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

Synopsis

Leafy greens are an excellent source of highly bioavailable calcium, a key mineral found in bones 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

Synopsis

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

Synopsis

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

Synopsis

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.

Synopsis

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

Synopsis

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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References

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

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29 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Crete Sham September 19, 2018, 3:40 am

    Unfortunately, I take blood thinners (warfarin) and have been instructed to avoid leafy , green vegetables!!
    amongst other things. So what do I do now?

  2. Mary August 10, 2018, 4:21 am

    I have osteoporosis and have so far refused to take any of the prescribed drugs. Trying to do my best with diet and exercise. Have now been recommended to go on HRT to halt further bone degeneration . Is this effective, I would have no other reason to go on HRT. My major reservation is I am over 60 and not sure it is a good idea. Would you have a view on this suggestion.

  3. Georgina August 9, 2018, 1:48 am

    Thank you very much Vivian for all the informationmuch appreciated.

  4. Cynthia August 4, 2018, 7:50 am

    I unfortunately react to just about any greens with a diuretic reaction. For example if I eat spinach, either raw or cooked for dinner, I am up to go to the bathroom multiple times all night. I recently tried to duplicate the Cracker Barrel’s kale-brussels sprout salad for dinner, and was up 5 times that night. Cabbage (as in slaw), is another example. What could be going on to cause this? My doctor offered a drug to try, which so far I have resisted. We grow greens in our garden, but with the exception of romaine lettuce, I do not react well to them.

  5. Trudy August 2, 2018, 1:43 pm

    Thanks so much for all of your information that is so extremely helpful. In terms of K2, you suggest 180mcgs. Should a person take K2 MK-7at 300mcgs for osteoporosis? My research indicated K2 MK-7 at 300mcgs is the past form and number.

    • Trudy August 2, 2018, 9:12 pm

      Thanks so much. Could you clarify “the past form and number.” Should we take 180 or 300 msgs? Again, I appreciate all the information, which has been so helpful.

  6. Debbie August 2, 2018, 11:32 am

    The calcium differences between cooked and raw spinach are listed. Which is higher with kale, cooked or raw? Can you show the numbers?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 2, 2018, 12:55 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      Interestingly, there is almost no difference in the calcium content of cooked vs raw kale – 1/2 cup of cooked kale provides 45 milligrams of calcium.

      • Debbie Quigley August 9, 2018, 1:26 am

        Thanks a lot. That’s very interesting.

        • Gladys August 18, 2018, 5:33 pm

          I’m confused about how to measure greens. Do I measure 1 cup of greens, then cook it and that is 1 cup of cooked greens, or do I measure the cup after the greens are cooked? Thanks!

          • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 20, 2018, 2:24 pm

            Hi Gladys,

            For cooked greens, the greens are measured after cooking. 🙂

  7. shulamit sendowski August 2, 2018, 11:20 am

    Great reminder of all the benefits of leafy greens. Thank you.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 2, 2018, 12:50 pm

      You are welcome, Shulamit. 🙂

  8. Lizbeth August 2, 2018, 11:19 am

    Vivian, could you please tell me the name of the Calcium/Magnesium/Vit. K bone-building supplement that you recommend? Thank you.
    Liz

    • Save Institute Customer Support August 2, 2018, 12:56 pm

      Lizbeth, please check your inbox for a message from Customer Support. 🙂

      • Cherry September 1, 2018, 6:18 pm

        Hi. I would appreciate getting that supplement name as well, thank you.

  9. Joan August 2, 2018, 11:09 am

    Just found out i have catarect.They are small at the moment he told me to eat plenty of greens.I told him i eat plenty but still got them cant do any more thst im doing.
    Thanks for your email.

  10. Pattie Frost August 2, 2018, 11:04 am

    Thanks for the focus on leafy greens. Collards have a very high amount of calcium. Hopefully people will focus more on fruits, veggies, grains, beans, and legumes and leave the meat and dairy behind for better bone health.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 2, 2018, 12:49 pm

      I agree, Pattie!

      • Cherry September 1, 2018, 6:24 pm

        Hi Vivian, When it comes to meatless protein in the form of beans and legumes, etc. could you say if the canned ones are sufficient or do I really need to cook the raw beans and legumes to supply my protein needs.
        Thanks in advance for your reply.

  11. Luc August 2, 2018, 11:03 am

    Thank you for this information. One has to be aware of oxalic content of food. Kale has very little. For the past few years I have been using about 100 grams of kale daily in a smoothie for breakfast.
    I could not find data on calcium content of the stem and the leaves themselves.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 2, 2018, 12:48 pm

      That’s a great way to consume kale,Luc! But don’t worry too much about oxalic acid/oxalates in foods. While laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may interfere with calcium absorption (it doesn’t actually leech calcium from the bones), the reduction is relatively small and should not prevent you from eating a variety of leafy greens, which contains many valuable nutrients.

      • Rachel August 3, 2018, 1:51 am

        Thanks for clarifying this. Is this why you have listed spinach despite many saying it’s not a good source of calcium due to chemicals inhibiting calcium absorption (cooked or raw)

  12. Uthai Flores August 2, 2018, 9:04 am

    Thank you very much for helping me leave my life at full. I have been following you for very long time. For 8-years no drug or pill just green left alone to support my born help.

    Thank you

    Tina

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 2, 2018, 12:45 pm

      You are most welcome, Uthai. I admire your commitment and dedication!

  13. Bobbie H Pope August 2, 2018, 6:30 am

    Do canned greens have the same properties that fresh leafy greens have?

    • Uthai Flores August 2, 2018, 9:07 am

      I don’t eat canned food at all. Raw green leaf is much better for your help.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 2, 2018, 9:05 am

      Hi Bobbie,

      In short, no. 😉 But canned greens are certainly better than no greens at all – just look for BPA-free cans and low sodium. And if you can’t get fresh greens, frozen is a better second choice than canned.

      For more guidance on choosing canned foods, please read the following article:

      https://saveourbones.com/canned-food-bone-health/

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