When was the last time you ate at least a cup of any of these dark green leafy vegetables(DGLVs) in a day – camote, horseradish (malunggay), swamp cabbage (kangkong) and bitter gourd (ampalaya) leaves; squash and sayote shoots, American black nightshade (amti), alugbati, pechay, watercress Philippine spinach (talinum) and the like? These significantly contribute to a healthy diet. In fact, health experts suggest that of the 2-3 servings of vegetables we are to consume daily, at least half cup should be vitamin C-rich. That’s no other than the DGLVs!
Nutritious diet need not be expensive, especially when vegetables can be grown or abound. An overriding benefit derived from vegetables, especially DGLVs, is that they are packed with vitamins and minerals which regulate body processes such as production of blood, wound healing and many others. In particular, vitamins A, C, E, K and B as well as the minerals iron, calcium, potassium abound in DGLVs. Malunggay leaves tops the list for calcium, potassium, iron and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and form of vitamin A. Following in beta-carotene are sayote leaves, malunggay, ampalaya and sweet potato leaves in this order. Amti, ampalaya leaves and watercress top in terms of calcium content. Further, vegetables in general have low calorie content due to little carbs which is beneficial in weight management. One serving equivalent to half a cup of cooked veggies provides 16 calories only in contrast to the same amount of rice providing 100 calories. Add to that the high fiber content that provides health benefits like preventing or relieving constipation, preventing colon cancer and helps in the management of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and diabetes mellitus. DGLVs are also low in sodium and have no cholesterol which are both favorable in CVD.
So don’t settle with vegetable garnishing in your plate only. Savor all the nutrients packed therein feeling satisfied that you also consumed antioxidants. While some argue that vegetables can be boring and monotonous as they are simply stir-fried or added to boiled viand, leafy greens can also be used as wrapper or added to sandwich filling or soup or included in omelet. If you are sure if it was grown in a clean area, you may prefer to just eat them raw. After all, most vitamins and minerals are significantly reduced with cooking. To preserve vitamins and minerals, wash before slicing, cook immediately and eat freshly cooked. To maximize the nutrients, don’t overcook nor cook in too much water.