Pumpkin leaves and kales are my favourite green vegetables served with Ugali. As a child I abhorred eating green vegetables until after growing up and knowing the advantages of eating them that I appreciated my mother’s efforts to always make sure green vegetables were part of our daily menu was for our own good, I am lucky I don’t have to force my children to eat vegetables because they enjoy eating their vegetables and my two year old son loves eating his green vegetables so much that he thinks every green thing is “mboga” as he calls them and ready to be eaten.
I once talked to some ladies and I asked them what foods they eat and prepare for their families to stay healthy and was surprised when all of them talked of all kinds of meat and not even one of them talked of green vegetables.
When I brought up the topic of green vegetables, none was keen. But I was even more surprised when I mentioned to them that I always make sure that my favourite vegetables are always served, she told me that green vegetables are better left to the rabbits to eat and “dodo” which is a common vegetable here is for the poor!
I was very disappointed with that particular lady. How could an elite and sophisticated woman utter such a word? Doesn’t she know the benefits of the green vegetables?
Who will she blame tomorrow if she or any member of her family is admitted in hospital for lack of iron or calcium which can be found is green vegetables?
That is when I realized that people think that serving French fries, rice and meat always is healthy, not realizing that they are missing the most important nutrients in their bodies in form of leafy green vegetables.
Leafy vegetables are ideal for weight management as they are typically low in calories. They are useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease since they are low in fat, high in dietary fibre, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as containing a host of phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. One study showed that an increment of one daily serving of green leafy vegetables lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11 percent.
Because of their high magnesium content and low glycemic index, green leafy vegetables are also valuable for persons with type 2 diabetes. An increase of 1 serving/day of green leafy vegetables was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of diabetes.
The high level of vitamin K in greens makes them important for the production of osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health. The risk of hip fracture in middle-aged women was decreased 45% for one or more servings/day of green, leafy vegetables compared to fewer servings.
Green vegetables are also a major source of iron and calcium for any diet. Green leafy vegetables are also rich in beta-carotene, which can also be converted into vitamin A, and also improve immune function.
Millions of children around the world have an increased risk of blindness, and other illnesses because of inadequate dietary vitamin A from green leafy vegetables.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in dark-green leafy vegetables, are concentrated in the eye lens and macular region of the retina, and play a protective role in the eye.
They protect against both cataract and age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the elderly.
Some studies suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast and lung cancer, and may contribute to the prevention of heart disease and stroke.
Green vegetables contain a variety of carotenoids, flavonoids and other powerful antioxidants that have cancer-protective properties. In a Swedish study, it was reported that eating 3 or more servings a week of green leafy vegetables significantly reduced the risk of stomach cancer, the fourth most frequent cancer in the world.
Cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are rich in indoles and isothiocyanates, which protect us against colon and other cancers. Broccoli sprouts have been reported to contain 10 or more times as much sulforaphane, a cancer-protective substance, than does mature broccoli.
A higher consumption of green leafy vegetables has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of breast cancer and skin cancer.
I am now a very happy mother nowadays, because when I walk into the kimironko market I easily get all types of fresh green vegetables in plenty like the kales which were hardly known in our country to prepare for my family.
Next time you think of serving your meals without a serving of green vegetables think twice of what you will be denying your family.