By Anchan Vegetarian
Vegetables and their benefits
After taking a closer look at fruits and their benefits over
the last 2 issues, let’s talk about vegetables and their benefits. Is it really
that important to eat them?
Green leafy vegetables are arguably one of the richest sources of nutrition and
have numerous health advantages, including cancer prevention and detoxification.
It is no secret that greens are good for the body but surprisingly, despite
their large number of nutritional advantages, they are one of the most
under-consumed foods in the average person’s diet in the West. When living in
Chiang Mai, it is certainly easier to eat plenty of greens, yet I see too many
tourists and foreign residents eating unhealthy food on a daily basis, hardly
changing their eating habits from back home. With such an array of available
vegetables, already turned into delicious stir fried dishes or soups, this is a
shame and seems like a wasted opportunity. There is such a wide variety of green
vegetable with different textures and tastes that including one or more as part
of a balanced diet need no longer be a point of contention. They can easily be
incorporated in recipe favorites, are inexpensive and can even be grown easily
in your very own garden, even in pots on your balcony.
But what is it that makes leafy green vegetables such a veritable super food?
One reason is the rich assortment of nutrients that can be found in them;
vitamins A, C, E, and K feature heavily in salad greens, kale and spinach while
many of the B vitamins can be found in broccoli, bok choy, mustard greens and
many other varieties of leafy green vegetable. These same vegetables also
contain an abundance of phytonutrients and phytochemicals such as zeaxanthin,
lutein and beta-carotene; all valuable chemicals which protect cells from
Green leafy vegetables also contain high levels of dietary fiber, magnesium,
potassium, folic acid, calcium and even Omega-3 fatty acids, which serve to
maintain eye health, aid in digestive regulation, increase bone strength and
boost the immune system.
So what can leafy greens do for my health issues, both prevention wise as in
support to any healing process? weight loss, cancer prevention, anti-aging
qualities and even bone strength are some, just to name a few - the health
benefits of leafy green vegetables are many in number.
Due to their high fat and water-soluble antioxidant content, green leafy
vegetables are one of the best cancer-preventing foods. Flavonoids, carotenoids
and the rich fiber content help in the elimination of harmful carcinogens and
toxins, while quercitin, a photo nutrient, also contains many antioxidant and
cancer-preventing properties. Studies have shown that eating two or three
servings of green leafy vegetables per week significantly lowers the risk of
stomach, breast and skin cancer. These same antioxidants have also been proven
to decrease the risk of heart disease and prevent cataract and general
degeneration of vision.
Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits of leafy vegetables is their low
calorie and carbohydrate content and low glycemic index, which make them an
ideal food to facilitate weight loss and maintain long-term weight management.
Adding more green vegetables to a balanced diet increases the intake of dietary
fiber which in turn regulates the digestive system and aids in bowel health and
weight loss. These properties are also advantageous for those suffering from
The vitamin K content in dark green leafy vegetables provides a number of health
benefits including: aiding in the production of osteocalcin, a protein that aids
bone growth; protecting bones from osteoporosis by retaining calcium, and
helping to prevent against inflammatory diseases.
The following are but a few examples of green leafy vegetables that can easily
be incorporated into the most particular of diets.
-Bok Choy - a Chinese white cabbage rich in vitamins A and C and in calcium and
-Spinach - sweet in flavor and high in vitamins A and K, iron and foliate
-Broccoli - grows with florets and crunchy stalks and is rich in fiber and a
number of vitamins
-Collard greens - mild in flavor with a high content of vitamins A, C and K
-Lettuce - contains foliate and vitamins A, C and K
So head out to the markets and get yourself a green basket of health, save the
sausages for another day.
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