As I look out my clinic window today I am greeted by the sight of green-clad Torontonians enjoying this uncharacteristically warm St. Patrick’s Day.
On this St. Patrick’s Day I encourage you to not only reach into your closet for green clothes but into your fridge for green foods.
Top Ten Green Foods
Spring is nearly here and that means fresh, local asparagus will soon be in stores. Asparagus is high in vitamins, A, C and K and is one of the highest food sources of folate – a nutrient essential for heart health and reproduction. Asparagus is also a natural diuretic and contains inulin – a fiber that promotes healthy digestive function.
Avocados are another food that are abundant in the Spring time. Avocados contain oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat that can help lower cholesterol and has recently been shown to offer protection against the development of breast cancer. Avocados are also a good source of vitamin K, fiber, potassium and folate.
Avocados have the amazing ability of helping your body absorb carotenoids (antioxidant nutrients in foods – known for giving fruits and vegetables their yellow and orange colour) from other vegetables. So add an avocado to your next salad to make sure you are getting the most from your foods!
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, a family of vegetables that are valued for their ability to decrease the risk of several types of cancer. Regular consumption of cabbage and other crucifers (such as kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower) lowers the risk of prostate, bladder, breast, stomach, colorectal and lung cancer.
The cancer-fighting properties of cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables results from their high levels of glucosinolates, which our body metabolizes into isothiocyanates – powerful anti-carcinogens.
In addition to helping prevent cancer, cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamin C – an antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals.
Celery is rich in vitamin C and potassium but it’s main health-promoting effect is in lowering high blood pressure. Celery contains compounds called phthalides which help relax the muscles around arteries, allowing the arteries to dilate. This lowers blood pressure by decreasing resistance to blood flow. Eat two stalks of celery every day to get the benefit of celery’s phthalides.
Celery has a reputation of being a high-sodium vegetable, but it would take 48 stalks of celery to reach the FDA’s daily recommended intake of sodium (2400mg). Two stalks of celery provides only 4% of the daily value of sodium.
5. Green Figs
One of my favourite foods, no healthy food list would be complete without figs! Figs are in season from June to September and offer a plentiful source of dietary fiber and potassium.
The dietary fiber in figs can assist in healthy weight loss and may help prevent postmenopausal breast cancer. Figs also are a good source of potassium which can help control high blood pressure.
6. Green Peas
These small green orbs are just bursting with nutritional value! They are high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, K, manganese, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, and fiber!
Green peas provide nutrients to support bone health (vitamin K), heart health (folic acid and vitamin B6) and energy production. Green peas contain B vitamins – all of which contribute the energy production in the body, and are a source of iron – a mineral necessary for normal blood cell formation and function.
7. Green Tea
If this list wasn’t in alphabetical order, green tea would be number one! Green tea has so many amazing health benefits it would take several articles to list them all. Thousands of scientific studies have been analyzed the positive effects of green tea.
Green tea is rich in flavonoids, including epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which is thought to be the active constituent in green tea’s anti-cancer and antioxidant effects.
Green tea can protect against death from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease, protects against coronary artery disease, decreases atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), prevents blood clots, speeds recovery after a heart attack or stroke, lowers blood pressure, helps maintain healthy body weight by promoting fat loss, protects against gallstones, reduces the risk of kidney disease, increases bone mineral density, reduces the risk of breast cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and enhances survival in ovarian cancer… and many more!
Oregano is more than a seasoning for pasta. This spice is a highly effective antibacterial agent. The volatile oils in oregano, thymol and carvacrol are able to inhibit the growth of several types of bacteria as effectively as pharmaceutical medications.
Oregano also has the additional bonus of being a potent antioxidant, with 12 times more antioxidant activity than oranges!
Sage is the second spice to appear on this list of the top ten green foods. In addition to it’s anti-oxidant effects, sage was selected for its anti-inflammatory effects and it’s ability to enhance memory.
Taken in food doses, or as an essential oil extract, sage has shown powerful memory enhancing effects. It improves immediate recall and may be used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Rounding out the top ten list is one of the most famous green foods around – spinach. Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables like spinach offer more nutritional value than any other foods. Spinach is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, K and numerous minerals. Cooked spinach is also a rich source of iron.
Spinach contains at least 13 different flavonoids that function as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Spinach can be used to decrease the risk of several different types of cancer, including prostate and ovarian cancer.
Spinach also contains nutrients that support bone health (vitamin K, calcium and magnesium), heart health (vitamins A, C and E, folate and magnesium), digestive health, brain health, eye health and energy.
In addition to the heart healthy nutrients, spinach also contains four peptides that inhibit antiotensin I-converting enzyme – the same enzyme blocked by ACE inhibitor drugs. At a serving size equivalent to an entrée-sized spinach salad blood pressure was lowered in laboratory animals within just two to four hours.
Eating green can be nutritious and delicious! Incorporate these green foods this St. Patrick’s day – and every day – for optimal health!
If you are interested in incorporating more greens into your diet, check out the Green Smoothie Challenge for a 14 day smoothie challenge. Delicious recipes and support are provided during the challenge.