Why Dark Leafy Greens are Awesome

Leafy-Greens

Dark leafy greens are among the most nutrient rich foods on the planet. Relative to the amount of calories they contain, they contain a very high number of micronutrients. Some of the most notable nutrients are iron, calcium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K1. Dark leafy greens are sources of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. In addition, dark leafy greens are rich in many phytochemicals with benefits and functions not even known yet.

Leafy greens can easily be snuck into different recipes. They make great bases in salads, can be combined with nearly any cooked food or blended into a smoothie. They also don’t take much effort to prepare/eat. They can cook quickly, blend easily and don’t require tedious amounts of chopping.

Swiss Chard Nutritional Information

Swiss Chard Nutrition Info

Swiss Chard Micronutrients

Swiss Chard Amino Acids

Spinach Nutritional Information

Spinach Nutrition Info

Spinach Nutrients

Spinach Amino Acids

Kale Nutritional Information

Kale Nutritional Information

Kale Nutrients

Kale Amino Acid

Learn More:

Health Benefits of Dark Leafy Greens

Nutrition Data (source of nutrition info)

Top 10 Leafy Green Vegetables

USDA Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

How to Eat Healthy When You Crave Intensity

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During my fat days, one of the reasons I struggled to lose weight was because what I considered diet foods were boring, bland and unsatisfying. While I often experience sensory overload, I also crave (controlled) intensity. This shows itself in preferring complex music, loving colorful environments and craving very flavorful foods. During the time when my weight was the most out-of-hand, I was eating at a dining hall. Along with some mediocre-at-best healthy options, there was an abundance of delicious unhealthy options, not to mention limitless dessert and soda. When I got an apartment and got to cook my own foods, figuring out ways to make healthy foods delicious was key to me being able to successfully lose weight. Along with making healthy eating affordable and convenient, I think this is another aspect a lot of people struggle with when trying to lose weight.

1. Use Fats to Bring Out Flavor

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Fats help bring out flavor in food. This is why low-fat versions of foods are often less delicious and need salt and sugar added to replace the flavor lost from fat.

While eating diets high in fat can be problematic, using appropriate amounts can do a lot to make a dish taste better. And dietary fat is a necessary component to a healthy diet. Optimally you want your fat to come from whole food sources (nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, olives) and added fats (oils) should be limited because it is more calorically dense and less nutritious.

2. Experiment With a Variety of Spices 

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Spices and herbs are a great way to add flavor without adding calories. Spices such as cayenne may also help you slow down when you eat, which may help eat more mindfully and receive the signals of being full with less food consumed.

3. Use Herbs

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Herbs are a great way to add flavor while reaping many health benefits.

4. Add Salt

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Salt is a flavor enhancer in food, as well as being one of the 5 basic tastes. Sprinkling moderate amounts of salt onto your meal can make a big difference in making your food more delicious.

While most Americans eat excessive amounts of sodium, this is primarily from processed foods. If you are eating unprocessed food, just remember 1 tsp of salt is about 2300 mg of sodium.

5. Add Citrus Juices

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Juice from citrus fruits like orange, lemon and lime can be a great healthy way to boost flavor and add nutrients. This is also a good option if you get bored of water.

Is Caffeine Healthy?

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Coffee is more than just a morning pick-me-up for me. It is the nectar of the gods. It takes a lot of trial-and-error to find just the right cup. It has to be the right blend, from acceptable sources, brewed to perfection. Or I can get the caffeinated liquid candy from Starbucks. 

Caffeine is the drug of choice in our culture. About 90% of Americans consume caffeine daily and about half consume over 300 mg. The most common sources of caffeine are coffee and tea. Other sources include sodas, energy drinks and chocolate.

What is Caffeine?

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Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant also known as trimethyxanthine. It is found in plants such as coffee, tea and cacao.

How Does Caffeine Work?

Adenosine: Adenosine is a chemical that is involved in many biological processes. One of these is acting as an inhibitor (slows it down) for the central nervous system. This plays an important role in sleep. Because caffeine looks similar to adenosine to your nervous system, caffeine is able to bind to adenosine receptors and block adenosine. Because caffeine blocks he inhibitory process of adenosine, your brain speeds up. Over time, regular use of caffeine results in your body creating more adenosine receptors. As a result of this, lack of caffeine will make you become overwhelmed by adenosine and needing caffeine to compensate. 

Adrenaline: The increased brain activity from caffeine tricks your pituitary gland into thinking there is an emergency. This results in it stimulating your adrenal glands. This results in your pupils dilating, your airways opening up, your heart rate increases, your pupils on the surface constrict to slow down blood flow and increase blood flow to muscles, blood pressure rises, blood flow to the stomach slows down, the liver releases sugar into the bloodstream for energy and muscles tighten up for action. 

Dopamine: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the brains reward and pleasure centers. In addition to blocking adenosine, caffeine slows down the reabsorption of dopamine, increasing dopamine levels. Dopamine helps regulate movement and emotional responses. It also helps us to see rewards and act on them (reward meaning pleasure).

The Benefits of Caffeine

  • In sources such as tea and coffee, it contains antioxidants, which are important from preventing oxidative damage. 
  • It increases energy levels.
  • It improves mood.
  • It improves cognitive function, including alertness and memory.
  • It increases fat burning and metabolism.
  • It improves physical performance.
  • Associated with lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Associated with lower risk of alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Associated with lower risk of Parkinson’s.
  • May prevent liver damage.
  • Associated with lower risk of cancer. 

*Association does not mean causation. 

The Risks of Caffeine

  • Regular use may cause dependency. It may become more about avoiding withdrawal rather than capitalizing on the benefits.
  • Often consumed with added sugar, which should be avoided.
  • May mess with digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Increases stress levels.

Conclusion

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Caffeine has both risks and benefits. For most adults, caffeine isn’t considered risky until consuming over 300 mg daily (~ 2 cups of coffee). However, this doesn’t factor in dependency, is based on association and is relative to the general population. 

The healthiest sources of caffeine are coffee and tea. It is best consumed in moderation, limiting added sugar. It is also preferable to avoid dependency and trying to go without it every once in a while.

Learn More:

FDA 2012 Caffeine Consumption Report

ASAPScience: Your Brain on Coffee

You Are Not So Smart: Coffee

How Stuff Works: Caffeine

Chris Kresser: Is drinking coffee good for you?

SciShow: Caffeine!

WebMD: Caffeine Myths and Facts

Authority Nutrition: Top 13 Evidence-Based Benefits of Caffeine

MayoClinic: Coffee

Health Ambition: Negative Effects of Coffee

Mayo Clinic: Caffeine Content for Various Sources