We all know vegetables are a necessary part of a healthy diet, especially the green variety. Specifically, green leafy vegetables:
- contain a plant-based source of calcium and vitamin K, both of which support bone health;
- are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds
- are a source of plant-based iron
- contain lutein and zeaxanthin which support eye health
- contain fibre beneficial for digestive and gut health
More recently, two new studies have shone an even brighter light on the healthy benefits of consuming salad greens.
Green Leafy Vegetables and muscle strength
A new study has shown, people who consumed a nitrate-rich diet, most from vegetables had stronger muscle function of their lower limbs.
Why is stronger muscle function important? This is because poor muscle function can increase our risk of falls and fractures, especially as we age.
The study looked at 3,759 Australians over a 12-year period and assessed their dietary nitrate intake. The results found people who consumed the most nitrates had 11% stronger lower limb strength then those with the lowest intake.
In terms of which veggies are best, the research showed lettuce, spinach, kale and beetroot provided the most benefit.
The study take away is to aim for at least 1 serve green leafy’s per day (approx. 1 cup) along with a wide range of other veggies.
Other sources of nitrate rich veggies include:
- chinese cabbage
- bok choy
Salad Vegetables and Postprandial Blood Sugar
A new study has shown, dietary fibre from salad vegetables can reduce glucose and fat absorption and breakdown rates, helping to stabilise postprandial blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Why is mitigating an increases in postprandial blood sugar and cholesterol important? This is because it helps to keep our blood sugar stable which helps to promote sustained energy levels, better concentration and reduces oxidative stress causing tissue damage. Similarly, less cholesterol helps to protect our arteries from damage which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
The salad veggies looked at in this in vitro study were lettuce – red oak, red coral, green oak, butter and cos.
Fibre was prepared from each type of lettuce using an enzymatic method and then characterised. Tests using cellulose as a control, showed that the fibre from each type of lettuce inhibited the absorption of carbs from the small intestine post eating, more cholesterol was bound compared to cellulose and the synthesis of cholesterol via pancreatic enzymes with inhibited.
While this was not a human study, all of these reactions led the authors to conclude that that natural dietary fibre from salad vegetables can reduce glucose and lipid absorption and breakdown rates, thus preventing increases in postprandial blood glucose and cholesterol levels, which can be beneficial to human health.
This these finding in mind, here are two recipes, which show salad greens can be easily and deliciously incorporated into your diet, enjoy!
Ultimate Green Side Salad
This side salad is a simple go to when having guests over or simply looking for a simple but yummy side to complement a main.
1 red oak lettuce, stem removed, leaves cleaned and separated
1 baby cos lettuce, out leaves removed, chopped
1 small handful kale leaves, finely chopped
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ punnet grape tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup almonds, chopped
120g goat cheese, soft
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine or apple cider vinegar
½ bunch basil, stems removed
salt and pepper
In a food processor add all of the dressing ingredients, blend until smooth, adjusting flavour to suit and use extra oil to thin, set aside.
Place green leafy’s in a bowl, mix well. Top with remaining ingredients.
Drizzle over the dressing, serve immediately.
Green Salad Soup
Salad greens don’t just have to be consumed in a salad, they also make for a yummy light soup!
2 cups mix lettuce leaves
1 avocado, skin and seed removed
2 tomatoes, diced
1 Lebanese cucumber, chopped
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, roughly crushed
½ bunch basil leaves, finely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock or miso stock (or 1 tbsp. miso in 1 cup water)
pinch salt to taste
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor add all of the ingredients, apart from the olive oil, and blend till smooth.
Pour into individual bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before topping with a dollop of yoghurt and fresh herbs.