Essential Nutrients of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
All vitamins and minerals required for living have originated from vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of micronutrients like vitamin A, B, C and K as well as rich in minerals like calcium and iron. In fact they should be considered as concentrated pills or tonics of these nutrients.
|Amount per |
|Curry leaves||Fenu |
|Vitamin C (mg)||40||Amla |
Source: Mahtani, R, “The Ultimate Indian Diet Book”, Nutritive Value of Indian Foods, NIN, Hyderabad.
From the table it is surprisingly evident that greens are a very rich source of most vitamins and minerals and are comparable to “complete foods” like milk and eggs. GLV’s are rather richer in essential nutrients like vitamin C and iron which milk lacks. Plus they have an added benefit of high chlorophyll, fiber and water content.
About 100g of dark green leafy vegetables along with two servings of fresh seasonal fruits everyday can be sufficient to meet the daily need of antioxidants, bone health and blood health nutrients like vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Minerals are present in abundance in all GLVs. This helps maintain alkalinity in the body and assists in nutrient absorption.
It is commonly believed that animal proteins are superior to vegetable proteins. But there is enough scientific evidence that vegetable proteins are also of ‘good’ quality. Leafy vegetables when eaten with cereals, improve the protein quality of the latter by providing the amino acids that cereals lack in. For example, cereals are poor in amino acid called lysine, but leafy vegetables have it. However, because of high moisture content of vegetables the protein gets diluted.
Given below are some tips for cooking greens-
- When cooking, greens should be added last to the cooking pan, that is, after the other vegetables are tender. After stirring them for a few seconds, flame should be turned off. This not only preserves the vitamins but also enhances the green color and taste.
- The traditional stir fry method preserves nutrients to the maximum. The cooking temperature is high but the cooking time is very brief.
- Salt should be added at the end. This way less salt is added and vitamins are better preserved. Soda should not be added while cooking to enhance the green color as it actually leaches out or destroys necessary vitamins.
- When planning to cook greens, water from washing them should be drained properly and there is no need to add water for cooking greens. Many times the cooking time is extended in order to evaporate the extra water used. The gas flame is kept high and the pan is left uncovered till the water evaporates. This practice destroys all the vitamins. Steaming is a better alternative. The steam kills the enzymes on the exposed surface of the food, but the moisture seals and preserves many of the enzymes deep inside where intense surface temperature does not reach. Steaming also permits cooking without adding extra oil.
- Mahtani, R, “The Ultimate Indian Diet Book”