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4 DARK LEAFY GREENS FOR HEALTH AND BEAUTY

February 26, 2018 by Renee Tavoularis

4 DARK LEAFY GREENS FOR HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Feeling tired, depleted, or under the weather? Your body may be begging for greens!

Our bodies require a spectrum of vitamins and minerals to function optimally, and we obtain most of these through the foods that we eat. Vegetables are among the most abundant sources of vital nutrients, but dark leafy greens are especially powerful vegetables.

WHAT ARE DARK LEAFY GREENS?

Dark leafy greens are edible plants that contain a host of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as chlorophyll (found in their green pigment) and fiber. These nutrients are considered superfoods for a reason; simply put, they provide your body with astounding health and beauty benefits. From boosting brain, digestive, and immune functions to increasing energy, protecting the skin, and reducing inflammation, dark leafy greens are an essential part of any health and beauty regimen.

There are plenty of dark leafy greens to choose from, including kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. But don’t fall in love with just one—it’s better to enjoy a variety, as they each offer unique benefits. 

Well Within Beauty shares the top health benefits and cooking applications of dark leafy greens, as well as the best ones to add to your daily diet!

TOP HEALTH BENEFITS

Most dark leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamins K, C, folate, and manganese, among others. Together, these nutrients support bone health, blood-sugar control, collagen production, and nervous system and cardiovascular functions. They also provide your body with antioxidant support that protects cells from free radical damage. Their high fiber content improves gut health and promotes elimination, and chlorophyll strengthens the immune system, prevents cancer, and protects the skin from viruses. 

This vast nutritional profile translates to key health and beauty benefits. Let’s revisit the highlights. Dark leafy greens:

  • Prevent cancer and other illnesses
  • Alkalize the blood for healthy body pH and cell health
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Improve gut health
  • Boost brain function
  • Promote detoxification and draw heavy metals out of the body
  • Increase energy
  • Protect the skin 

HOW TO COOK DARK LEAFY GREENS 

To retain most of the nutrients in your dark leafy greens, it’s best to enjoy them raw or steamed. It’s also ideal to dress them with a healthy fat, such olive oil, to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. 

To steam greens:

  1. Fill a pot with ½ to 1 inch of water (and a pinch of salt) or broth, and bring to a simmer.
  2. Wash the greens, remove the stems, and chop into even-sized pieces.
  3. Transfer the greens to a steamer basket. Place the basket into the simmering liquid. If you don’t have a steamer basket, place the greens directly into the liquid.
  4. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until crisp and tender.
  5. Drain the greens well, and season with olive or coconut oil, sea salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and/or fresh or dried herbs.

Specific cooking times and raw preparations vary, depending on the vegetable. See suggestions below. 

4 NUTRIENT-DENSE DARK LEAFY GREENS

Although there are many dark leafy greens to choose from, Well Within Beauty shares four of the most accessible and nutritionally impressive:

  1. SWISS CHARD IS A STUNNING VEGETABLE. 

The “rainbow” variety boasts an array of vibrant colors, which accounts for chard’s high antioxidant levels. Chard contains B vitamins and fiber, which both assist in blood-sugar regulation. It’s also a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps control blood pressure.

As an added bonus, you can eat the stems along with the leaves. Simply chop the washed stems and steam, uncovered, for about 2 minutes. Then add the leaves and steam together for another 3 minutes, or until the stems and leaves are tender. For a raw preparation, remove the stems, slice the leaves into thin ribbons, toss with dressing, and enjoy as a salad. You also use the chard leaf (with the thick part of the stem removed) as a gluten-free wrap.

  1. KALE IS THE MOST REVERED OF ALL THE DARK LEAFY GREENS. 

It’s touted for being an excellent source of lutein, an impressive antioxidant that’s important for eye health and protection. Kale is also known to balance cholesterol and reduce the risk of plaque formation in the arteries. 

Steam kale for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Or, try a massaged kale salad. To prepare, use your hands to massage ripe avocado flesh, lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt into the leaves until they are tender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Top with pumpkin or sesame seeds, olives, and any other ingredients you like. 

  1. BROCCOLI HAS BEEN SHOWN TO DECREASE INFLAMMATION, REDUCE THE RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES, AND LOWER LDL CHOLESTEROL.

Broccoli also contains B-complex vitamins, which play an important part in lowering homocysteine levels, a precursor of heart disease.

Steam broccoli for 3 to 5 minutes or until just tender. Alternatively, enjoy raw broccoli florets with hummus or as part of a crudité platter—perfect for healthy entertaining! 

  1. SPINACH IS A RICH SOURCE OF MAGNESIUM, WHICH HELPS REDUCE THE RISK OF DEPRESSION AND FATIGUE.

 It also contains iron, an important mineral that’s required to make hemoglobin—a protein that’s responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the blood via red blood cells. A lack of iron can lead to chronic fatigue, exhaustion, and anemia. 

Spinach is rather delicate, so traditional steaming might not be the best method here. Instead, sauté washed spinach with about 2 tablespoons of water. Toss with tongs until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain excess liquid, season, and serve. Raw baby spinach can also be used in place of lettuce or along with other lettuce varieties to make a leafy green salad.

OTHER DARK LEAFY GREENS?

Try the greens listed above, but also explore the other dark leafy greens you’ll find at the grocery store or farmer’s market, such as: 

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Dandelion greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens
  • Cabbage
  • Bok choy
Be assured, no matter the variety of dark leafy greens you consume, they all deliver wonderful benefits for your health. Be sure to mix it up!
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