Greens : nutrition, shocking 3 medical uses & 2 adverse effects

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(Beet greens, broccoli rabe, chard [Swiss chard], collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress)
See also Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinach, Turnips.

Greens Nutritional Profile

• Energy value (calories per serving): Low
• Protein: High
• Fat: Low
• Saturated fat: Low
• Cholesterol: None
• Carbohydrates: Moderate
• Fiber: Moderate to high
• Sodium: Moderate to high
• Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin A, folate, vitamin C
• Major mineral contribution: Calcium, iron

How Many Nutrients in This Food

• Greens are the edible leafy tops of some common vegetable plants. They have moderate to high amounts of dietary fiber (one to two grams per cup of cooked greens), insoluble cellulose and lignin in the leaf structure.

• Greens are also an excellent source of vitamin A, derived from deep yellow carotene pigments (including beta-carotene) hidden under their green chlorophyll, the B vitamin folate, and vitamin C.

• One-half cup cooked frozen turnip greens has 2.7 g dietary fiber, 7,406 IU vitamin A (347 percent of the RDA for a woman, 250 percent of the RDA for a man), 28 mcg folate (7 percent of the RDA), 15.7 mg vitamin C (21 percent of the RDA for a woman, 17 percent of the RDA for a man), and 1.5 g iron (8 percent of the RDA for a woman, 20 percent of the RDA for a man).

How To Serve  Nutritious greens Food

• With an iron-rich food or a food rich in vitamin C, to increase the absorption of iron.

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Greens Food

• Low-oxalate diet (to prevent the formation of kidney stones caused by calcium oxalate)
• Low-sodium diet

How To Buying This Food

Look for:

Fresh, crisp, clean, cold, dark green leaves. Refrigeration helps preserve vitamins A and C.


Yellowed, blackened, wilted, or warm greens, all of which are lower in vitamins A and C. What to Look for in Specific Greens

• •Broccoli rabe: Choose small, firm stalks, with very few buds and no open flowers.

• Collard greens: Choose smooth, green, firm leaves.

• Dandelion: Choose plants with large leaves and very thin stems but no flowers (flowering dandelions have tough, bitter leaves).

• Kale: Choose small, deeply colored, moist leaves.

• Mustard greens: Choose small, firm, tender leaves.

• Swiss chard: Choose chard with crisp stalks and firm, brightly colored leaves. Chard is very perishable; limp stalks are past their prime.

• Turnip greens: Choose small, firm, bright leaves.

• Watercress: Choose crisp, bright green leaves.

How To Storing This Food

• Refrigerate all greens, wrapped in plastic to keep them from losing moisture and vitamins.
• Before you store the greens, rinse them well under cool running water and discard any bruised or damaged leaves (which would continue to deteriorate even when chilled).

How To Preparing greens Food

• Rewash the greens under cool running water to flush off all sand, dirt, debris, and hidden insects. If you plan to use the greens in a salad, pat them dry before you mix them with salad dressing; oil-based salad dressings will not cling to wet greens.

• Do not tear or cut the greens until you are ready to use them; when you tear greens you damage cells, releasing ascorbic acid oxidase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin C.

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What Happens When You Cook Greens Food

• Chlorophyll, the pigment that makes green vegetables green, is sensitive to acids. When you heat greens, the chlorophyll in the leaves reacts chemically with acids in the greens or in the cooking water, forming pheophytin, which is brown.

• Together, the pheophytin and the yellow carotenes in dark green leaves give the cooked greens a bronze hue. Greens with few carotenes will look olive-drab.

• To keep the cooked greens from turning bronze or olive, you have to prevent the chlorophyll from reacting with acids.

• One way to do this is to cook the greens in a large amount of water (which will dilute the acids), but this increases the loss of vitamin C. A second alternative is to leave the lid off the pot so that the volatile acids can float off into the air.

• The best way probably is to steam the greens in very little water, or, as researchers at Cornell University suggest, to microwave two cups of greens with about three tablespoons of water in a microwave safe plastic bag left open at the top so that steam can escape.

• These methods preserve vitamin C and cook the greens so fast that there is no time for the chlorophyll/acid
reaction to occur.

How Other Kinds of Processing Affect Greens Food


Cooked frozen greens have more fiber and vitamin A than cooked fresh greens because, ounce for ounce, they have less water and more leaf solids.


Medical Uses and/or Benefits Of Greens

Lower risk of some birth defects.

As many as two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spiral cord) defect due to their mothers’ not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy.

• The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a woman and 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends 400 mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant.

• Taking folate supplements before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

Vision protection.

Dark greens are a rich source of the yellow-orange carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. Both carotenoids appear to play a role in protecting the eyes from damaging ultraviolet light, thus reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss in one-third of all Americans older than 75.

Possible lower risk of a heart attack.

In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, demonstrated that a diet providing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 daily, either from food or supplements, might reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent.

• Although men were not included in the study, the results were assumed to apply to them as well.

• However, data from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2006 called this theory into question. Researchers at Tulane University examined the results of 12 controlled studies in which 16,958 patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease were given either folic acid supplements or placebos (“look-alike” pills with no folic acid) for at least six months.

• The scientists, who found no reduction in the risk of further heart disease or overall death rates among those taking folic acid, concluded that further studies will be required to ascertain whether taking folic acid supplements reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Adverse Effects Associated with greens Food

Food-borne illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1996–2005 the proportion of incidents of food-borne disease linked to leafy greens increased by 60 percent.

• The highest proportion of these illnesses were due to contamination by norovirus (the organism often blamed for outbreaks of gastric illness on cruise ships), followed by salmonella and E. coli. The illnesses were commonly associated with eating raw greens; cooking the greens to a high heat inactivates the disease-causing organisms.


Like beets, celery, eggplant, lettuce, radishes, and spinach, greens contain nitrates that convert naturally into nitrites in your stomach and then react with the amino acids in proteins to form nitrosamines. Although some nitrosamines are known or suspected carcinogens, this natural chemical conversion presents no known problems for a healthy adult.

• However, when these nitrate-rich vegetables are cooked and left to stand at room temperature, bacterial enzyme action (and perhaps some enzymes in the plants) convert the nitrates to nitrites at a much faster rate than normal.

• These higher-nitrite foods may be hazardous for infants; several cases of “spinach poisoning” have been reported among children who ate cooked spinach that had been left standing at room temperature.

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Greens Food/Drug Interactions

• Anticoagulants Greens are rich in vitamin K, the blood-clotting vitamin produced naturally by bacteria in the intestines. Consuming large quantities of this food may reduce the effectiveness of anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin).

• One cup of drained, boiled fresh kale, for example, contains 1,062 mcg vitamin K, nearly 200 times the
RDA for a healthy adult.

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