Foods of every color are abundant in nutrients with specific benefits to health, but calorie-for-calorie, green foods, whether leafy greens, green vegetables or fruit, seaweeds, and even the popular 'green' supplements, are nutritional powerhouses. Rich in minerals, namely magnesium, potassium, and iron, greens also provide B vitamins, folate in particular, as well as vitamins K, C, and E. A cup of most greens provides several times the minimum recommendation for vitamin K, a vitamin needed for the production of osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health.
Greens come packaged with layers of fiber. As a result, they're extremely low in calories and carbohydrate, and have minimal impact on blood glucose. Packed with nutrients and low in calories – that sounds like the perfect food.
Of the many nutrients found in spinach, three key nutrients are folate (also known as folic acid), potassium and magnesium. Just a half-cup of cooked spinach provides 50 percent of the recommended daily amount of folate, one of the B vitamins. Folate is needed for a healthy nervous system, to prevent neural tube defects, and for the production of healthy blood cells. Magnesium, nicknamed the "anti-stress mineral" is vital for a healthy heart and for the proper use of calcium.
One of the most overlooked leafy greens, the humble dandelion wins one of the top spots for nutritional value amongst the leafy green vegetables. With more than double the vitamin A of spinach and turnip greens, it is also highest in thiamin and riboflavin – two important members of the B vitamin family. Vitamin A promotes the health of the lungs, eyes and skin.
3. Bok choy
Bok choy is rich in potassium, a mineral necessary for healthy nerve and muscle functioning. Also rich in vitamin A, bok choy keeps skin and eyes healthy and helps to prevent cancer.
One of the most nutritious fruits, an avocado contains twice the potassium of a banana, 10g of fiber, and is packed with vitamins E, K and B6.
Broccoli is another highly nutritious vegetable containing over 20 vitamins and minerals. One cup of raw broccoli is bursting with vitamin A and vitamin C. In addition to sulforaphane, which aids in increasing the levels of enzymes that block cancer, its indole-3 carbinol content helps to balance hormones, thus providing defense against hormone-related cancers including breast and prostate cancer, as well as PCOS, fibroids, and regulating the menstrual cycle.
A great source of vitamin C, 100g of kale provides 120mg of the powerful antioxidant. To compare, the same amount of spinach has only 28mg of vitamin C. Calcium is another one of kale's many virtues. Steamed kale effectively reduces cholesterol, even more so than raw kale.
This crispy vegetable is packed with beneficial nutrients, including vitamins K, C, A, and folate. The phytochemicals in asparagus produce an anti-inflammatory effect that may benefit arthritis pain, and it helps to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers.
Other nutritious green vegetables and fruits include collard greens, cabbage, green bell pepper, zucchini, celery, artichoke, and green beans. Eat at least one green vegetable with each meal, and aim for five servings a day.