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FOODS THAT HEAL: GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES
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Question: What food is extremely low in calories, provides a whole host of nutrients and can be tastefully combined with almost any other kind of food? The answer is - green leafy vegetables.
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What do most people eat when they are trying to lose weight? Salads, salads and more salads. Unfortunately, they often eat potato salad, egg salad or tuna salad, loaded with fatty dressings and dumped on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Head lettuces are the least nutritious of the green leafy veggies. Color is the best way to judge the nutritional value of leafy greens. The greener, the healthier. That's because the degree of greenness indicates the amount of chlorophyll in the plant and the more chlorophyll, the more of other nutrients (such as beta carotene) will be absorbed by the body. All of the green leafy vegetables are very low in calories and most are much tastier than Iceberg.
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Just how nutritious are those leafy greens? Nutrition Action Healthletter publishes a pamphlet entitled, Healthy Foods: Your Guide to the Best Basic Foods. It rates the best whole foods in the categories of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and meats, giving each a comparative score with the other foods in its category. It also rates commercial cereals. The top four in the vegetable category are, You Guessed It, green leafies; specifically, collard greens, spinach, kale and Swiss chard. The scores are based on the percent of the Daily Value an average serving of each vegetable has for five nutrients plus carotenoids and fiber. The five nutrients are vitamin-C, folate, potassium, calcium and iron. These four vegetables have scores ranging from 322 to 461 as compared to some of the more commonly seen vegetables on the American dinner plate such as canned green beans with a score of 42 and frozen corn with a score of 38. Fresh cooked green beans rate a score of 54.
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Let's look at what the nutrients in these vegetables do for us. Carotenoids are antioxidants which help to protect our bodies against cancer and other degenerative diseases such as arthritis and type II diabetes. Beta Carotene, or Vitamin A, is one of the carotenoids which plays an essential role in the metabolism of protein. It is necessary for the growth of different types of tissues and also for protection against certain vision problems such as night blindness. Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant as well as strengthening the immune system to help fight against infection. Folate reportedly lowers the risk of heart disease by regulating the bodies level of homocysteine. Potassium plays a role in the control of skeletal muscle contraction and nerve impulses. It is essential for the maintenance of normal blood pressure. Calcium is, of course, a major factor in sustaining strong bones throughout our lives and also plays an important role in muscle contraction and relaxation, blood clotting, transmission of nerve impulses and absorption of B12. Iron carries oxygen to all parts of the body. And, last but not least, fiber, cleanses the digestive tract, removing potential carcinogens (cancer causing agents) from the body and prevents the absorption of excess cholesterol.
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In addition to those seven food elements, some dark green vegetables contain Omega 3 Fatty acids which help remove arterial residues of fat and cholesterol and Vitamin E which is thought to help slow the aging process.
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Versatility? The green leafies score again. If you're food-conscious, you've probably heard about food combining, the art of keeping your digestive tract from revolting against the culinary equivalent of wearing pink and orange together. Even if you're one of those people who dump ketchup on a sweet potato, you can be pretty safe with the emerald greens. Those verdant veggies can be comfortably combined with proteins, starches, fats and oils. They can even be combined with citrus fruits like lemon, lime and tomato. So, you see the salads, all kinds of salads, are a pretty good choice after all.
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In terms of availability, many of the green leafy vegetables stay on the produce shelves all winter long, including beet, turnip and mustard greens, Swiss chard, collard greens and kale - which, by the way, is actually sweeter in the winter time when it has been exposed to the frost.
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The following is a list of some of the conditions believed by natural foodists to be alleviated by specific green leafy vegetables.
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Spinach - builds up weak blood and helps stop bleeding conditions. Also has a blood cleansing or detoxifying effect. It keeps the body moist and is believed to be particularly good for diabetic dryness and thirst. It can help with elimination problems such as constipation and urinary tract difficulties. However, people who suffer from loose stools or urinary incontinence should probably avoid large amounts of spinach.
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Kale - eases lung congestion; benefits the stomach. Its juices have been used to treat stomach and duodenal ulcer. An exceptional source of iron.
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Lettuce - helps to dry up damp conditions such as yeast infections. Helps increase production of breast milk. May be useful in the treatment of hemorrhoids. May even contain a mild natural sedative in the ingredient, Lactucarium.
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Mustard Greens - help clear chest congestion. Are often used in a tea for coughs or colds.
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The greens play a very important role in avoiding osteoporosis and maintaining bone health. As mentioned previously, they are excellent sources of calcium (particularly mustard greens, kale and collards) which builds bones and aids muscle contraction, blood clotting and nerve function. Calcium also helps to lower high blood pressure and reduces the risks of colon cancer and gum disease. Green leafies are also relatively high in magnesium, vitamin K, manganese and copper, all of which play a role in maintaining healthy bones.
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Protection against cancer, infections, diseases of the heart and circulatory system, bone and joint diseases and even old age; what more could you ask for from a humble little leaf?
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This article is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing in this publication is intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis and advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or health-care provider before starting any new diet or procedure involving your health. Prompt professional medical guidance is recommended for any health problem.
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