You’ve probably heard all about kale in recent years: the antioxidant “superfood” that provides the missing link in your diet, keeping you healthier and more energetic than ever before.

In fact, it isn’t just kale that you should get excited about. Dark greens of all kinds, including spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, bok choy are all rich with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant properties that will change your life for the better if you aren’t already making them a sizable portion of your diet.

Here are five interesting reasons why greens are essential to your the diet and why they are in fact superfoods!

Bursting with Carotenoids

Carotenoids, abundantly found in dark leafy greens, are powerful antioxidants that prevent oxidative immune attacks and have anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Plants and bacteria produce carotenoids themselves as a happy protective benefit of evolution, while humans and animals need to add carotenoid-rich plants to their diets.

When you hear vegetables called out specifically for their higher-than-average antioxidant features, it’s often carotenoids that inspire the effusive praise!

Greens Are Vitamin-Rich

Most greens, like kale, spinach and darker salad greens, are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K. These vitamins are essential to your health as they help regulate the growth of new cells and produce antioxidants that protect your cells, to name a few of many benefits. Thicker greens like broccoli and bok choy also contain high levels of several B vitamins.

So it isn’t all about a kale salad here and there. Mixing a wide range of greens into your diet gets you regular sources of a balanced array of vitamins!

Eat More for a Healthy Heart

Dark greens contain folate, which promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and serves as a powerful stroke preventative. Folate supplements are helpful, but natural sources of folate are known to provide a greater overall impact on health.

The aforementioned antioxidant features also assist with mitigating the risk of heart disease.

Low Impact but High Benefits

Greens are low on carbohydrates, low on calories, and have a low glycemic index. They’re the lowest-impact, highest benefit food you can introduce to your diet. You’ll have a far easier time than ever maintaining your preferred body weight while remaining perfectly healthy and nourished.

The main caveat for most leafy greens is sodium content. Spinach, the staple dark leafy green, contains 23.7 mg of sodium per cup. If sodium is an issue in your diet, consult your health care provider or dietician to plan appropriate daily portions of leafy greens.

They’re Easy to Consume Multiple Times a Day, Every Day

The best feature of greens is how simple it is in most cases to add large quantities to your existing diet. Replacing iceberg lettuce with a darker green gets you a nearly identical meal, with a bit more flavor and a lot more benefit to your health. Add greens to your already-planned vegetable sides; you’ll be surprised how well a bit of steamed kale goes with almost anything!

Leafy greens also conveniently blend in with juices and smoothies. Their flavors are often light compared to most fruits and vegetables, so switching to a smoothie that’s a little further on the green side isn’t nearly as daunting as you might assume.

If you aren’t already consuming dark, leafy vegetables as a major part of your daily meals, it’s an easy and delicious change that pays off in myriad ways. All the aforementioned features of adding leafy greens to your diet — especially the high-nutrient, low-calorie aspects — quickly add up to a healthier lifestyle with both short-term and preventative benefits.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/leafy-greens-rated

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-vitamins-a-e-c-b-zinc-4004.html

https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/

http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/folic-acid-heart-health

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2

http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/foodsthatfightcancer_leafy_vegetables.html

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-dark-green-leafy-vegetables-1647.html