What Makes Green Vegetables Green & Why are they Great for Blood & Bone Health?

Ever hear the saying that you should eat a rainbow of vegetables?  That’s because each different color of vegetables contains a different set of vitamins and minerals.  

Let’s take a look at green vegetables…. 

First off….where do they get their green color

You may remember the word chlorophyll from elementary science class when learning about photosynthesis, the process in which plants absorb energy from the sun. 

Leafy green vegetables like lettuce, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli get their spectacular green color from chlorophyll.  The pigment, chlorophyll, is present in all green vegetables. The crazy thing…. when put in acid, the pigment converts from chlorophyll to pheophytin.  When this happens, the green color changes to olive green.  Ever notice how canned green beans have more of an olive-green color than fresh green beans?  This is because the canned green beans turn color because the acids are released but unable to escape. 

On the other end of the spectrum, try cooking a green vegetable like broccoli in water and add a little baking soda.  The water turns more alkaline, the opposite of acidic.  Your broccoli will then have a bright green color.  

What about vitamins?

Leafy green vegetables are a terrific source of many vitamins, but let’s focus on vitamin K.  One of the few vitamins the body can make on its own in the large intestine, vitamin K is imperative to help with blood clotting and bones.  Even though your body can make some vitamin K, you still need to consume vitamin K in the diet for optimal health.  

When babies are born, their stores of vitamin K are inadequate until the bacteria in the gut can produce vitamin K on its own, and the baby can obtain the vitamin from feedings.  It’s so crucial that the United States, shortly after birth in the hospital, newborns typically receive a vitamin K injection.  This is to prevent hemorrhagic disease, a bleeding problem that can occur in a baby during the first few days of life.

Whenever you get a cut, notice how at first it bleeds a lot, and then it slows down.  Part of clotting process is thanks to the help of vitamin K. The blood clot slows and stops the bleeding, so you do not lose too much blood.  

Vitamin D and calcium are frequently touted about when it comes to bone health, but vitamin K is also an essential vitamin when it comes to bones.   Studies have found that vitamin K can not only increase bone mineral density in osteoporotic people but can help reduce fracture rates.    Not consuming enough vitamin K can increase the risk of osteoporosis and decrease bone strength.  

One thing to ALWAYS pay attention to when it comes to Vitamin K is that it does interact with certain medications.  If you’re taking an anticoagulant, such as Warfarin, you need to work with a dietitian or physician on ensuring that you’re consuming the same amount of vitamin K every day.  The physician will typically adjust your vitamin K dosage based on the foods you consume.  

Looking to get more vitamin K in your diet? Focus mostly on leafy greens, but other great sources include soybeans, carrot juice, pumpkin, bluberries, and olive oil.  

Too Much Iodine Killing Your Thyroid?

Dry skin, weight gain, depression, constipation, tiredness, and forgetfulness are symptoms that may have several underlying causes, but for many these symptoms are due to the body’s cells not receiving enough thyroid hormone because of a condition called hypothyroidism.

Many internet blogs and posts in the United States promote ways to heal they thyroid with iodine-rich foods such as seaweed, eggs, and seafood because of the correlation between iodine and the thyroid.  While these are all very healthy foods, iodine is most prevalent in something many of us consume too much-of….fortified table salt!

The question becomes, are Americans deficient enough in iodine to need to eat compensate by eating iodine-rich foods? Probably not and while Goiter, an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, is most commonly caused by iodine deficiency and was a prevalent condition in the U.S. up until the 1920’s, it is rarely seen today in developed parts of the world.

The bigger issue becomes the fact that studies have found high iodine intake is frequently associated with Autoimmune thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism.  A recent study conducted in a southern Italian village, compared 1411 people from 1995 to 1148 in 2010, following the introduction of the salt iodization program.  The prevalence of hypothyroidism was found to be higher in 2010 vs. 1995 at 5.0 % vs. 2.8%, respectively.  That’s almost double!

So, are there any foods that will “heal the thyroid”?  Science is conflicted and not much research has been conducted, but below two healthy options to consider that won’t have negative consequences on health.

  • Brazilian nuts – with the thyroid containing more of the mineral Selenium per gram of tissue than any other organ, Brazilian nuts contain over 100% of the daily recommended value.  According to the National Institute of Health, Selenium is vital for reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and DNA.
  • Vitamin D supplement – while a correlation between hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency has been found, scientists have not found a conclusion on whether hypothyroidism causes vitamin D deficiency or vitamin D deficiency causes hypothyroidism.  However, with so many people deficient in Vitamin D, taking a supplement is of minimal cost with low side effects.

Another idea is limiting intake of table salt and getting iodine from healthy sources which are seaweed, eggs, and seafood rather than relying on the fortified table salt.  It’s all about balance!

And are there any foods that are detrimental to the thyroid?  While this may sound comical, studies have found that consuming more than 2.2lbs per day for several months of Russian/Siberian kale of the species B. Napus, some collards, and Brussel sprouts was found to have a negative effect on the thyroid. And while these foods are super healthy, it’s almost laughable to think of someone consuming what would be the equivalent of over 11 cups of Brussel sprouts every day for months!  Talk about a cleanse!