health food lists because they contain cancer-fighting antioxidants, fibre, and numerous vitamins and minerals. The high levels of vitamin K in broccoli, however, are especially good for your bones. Research has found that eating foods rich in vitamin K is linked to greater bone density and reduced bone loss in early post-menopausal women. In fact, some studies have found that vitamin K builds bones better than calcium because it works with vitamin D to improve bone metabolism – and one cup of broccoli provides over 270 percent of daily vitamin K needs. It also promotes blood health and boosts your energy levels.

Celery and blood pressure

Celery has a good reputation as a diet food due to its high water content and low calorie count, but many people are unaware of its other health benefits, such as helping to lower blood pressure. Celery contains potassium which helps flush sodium from the body via the kidneys.* It also has compounds called phthalides, which relax the smooth muscle surrounding arterial walls and help the heart pump blood throughout your body. Phthalides also decrease the production of stress hormones, reducing symptoms of hypertension. Finally, celery is high in magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, and K.

*Due to its diuretic effect, watch your consumption of celery if you are on blood-pressure medication.

Spinach and digestive health

In addition to its benefits for bones and muscles, spinach is highly effective at cleansing and regenerating the intestinal tract. It is high in magnesium, insoluble fibre, and water, all of which are necessary for proper bowel movement and to prevent constipation. Spinach also contains special sugars which fuel good bacteria in the colon and help prevent bad bacteria from taking over. This can help prevent colon cancer.

This is not a comprehensive list, just some interesting facts about some of our favourite foods to help you improve your diet. For more information about Nutrition Month and tips for a healthy diet, visit the Dietitians of Canada site.


REFERENCES

Alok, S., et al. (2013) “Plant profile, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari): A review.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Diseases. 2013 June; 3(3): 242–251.

Axe, J. (2018) Broccoli Nutrition: Battle Cancer, Osteoporosis & Weight Gain. www.draxe.com. Accessed March 20, 2018.

Daniluk, J. (2012) “Five surprising health benefits of celery.” Chatelaine. 2012, Nov. Accessed March 20, 2018.

Hammad, S., et al. (2016) “Current Evidence Supporting the Link Between Dietary Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease.” Lipids. 2016 May;51(5):507-17. doi: 10.1007/s11745-015-4113-x. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

Noone, Y. (2016) “Eat your greens to boost good gut bacteria.” SBS. www.sbs.com.au. Accessed March 20, 2018.

Phillip, J. (2012) “Spinach influences gene expression to cut colon cancer risk in half.” Natural News. 2012, Aug. www.naturalnews.com. Accessed March 20, 2018.

Szalay, J. (2018) “Asparagus: Health Benefits, Risks (Stinky Pee) & Nutrition Facts.” Live Science, Health. www.livescience.com. 2018 Feb. Accessed March 20, 2018.

Ware, M. (2017) “12 health benefits of avocado.” Medical News Today. 2017, Sept. Accessed March 20, 2018.

Healthy Living, Disease Prevention