Beyond Bone Health: 6 Benefits Of Leafy Greens
Savers know about the alkalizing power of leafy green vegetables. They help balance the pH, which is critical to retaining bone density, along with regular weight-bearing exercise and other lifestyle improvements.
But those dark green leaves support many other biochemical processes to help keep you feeling and looking your best. From your eyes on down, these vegetables have a lot to offer. Read on to learn about their evidence-backed benefits.
1. Greens Contain The Most Bioavailable Form Of Calcium
As if the alkalizing power of greens wasn’t reason enough to add them to your bone-healthy diet, they’re also a rich source of organic calcium, which your body needs to build new bone and to maintain bone density and strength.
Below is a list of the calcium content of one-half cup servings of popular greens:
- Spinach* (Cooked) – 122mg
- Spinach* (Raw) – 15mg
- Kale* – 49mg
- Mustard Greens* – 55mg
- Swiss Chard* – 54mg
- Dandelion Greens – 78mg
*Indicates Foundation Foods
Savers know that milk actually damages bones, and that there are many other ways of getting dietary calcium. Greens are one such way, and not just because they contain plenty and is highly bioavailable. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the calcium from kale was absorbed at an outstanding rate of 40.9%.1
Leafy greens are an excellent source of highly bioavailable calcium, a key mineral that comprises bone and performs many other necessary functions in the body.
2. Keep Your Heart, Arteries, Kidneys, and Bones Young And Strong
From kale to Swiss chard, dark green vegetables are a rich source of Vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin is important for the function of many bodily processes and staves off age-related conditions. Here are a few:
- The function of bone-forming protein osteocalcin2
- Blood coagulation2
- Prevents kidney and artery calcification2
- Reduced risk of coronary heart disease2
- Inhibits the growth of human cancer cell lines2
One study found that people with the highest Vitamin K intake were 39% less likely to die from all causes than those with the lowest intake.3
It’s important to note that leafy greens only provide one type of Vitamin K, Vitamin K1, and Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is also of critical importance. In addition to a diet rich in green vegetables, the Save Institute recommends supplementing with 180 mcg of Vitamin K2 per day.
Another way leafy greens keep you young is by reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.4
Greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and dandelion greens are excellent sources of Vitamin K, which protects your cardiovascular system and helps build bone.
3. Get The B Vitamins That Fuel Your Body
Your body uses B-complex vitamins to extract energy from carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Without these critical micronutrients, you wouldn’t be able to turn your food into fuel.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), for example, participates in the oxidation-reduction reactions during energy production within the metabolic pathways. More simply put, it’s a compound that helps extract energy from glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids. Folate (B9), on the other hand, helps break down protein.5
Together, the B-Complex vitamins are powerful and necessary water-soluble micronutrients. Here are some leafy green sources of B Vitamins:
- Spinach* – B2, B6, B9
- Kale* – B9
- Collard Greens* – B9
- Mustard Greens* – B9
- Escarole – B5
*Indicates Foundation Foods
B-complex vitamins allow your body to turn your food into the energy that fuels every cellular function of your body. From running to digesting to thinking- B-complex vitamins make it possible.
4. Balance Your Cholesterol
A study conducted on men with an unhealthy ratio of high to low-density lipoprotein (HDL to LDL) found that 150 ml of kale juice consumption daily for 12 weeks lowered their cholesterol levels. This outcome reduced their risk of coronary artery disease and favorably influenced their antioxidant systems.6
Bile acid in the digestive system binds to the fibers found in leafy greens, and is excreted from the body. The liver uses cholesterol to produce more bile. Steaming greens, especially kale, mustard and collard greens, enhances their cholesterol-lowering power by increasing the amount of bile necessary to digest them.7
A diet rich in leafy greens lowers cholesterol levels- especially kale, mustard greens, and collard greens- and steaming them enhances this property.
5. Keep Your Eyesight Sharp
Kale, dandelion greens, mustard greens, and Swiss chard are all rich sources of the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein. These polyphenols impact your vision by filtering high energy light that causes eye damage. They also decrease the risk of cataracts, improve distance vision, and reduce the discomfort caused by glare.8
Carotenoid has a familiar word as its root: carrot! That’s because carrots are filled with these beneficial pigments that give this iconic vegetable both its color and its reputation for improving your vision.
Studies have shown that participants consuming diets rich in green leafy vegetables had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of glaucoma.9 Dependable eyesight is incredibly essential for preventing falls, so what’s good for your eyes is also good for your bones.
Studies have found that the carotenoids found in many leafy greens can preserve and improve your eyesight- preventing cataracts and glaucoma.
6. Detoxify Your Liver
Leafy greens have the dietary distinction of lowering your liver’s workload. Spinach, mustard greens, arugula, and other greens are full of chlorophyll that soaks up environmental toxins from the bloodstream before the liver has to work overtime to remove them.
Like carotenoids, chlorophyll is a pigment, but it does much more than give your food a beautiful hue.
Studies conducted on animals have shown that chlorophyllin (a synthetic chlorophyll equivalent) reduces the risk of aflatoxin-induced liver damage or liver cancer by increasing the activity of certain enzymes and removing toxins.10
Leafy greens detoxify your body, providing relief and support to your liver and reducing the chances of liver damage.
Green Foods, Healthy Liver, Strong Bones
The liver is the unsung hero of bone health- helping to keep your pH in balance and producing the bile your body needs to uptake fat-soluble vitamins such as E, K, A and D. Vitamin D is manufactured in the liver utilizing the cholecalciferol that is produced when your skin is exposed to the sun.
Clearly, when you support your liver, you support your bones. Cleansing is an effective way to do just that, especially in this toxin-filled world. Leafy greens are a healthful part of a cleanse that supports your liver and kidneys, and clears out the toxins standing between you, stronger bones, and better overall health.
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1 Heaney, R.P. and Weaver, C.M. “Calcium absorption from kale.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. April 1990. Vol. 51 no. 4; 656-657. Web. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/51/4/656.abstract
2 James J DiNicolantonio, et al. “The health benefits of vitamin K.” Open Heart. 2015; 2(1): e000300. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4600246/
3 Juanola-Falgarona M, et al. “Dietary intake of vitamin K is inversely associated with mortality risk.” J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):743-50. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24647393
4 Martha Clare Morris, Yamin Wang, Lisa L. Barnes, David A. Bennett, Bess Dawson-Hughes, Sarah L. Booth. “Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline.” Neurology. Dec 2017. Web: http://n.neurology.org/content/early/2017/12/20/WNL.0000000000004815
5 Laquale, Kathleen M. “B-complex vitamins’ role in energy release.” In Movement Arts, Health Promotion and Leisure Studies. Faculty Publications. (2006). Paper 25. Web. http://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&context=mahpls_fac
6 Kim SY, et al. “Kale juice improves coronary artery disease risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men.” Biomed Environ Sci. 2008 Apr;21(2):91-7.Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18548846
7 Kahlon TS. “Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage.” Nutr Res. 2008 Jun;28(6):351-7. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083431
8 El-Sayed M. Abdel-Aal, et al. “Dietary Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Carotenoids and Their Role in Eye Health.” Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1169–1185. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705341/
9 Jae H. Kang, ScD, et al. “Association of Dietary Nitrate Intake With Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. “JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(3):294-303. Web. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/fullarticle/2480455
10 Yun CH, Jeong HG, Jhoun JW, Guengerich FP. Carcinogenesis. “Non-specific inhibition of cytochrome P450 activities by chlorophyllin in human and rat liver microsomes.” 1995 Jun;16(6):1437-40. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7788866