Something Green Part 3 - Luscious Leaves
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
I hope you have managed to start incorporating more green vegetables into your diet. I have already discussed the health benefits of the brassica family also known as cruciferous vegetables. Now being in the grip of hot summer days it is time to turn to green leaves.
Green leaves like all green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is an excellent anti-oxidant, it helps to speed up healing and assists the liver to detoxify better. Chlorophyll has a healing action on the gut and helps to maintain the gut microbiome (good gut bacteria)
They contain important minerals such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, iron, potassium and trace minerals. These minerals are important for maintaining the bodies alkalinity, for good muscle function, including the heart. Many of these leaves also contain Vitamin K, an essential and often forgotten vitamin that along with the minerals helps maintain healthy bones. They also a good plant source of B vitamins.
Many of the leaves mentioned here are cleansing and have a gentle diuretic effect. They are cooling that is why they are perfect for summer. Green leaves are beneficial to your health because they are some of the most nutrient rich plants available to us.
Many of these are better to have raw as they help to add bulk and moisture to the diet and roughage, ensuring good regular bowel movements. If you are someone who does not do well on raw food then you can also gently cook with these leaves, so don’t just think salad.
Oh long gone are the days when lettuce came in iceberg variety and nothing else. Salads were so boring back then, now we have endless varieties of lettuce available to grow at home or buy from markets and shops. In summer they need a cool partly shady place to grow, if it is too hot they tend to bolt. I prefer to buy whole heads of lettuce and wash as I need. I find putting them into a ziplock bag keeps them crispy and fresh for longer.
Originally found wild in the Mediterranean they were first eaten as a dessert, they obviously hadn't discovered chocolate yet! Then someone in ancient Rome discovered salad dressing and the salad was born. Lettuce is a very healing food and and with it’s high water content also helps with hydration. The outer darker leaves are higher in nutrients as are the loose leaf varieties compared to the tighter head varieties, so make sure to mix up your lettuce leaves.
The one thing that lettuce is particularly high in is silica, this mineral is particularly important for connective tissue, helping keep joints and bones healthy as well as hair, skin and nails. Now we know why us women love to eat salads, and you thought is was because we were on diet!
One interesting property of lettuce is that when it bolts the amount of lactucarium it contains increases, this active ingredient has a sedative affect and can help for insomnia.
Also known as rucola and arugula, it has a sharp, peppery mustard flavour more so the wild variety than the broader leaf one. This is because it is actually a member of the Brassica family, so like the other brassicas it has cancer preventing properties. It is a good source of beta carotene which the body then converts into Vitamin A. Most importantly it is high in Vitamin K a very important vitamin for bone health.
This leaf is wonderful to add into salads as it gives a nice peppery flavour and with all these health benefits it would be crazy not to.
Spinach and Swiss Chard
As South Africans we constantly confuse ourselves when we talk about spinach. What most of us know as spinach is actually Swiss Chard and not spinach. These are two different plants. Swiss Chard is a member of the beet family the same as beetroot (whose young leaves you can also eat) Spinach is known as baby spinach or English spinach. So when you read about spinach being a superfood don’t confuse it with Swiss Chard, although both are excellent to add into the diet.
Spinach contains good levels of iron and vitamin C, both are needed for helping with anaemia. It contains the flavonoids lutein and zeaxanthin that are important antioxidants for eye health. It has a laxative effect and can help with lower bowel stagnation and constipation.
Swiss Chard has a similar nutrient profile to spinach but is particularly high in Vitamin K. Swiss Chard also contains higher levels of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid may cause crystals to form in the urinary tract, it can also cause joint pain. If you have either of these health issues or sensitivities then it may be best not to eat them too frequently, but don’t avoid them either.
This is a tough weed like plant that loves water, and can be found growing wild in ditches and other wet places. It is related to nasturtiums which explains the flavour if you have ever eaten nasturtium leaves you will know what I mean. It has a diuretic action on the body and can assist with breaking down kidney and bladder stones. It can also help to get rid of excess catarrh in condition where there is too much mucus.
Don't forget other green leaves like kale and cabbage which I mentioned in Something Green Part 2. I hope the above information on Green Leaves will encourage you to add them into your diet on a very regular basis. Now in summer is the perfect time to make sure they are in your diet on an almost daily basis. Mix them up, try different combinations. If you need inspiration try my Green Gazpacho recipe, this is a perfect refreshing summer recipe.