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March 5, 2007

A University of Michigan Health Minute update on important health issues.

Start eating green for your health this St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is a great time to think about adding more greens to your diet

ANN ARBOR, MI – In addition to the regular festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day this month, consider adding a new tradition – more green foods to your diet.


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“Green foods across the board are healthy in terms of their vitamin, mineral, water and antioxidant content, and St Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to think about how you can incorporate more of them into your diet,” says Erica Wald, RD, a wellness coordinator with the MFit Health Promotion Division at the University of Michigan Health System.

The key, she says, is variety.

“You want to incorporate lots of different intensities of green – all the various colors of green,” she says. “The more varied the colors, the more varied your vitamin and mineral intake.”

Wald also says that preparing them in a variety of ways, such as putting them in soups, stews and casseroles – even serving them raw – are great ways to incorporate more greens into your diet.

The following are Wald’s seven healthy and delicious tips for eating green for your health:

  1. Increase fiber with broccoli. Broccoli provides many health benefits, including both soluble and insoluble fiber; vitamins A, C and E (important antioxidants for staving off cellular damage from free-radicals); vitamin K for bone health; and a special antioxidant called sulforaphane, known for its powerful anticancer properties. 
  2. Vary your leafy greens. Wald says it’s important to remember that leafy green vegetables, such as lettuces, come in varying shades of green. The lighter the green, the less vitamins and minerals they contain. The darker the green, the higher the concentration of vitamins and minerals they contain, such as A, C and folate, which is good for preventing birth defects. Spinach, a dark leafy green, contains lutein which is good for eye health. Collard greens also contain sulforaphane and beta carotene.
  3. Choose vitamin K for increased bone health. While vitamin K isn’t a substitute for a good source of calcium, Wald says, eating green vegetables high in vitamin K is good for bone health. Choose vegetables like asparagus, green/herbal teas, spinach, kale, turnip, collard and mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage, endive and brussel sprouts.
  4. Health Minute ImageImprove cholesterol with avocado. According to Wald, avocado is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower your cholesterol. It’s also a good source of vitamin E. Consider tossing your dark-green, leafy salad with a few slices of fresh avocado and balsamic vinegar for added benefit.
  5. Alternate oranges with kiwifruit. If you’re used to grabbing an orange to ensure you’re getting your daily dose of vitamin C, consider eating a kiwifruit instead. Wald says kiwifruit contain even more vitamin C than oranges – and they’re a great source of dietary fiber.
  6. Snack on green apples. While green apples offer about the same benefits as red or yellow apples, Wald says green apples are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which aid in digestion and heart health.
  7. Drink tea – green tea. If you like to drink tea, consider choosing green tea instead of black, oolong or other darker teas. Green tea – next to white tea – packs the biggest punch when it comes to antioxidants. It also contains flavonoids, a class of naturally occurring plant compounds that function as antioxidants that are good for the heart, Wald says.   

Whether you like your green vegetables raw or cooked, there are many ways you can incorporate them into your meals. But whatever you do, remember that variety is the key.

For more information, visit these web sites:

U-M Health System MFit Nutrition

U-M Cancer Center Nutrition Tips

U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Produce for Better Health Foundation

Written by Jessica Soulliere


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