8 ways to Boost Your Immune System and Mood with Leafy Greens

Did you know that eating leafy greens almost every day may be one of the most powerful steps you can take for your mental and physical health? They give you optimal amounts of immune-protective micronutrients

[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Michael Greger, MD” source_title=”How to Not Die ” full_quote=”Greens truly are the healthiest foods on the planet. You simply can’t do better in terms of nutrition per calorie. Explore, innovate, taste test, play and teach you palate to enjoy them. Whether you sneak them into a refreshing smoothie, incorporate them into sauces and dressings, use them as a base for main dishes, or eat them straight in a big, vibrant salad – just do it. Your body will thank you for every bite of green you take.” short_quote=”Greens truly are the healthiest foods on the planet. You simply can’t do better in terms of nutrition per calorie…”]

Cruciferous Vegetables are in the same high-nutrient leafy greens category.  Named for their flowers with four equally spaced petals in the shape of a cross, cruciferous vegetables include:

  • Boh choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress
[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Rebecca Katz” source_title=”The Healthy Mind Cookbook” full_quote=”Broccoli has B vitamins in abundance which is linked with better mental functioning, and as we get older, the prevention of dementia. Cabbages are especially powerful brain foods. Red cabbages  have antioxidant phytochemicals that protect neurons from damage caused by oxidative stress. Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C which is good not only for overall health of your brain, but may elevate your mood. Kale is packed with 45 different varieties of antioxidant phytochemicals and mood-elevating vitamin C. ” short_quote=”Broccoli has B vitamins in abundance…”]

Our bodies are programmed to fight off infection and cancer. Green and cruciferous vegetables help our immune system to protect us from disease.  Over 120 of phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) have been identified that have strong immune-boosting effects:

  • anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
  • detoxify and remove carcinogenic compounds
  • heighten the immune system’s resistance to viral infraction
  • work together to enhance defenses against bacterial infection
  • give each cell its own protective shield so destructive toxins cannot do damage
[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Leslie Korn, MD” source_title=”Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health” full_quote=”Green plants are rich in chlorophyll, the green color of plants that helps to clean and build blood. It inhibits bacterial growth, yeasts and fungi in the digestive tract, purifying the body of toxins. It is anti-inflammatory and helps to renew cells and support healthy gut bacteria. It is an energizing food important to people with fatigue-related conditions, depression and IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome” short_quote=”Green plants are rich in chlorophyll. It is an energizing food important to people with fatigue-related conditions, depression and inflammatory bowel syndrome”]

What to Do?

  • Blend greens into breakfast smoothies (spinach, mint, basil, kale…)
  • Add them to breakfast tacos, omelets, egg casseroles
  • Use variety to keep salads tempting: leaf salads using spinach, arugula, kale and different lettuces
  • Add grated cruciferous to leafy salads or grains
  • Put to soups, chilies, stews
  • Mix in cruciferous vegetables with sweet potato, any potato, any roasted other root vegetables
  • Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and crushed garlic to toss with grains or whole-wheat pasta
  • Make pesto to spread on fish, chicken, use as a sandwich spread, toss with grains and pasta, add to salads
  • Make Coleslaws– Go beyond cabbage, use any cruciferous, add any thinly sliced, or grated vegetable – carrot and beets to from fennel and jicama and more. Skip the mayo and use a tangy vinegar-based dressing

Call to Action: Try a leafy green each week you have not eaten before. Which one will do you choose this week?

  • Arugula
  • Beet greens (cut thin like for coleslaw, add to salads or stir-fry)
  • Collard greens (use as a wrap instead or tortilla or as with beet greens)
  • Escarole (in place of lettuce or sauté with veggies or beans)
  • Kale (try it in a pesto) over fish, chicken, sandwich spread
  • Mustard greens
  • Radicchio 
  • Sorrel
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip greens 
  • Let us have lettuce! 18 different kinds 😊

Updated from original post published November 2016

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