Eating the rainbow - what are the benefits of green plant foods?April 28, 2023
Curious about the health benefits of phytonutrients from rich green fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices?
When it comes to eating a healthy diet, there’s no reason why it can’t also look appetising. In fact, making your plate as vibrant and pleasing to the eye as possible is one major way to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals and powerful plant compounds called phytonutrients that boost the body’s natural antioxidant defence system. Phytonutrients not only imbue foods with every colour of the rainbow but also provide their flavour, smell, and many health benefits. Green plant foods contain a unique profile of phytonutrients that can support your health in some surprising ways.
Keep scrolling to learn about the benefits of including more green plant foods on your plate.
What are the benefits of green fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices?
Foods with a beautiful green hue are rich in the phytonutrients chlorophyll, sulforaphane, and glucosinolates - to name just a few! These two phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals and reduce inflammation while also protecting particular organs such as the liver and kidneys, promoting their healthy function.
Chlorophyll scavenges free radicals and prevents DNA and cell damage. The liver has two phases of detoxification - chlorophyll stimulates the second phase (“Phase II”) which helps to remove toxins such as old hormones, medications, alcohol and other harmful compounds.1
Sulforaphane and glucosinolates are potent phytonutrients found in green vegetables, especially from the cruciferous family (broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts). Sulforaphane can protect against gene mutations, drug toxicity, and chronic disease while also boosting the liver’s ability to break down and safely remove toxins. 2
Glucosinolates help to protect the heart and reduce inflammation, keeping inflammation-based diseases at bay.3
Looking to reduce your cholesterol levels? The lipid-lowering effects of glucosinolates also make green and cruciferous vegetables a must for maintaining healthy cholesterol. In one particularly interesting study, participants were given 400 grams of glucoraphanin-rich broccoli (a form of glucosinolate) per week for 12 weeks. As a result, LDL cholesterol - the harmful kind - was significantly reduced in all 130 participants.
What are some of the best green foods to include in your diet?
Enjoy one to two serves of any of these foods every day for optimal health:
- Green apples
- Green pears
- Green grapes
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Green cabbage
- Snow peas
- Garden peas
- Green beans
- Green olives
- Olive oil
- Swiss chard
- Microgreens and sprouts
- Green peppers
- Green tea or matcha tea
- Nettle tea
- Peppermint tea
- Fresh or dried herbs such as basil, coriander, rosemary, thyme, parsley
Ways to include more green plant foods in your diet
Including some of these foods in your daily meals doesn’t have to be difficult - you probably already eat many dishes that include one or two of the above.
- Sourdough toast with ½ avocado and microgreens or fresh parsley and basil
- Spaghetti with wilted spinach, green olives and fresh basil
- Stir fry of broccoli, snow peas, green beans, bok choy and peppers
- Smoothie with frozen fruit, baby spinach and fresh mint leaves
- Cucumber sticks with hummus
- Homemade kale chips
- Matcha latte with coconut milk
- Freshly brewed peppermint tea
Check out the benefits of red, purple/blue, yellow/orange, and white plant foods over at the blog.
- Mishra, V.K., Bacheti, R.K. & Husen, A. (2011). Medicinal uses of chlorophyll: A critical overview. Chlorophyll: Structure, Function and Medicinal Uses. Nova Science Publishers, Inc: Hauppauge, NY. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Vinod-Mishra-10/publication/283502487_Medicinal_Uses_of_Chlorophyll_A_Critical_Overview/
- Elbarbry, F. & Elrody, N. (2011). Potential health benefits of sulforaphane: A review of the experimental, clinical and epidemiological evidences and underlying mechanisms. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 5(4): 473-484. https://academicjournals.org/journal/JMPR/article-full-text-pdf/FC65FB225611.pdf
- Connolly, E.L., Sim, M., Travica, N., Marx, W., Beasy, G., et al. (2021). Glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables and their potential role in chronic disease: Investigating the preclinical and clinical evidence. Front. Pharmacol., 12. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.767975/full
- Armah, C.N., Derdemezis, C., Traka, M.H., Dainty, J.R., Doleman, J.F., et al. (2015). Diet rich in high glucoraphanin broccoli reduces plasma LDL cholesterol: Evidence from randomised controlled trials. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 59(5): 918-926. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/mnfr.201400863