In Honor of Earth Day, Eat your Veggies!

In the quest to eat clean and live better, I encourage my clients to incorporate as many veggies whenever they are able to. Whether you are blending with spinach and carrots, enjoying steamed asparagus with your salmon at night or slicing up peppers to dip into your hummus, it is always a win-win for your body! Green vegetables are colored by chlorophyll, the plant pigment responsible for carrying out photosynthesis in plants. While the precise nutritional value of chlorophyll is still being researched, green vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. They are high in calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, the latter of which can prevent cardiovascular disease, protect against osteoporosis, maintain balanced blood sugar levels, and may even help in the treatment of migraines and depression.

Green vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, and green beans, are one of the richest sources of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that fights inflammation, promotes healthy blood clotting, and helps to strengthen bones. Green vegetables are also good sources of vitamin A, B, C, and E. Like orange and yellow vegetables, greens contain high levels of carotenoids as well. Lutein and zeaxanthin, highest in dark, leafy greens, promote eye health by protecting against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. These carotenoids may also protect against cancer: a Swedish study found that individuals who ate three or more servings of leafy green vegetables a week significantly reduced their chances of developing stomach cancer. Other studies have found similar results with breast and skin cancers.

Cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, contain high levels of indoles and isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that also protect against cancer. Greens are also a rich source of folate, a B complex vitamin responsible for the development of red blood cells and other cells and for the support of the nervous system. Adequate intake of folate is critical for pregnant women, as folate deficiencies are linked with birth defects and neural tube malformations. Dark green leafy vegetables are one of the only plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane, a weed that grows all over the world, contains alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid, and eicosapentanoic acid, both of which decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease and can fight depression.

What are some of the strategies you use to incorporate more veggies into your diet?