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Green Leafy Vegetables

Renuka Berry

Fresh vegetables have life force. Most vegetables are very high in water and necessary vitamins and minerals and low in fat and protein. Thus, they are a perfect complement to animal protein meals to help supply the needed nutrients that aid the digestion and utilization of those concentrated foods.

Vegetables are another big topic, probably our most important one nutritionally. Health and vitality are dependent, I believe, on eating nutritious and vital foods, and vegetables are a major category here, especially the fresh-picked variety. Fresh vegetables have life force. Most vegetables are very high in water and necessary vitamins and minerals and low in fat and protein. Thus, they are a perfect complement to animal protein meals to help supply the needed nutrients that aid the digestion and utilization of those concentrated foods. Most vegetables are predominantly carbohydrate, with important fiber bulk. Vitamins C and A, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron are the most commonly rich nutrients, along with some B vitamins and other trace minerals. The dark leafy greens, yellow or orange vegetables, such as squash and carrots, and red ones, such as peppers, are all high in beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A in our body. Many of the nutrients may be partially lost when cooking vegetables. Vitamin C and some minerals may dissolve in the water, and the B vitamins may be destroyed by heat and also lost in the water, yet, overall, the basic nutrition and fiber will still remain.

The chlorophyll that is part of most plants, especially high in the green vegetables, has special properties. It is the basic component of the plants' blood, just as hemoglobin is in ours. Instead of iron as the focal part, as it is with our blood, magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule, and thus many plants have a good magnesium level. Chlorophyll is produced as a result of the sun's effects on the plants, and it is known to have revitalizing and refreshing effects when used in humans. Many studies have been done with chlorophyll extracts. It seems to provide intestinal nourishment and has a soothing or healing effect on the mucous linings, and it also has been used beneficially for skin ulcers and to help detoxify or purify our system, the liver in particular. Chlorophyll may even have antimutagenic potential, though this needs further study. Because of their beta-carotene and selenium levels, vegetables are thought to help reduce cancer rates. The cruciferous family vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, have a further anticancer effect, though the exact mechanism has not yet been determined.

The most nutritious way to eat vegetables is fresh and raw. But raw vegetables eaten in too much quantity are harder for some people to chew and digest and can produce intestinal gas. Light steaming of vegetables softens them without depleting much of their nutrients, and hot vegetables with a little seasoning may be more pleasing to the palate. Baked vegetables are also sound nutritionally. If we boil vegetables, many of the nutrients go into the water, so unless we plan to consume the water, by drinking it or making it into a sauce or soup, boiling is not ideal.

Many vegetables are sprayed or absorb some chemicals from the ground, water, or air. These are often most concentrated in the skin or on the surface. Washing or soaking the vegetables in water may help remove some of these chemicals. Many people even soak vegetables suspected to be contaminated in diluted bleach (Chlorox, sodium hypochlorite), then rinse them before preparing them for eating.

Fresh vegetable juices can be a very invigorating beverage. Their vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the juices. Many people have fasted on vegetable juices with positive effects, such as enhanced vitality and a diminishment of congestive-type symptoms. Vegetable juices are better the fresher they are. Carrot juice is probably the most common, though other veggies, such as beets, celery, or spinach, can be added or a mixed-vegetable cocktail. Really, almost any vegetable can be made into juice.

Leafy Greens
The leafy greens are probably the richest in nutrients of any foods in the vegetable kingdom. And usually the greener they are, the more nutritious they are. They are very high in vitamins A and C and the minerals magnesium, potassium, and iron. The leafy greens are well known for their folic acid (name derived from "foliage") content. Calcium is also very high in the greens, though some of it gets bound up in certain ones, such as spinach, and beet greens, that are high in oxalic acid. During cooking or in the intestines, calcium oxalate, which is not very soluble or absorbable, is formed. But an appreciable amount of calcium can still be obtained from the green leafy vegetables.

Cabbage. A nutritious anticancer cruciferous vegetable, cabbage is low in fat and may even help reduce body fat levels. Though not as high in nutrients as some of the other greens, cabbage is still rich in chlorophyll, folic acid, and vitamin C and especially good in that it contains some selenium, another known antioxidant/anticancer nutrient, and two detoxifying minerals, sulfur and chlorine.

Spinach. This dark leafy green food is rich in iron. One cup of uncooked spinach has nearly 2 mg. of iron-and for only 15 calories. It is also a good fiber food and has some protein. Vitamin A activity is very high, about 4,500 IUs for that one cup. B vitamins are low except for folic acid; vitamin C is good, and there is some vitamin E as well. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are high, and copper, manganese, and zinc are also present. Raw spinach, however, contains oxalic acid, which may bind some of the calcium and other minerals. Spinach is a good substitute for lettuce in salads and lightly cooked spinach is concentrated in nutrients.

Lettuce. This is the common name for a number of related plants that grow in "heads." These are generally darker green in color and rich in chlorophyll, vitamin A, and folic acid. Lettuces also contain some calcium, potassium, and iron and are good fiber foods. They are low in sodium and calories as well.

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