Friday, April 22, 2016

What Are Leafy Greens, And Why Do I Need Them?



No diet is truly optimized without a healthy amount of leafy greens. But maybe you don't really know your leafy greens from your other greens, and you certainly don't know why you need them (or how to eat them).

Leafy green vegetables are truly a miracle of nature. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are low in calories so you can eat plenty of them without gaining weight. Leafy greens can be eaten as side dishes, in sandwiches, as part of stir fries and casseroles and can be eaten in numerous types of salads.They can even be thrown in smoothies.

 
What are leafy greens?

There are both common and relatively uncommon leafy green vegetables available to you.  Most you can buy at the produce department at your local supermarket but others you may have to grow in containers in your house or in a garden, or visit a store like Whole Foods. 

Leafy green vegetables include:

·         Spinach
·         Kale
·         Broccoli
·         Red and Green Leaf and Romaine Lettuce
·         Cabbage
·         Edible Green Leaves: dandelion, red clover, plantain, watercress and chickweed 
·         Mustard greens
·         Dandelion greens
·         Swiss chard
·         Escarole
·         Turnip greens

What makes leafy greens so special?

Disease Prevention

It seems that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing, as leafy greens contain disease preventing plant-based substances that may help protect from diabetes, heart disease and even various cancers, mainly because of the powerful antioxidants they offer. Kale for example, is a great source of vitamins A C, K, calcium and also supplies folate and potassium.

Weight Loss

These vegetables have so few calories that they hardly even count and lettuce, kale and spinach can be eaten in abundance. These are also high fiber foods and so they keep you full longer and allow you to eat less. Another benefit of the fiber is that it helps to stabilize blood sugars, and that results in less out of control cravings for sweets and other junk. Learn more about healthy weight loss by downloading our free report (no strings, just click that link and read online or click the icons to print or download).

Vitamin K

Different leafy greens have different properties but all of them can be considered good for you. They contain vitamin K, which is essential in helping the body to properly clot blood. Vitamin K also helps prevent several conditions related to advancing age and can help prevent bone loss, arterial calcifications, kidney damage and heart disease.  Just a single cup of most leafy green vegetables will provide you with more than enough vitamin K for your system per day.   Kale is especially helpful, providing about six times the recommended intake of vitamin K. 

Lower Cholesterol

You can actually lower your cholesterol by eating leafy green vegetables. The bile acids produced by the liver which help fats digest from the gastrointestinal tract are bound by the fiber in the leafy greens.  The bile acids pass through the body along with the residue of leafy green vegetables, forcing the liver to use up even more cholesterol to make bile acids.  This reduces your endogenous cholesterol level.  There was one study in the Nutrition Research journal that indicated that slightly steamed kale and mustard greens did the best job of binding bile acids.  

Eye Health

Leafy green vegetables are good for the eyes. The best leafy greens to eat for eye health are mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens because they are high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.   Carotenoids help filter the high energy light caused by sun and therefore prevent sun-induced cataracts.  These carotenoids also improve overall visual acuity.  

Vitamin B5

A cup of raw escarole can help your body by adding pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5. The B vitamins together help carbohydrates break down into glucose to be used for cellular fuel.  The body cannot store B vitamins each day so you need to find a daily source for these vitamins.  What better way than to incorporate escarole in your diet.  

Calcium For Bone Health

Leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of calcium. It’s the calcium that gives these foods their slightly bitter taste.  While leafy greens do not give you alone the amount of calcium you need in one day (about a thousand milligrams of calcium per day for women between 30 and 50), they provide easily absorbable kinds of calcium.  A half a cup of dandelion greens will give you about 75 mg of calcium, while mustard greens can give you 55 mg calcium.  

Considering that these are virtually fat free foods they give high fat dairy foods as a source of calcium a run for their money.

Prevent Colon Cancer

Kale and mustard greens can help prevent colon cancer by being part of the group of vegetables that includes cabbage and broccoli. In a study in one dietetic journal, those people that ate more of these leafy greens suffered a lower risk of developing colon cancer.

How do you eat leafy greens?

Leafy greens can be eaten raw in salads or can be steamed and mixed with things like herbs, other vegetables, or added to stir-fry. Generally, it is advisable to have as little heat applied to these vegetables as possible to keep their nutritional content intact. Kale and spinach both are at risk for overcooking very fast because they cook so quickly. So they are both great ingredients to eat raw as a salad green or add to a green smoothie.

A good rule of thumb when cooking is to only steam to a bright free color, such as the case with broccoli, once it turns a dark green color it is likely overcooked and has lost valuable nutrients.

Want to grow your own green leafy veggies? I recommend this book


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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

8 Key Foods That Boost Focus And Concentration



Focus and concentration are vital to productivity and quality of life, but many people find it hard to focus for long periods of time, or sometimes to even get started. There is no magic secret to endless focus and concentration, but there are certain ways you can improve your concentration levels.  
 
Techniques such as yoga and meditation have been shown to help focus the mind and are a good way to improve concentration. There are also certain foods that can help increase focus and concentration levels, and they're pretty easy to incorporate into your diet.

Salmon and other types of fish such as trout and mackerel 

These types of fish contain omega-3, which has been shown to improve brain function and therefore concentration. These foods also have anti-inflammatory properties, which helps to protect the brain cells and keep them functioning properly.


Berries and Tomatoes

Berries and tomatoes are high in antioxidants, specifically vitamins A, C and E. These foods help to maintain sufficient blood flow to the brain, which is essential to keep the brain working well. Moreover, these foods also contain anti-inflammatory properties, so help to protect the brain cells.


Nuts
 
Nuts are high in vitamin B6, which has been scientifically shown to be beneficial to our cognitive processes. Specifically, vitamin B6 directly affects our memory and concentration levels, so increasing our B6 intake can affect our focus and concentration levels. 

Research has also suggested that vitamin B6 may have an important role in protecting us from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.


Dark chocolate 

Good quality dark chocolate has many important health benefits. Research has shown that dark chocolate can increase serotonin and endorphin levels, both of which can help our brain to function better. 

Moreover, dark chocolate contains anti-oxidants and a number of important vitamins and minerals such as potassium. However, too much chocolate can rapidly increase the calories consumed, which ultimately may reduce the positive effects it can have.

Water

Such a simple idea, but water is incredibly important, and many of us don't get enough of it. A huge percentage of our bodies are made up of water so it is perhaps no wonder that we can struggle to function if we do not consume an adequate amount of water. 

Dehydration can occur relatively quickly and one of the first things to be affected is the brain. Without adequate water, it can be hard to think clearly and mental fatigue can quickly set in. 

Green Tea

When you feel like you need a mental wake-up, it's easy to reach for the coffee. This tends to give you an instant buzz, but it will often be short-lived. Green tea can be a better long term option.

It's better for your general health, and it still contains caffeine, albeit in lesser quantities than coffee, which will help with your focus and concentration. In addition, green tea is rich in anti-oxidants, which helps to protect the brain cells.

Bananas
 
Bananas are a simple and easy snack to consume, even when you're on the go. Studies have shown that students who consumed bananas before an exam performed much better than those who did not. Bananas contain high levels of potassium, an essential brain chemical. 

Potassium helps to keep your brain and nerve cells in top working order. Combine this with other foods listed above and you should be able to improve your focus and concentration.


If you typically live on junk and processed food and find yourself struggling with focus and concentration, then consider eating these power foods and generally changing your diet to include more healthy foods. You should see an improvement in physical health as well as mental focus.