Why You Should Eat More Green Food

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’d like to encourage you to eat green. No, I’m not talking about green beer and Jell-O, but rather those beautiful naturally green vegetables and fruit that have unique health benefits. Let’s look at the main health benefits of green foods and a few of my favorite ways to eat them.

Dark-green vegetables: This category (which includes broccoli and “dark leafy greens,” such as kale, bok choy and spinach) is so important that there’s actually a separate recommendation for dark-green vegetables in the U.S. dietary guidelines. For most adults, that number is 1 1/2 to 2 cups per week (keeping in mind that for leafy greens, 2 cups raw cooks down to a 1-cup serving). Why are they so good for you? They’re a bang-up source of carotenoids, iron and calcium, plus vitamins C and K. One of the many benefits of carotenoids and vitamin C is that they’re important for the texture and health of your skin. Dark-green vegetables are also typically high in folate — a vitamin that helps cells form (which is why it’s particularly important for women in early pregnancy). Some of these nutrients are fat-soluble, meaning you absorb them best if you eat them with a bit of fat.

A lot of these foods are also cruciferous vegetables (think kale, bok choy, broccoli and Brussels sprouts), which are rich in isothiocyanates — compounds that can help flush cancer-causing agents from your body, lowering your risk of certain cancers.

But don’t ignore the lighter-green and yellow foods, like avocados, kiwis, green peppers, green beans, asparagus, zucchini and lettuce. These foods are high in lutein and zeanthanin, two nutrients that help keep your eyes healthy. Many of these foods are also high in fiber and low in calories, which makes them ideal additions to meals; they add bulk, which fills you up, and color, without adding lots of extra calories.

Some of my favorite ways to eat green foods:

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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