Eating more green and leafy greens helps to prevent a number of common ailments and is also a great source of nutrients, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
“When green leafies are eaten regularly, they help prevent some of the health problems that occur in the long-term with chronic diseases,” says lead author Dr. Jennifer S. St. Clair of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“This is especially true for older adults who are at risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”
Sustaining weight and maintaining good health are important for many Americans, but many of us don’t get enough green leafiness to meet our needs.
A study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found that consuming at least 8 ounces of leafy green vegetables a day is the recommended daily allowance.
“A cup of green leafie, with some water, is equivalent to a cup of greens in terms of nutritional value, according with a recent study in Health and Nutrition.”
People who have a healthy diet and exercise are at increased risk for weight gain, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, and many other health problems, says lead researcher Dr. Roberta K. Ollman, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University at Buffalo in New York.
“So, for example, if you’re overweight and you have low energy and you’re not getting enough green vegetables, you might be able to cut down on your weight.”
In the new study, St. Claire and her colleagues studied data from a national sample of more than 5,000 people.
The people who were most likely to get sick and die from chronic diseases were those who were overweight or obese.
Participants who ate a lot of green and green leafiest vegetables, and ate the foods at least 3 times a week, had a higher risk of developing chronic diseases and death compared to people who ate fewer of the foods and did not eat them at all.
Participants also had a greater risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
The results suggest that eating more green-leafy vegetables, as well as eating a lot more leafy, leafy vegetable and green-leaves-and-bitter greens, might help reduce chronic diseases.
The study also shows that these vegetables are rich in nutrients, including folate, vitamin K, magnesium, vitamin C, iron and vitamin B12.
The researchers noted that these fruits and vegetables may help keep people from developing certain chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes or heart disease.
“The main benefit of eating more leafiness is that it helps reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, which can cause weight gain and can cause the body to produce more of the hormone insulin, which in turn can lead to weight gain,” says Dr. Olliman.
“If you eat a lot less sugar, you’ll lose weight, and if you eat the right kind of leafiness, you may be able reduce your weight and your risk of chronic diseases.”
Eating green and red leafy foods together is a healthy way to improve your health, but this diet plan isn’t just about eating them together.
For instance, if one person has a high-risk diet for heart disease or other diseases, that person should eat a low-risk, nutrient-rich diet, says St. Cirles team member Jennifer J. Stutz, an associate professor of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.
“Instead, we’re trying to get people to eat those vegetables in a way that helps them reduce their risk of these diseases,” she says.
“I think the more leafiest the food is, the better.”
This article is reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives.
Learn more about the journal’s research.