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.  

Is Oatmeal Really the Healthiest Breakfast Option?

Walking through the grocery store, staring at food labels and trying to make healthy choices can be an overwhelming experience, especially when the packaging is screaming at with claims such as “all-natural”, “low-fat”, “gluten-free” and other persuasive terms.  Many claims on the front of food packages are approved by the FDA and follow strict guidelines. For example, a food item labeled, “low-sodium” constitutes the item must contain < 140 mg of sodium.  However, other claims such as “natural” or “pure” really are just marketing terms and have no legal definition.   Basically, any food manufacture could throw those on the package.

One common FDA approved claim is the health claim in which food manufacturers can label foods that have scientifically established benefits for disease prevention.

Oatmeal is plastered with health claims such as this:

With the high fiber content in oatmeal, it has highly been deemed a health food.  One cup of oatmeal typically contains about 170 calories, 30 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber.   With the daily recommendation for fiber of 25 grams, eating a cup of oatmeal gets you 16% there.

And while there is no arguing that oatmeal is good for you, is it better than 2 eggs a day?  You never see loads of heart-healthy health claims on eggs!

A recent study compared the effects of consuming two eggs per day for breakfast vs heart-healthy oatmeal to compare the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease risk and satiety measures.  In the study, 50 participants were randomly selected to consume either two eggs or one packet of oatmeal for breakfast for four weeks.  After the study, blood samples were collected.

The study found that participants consuming 2 eggs for breakfast:

·       Felt more satisfied prior to eating dinner

·       Had an increase of LDL and HDL cholesterol.  HDL is considered good cholesterol and LDL is bad cholesterol (aka artery blocking). However, looking at the LDL/HDL ratio, the good canceled out the bad.

·       Had lower plasma ghrelin concentrations.  Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant, meaning the more that is produced in the body, the hungrier one is.

While eggs are often not labeled with the “heart healthy” marketing claim that oatmeal often contains, it may be a healthier alternative for breakfast.

Looking to get the fiber benefits from oatmeal with your eggs?  That’s easy, just add vegetables such as:

·       Onions

·       Spinach

·       Broccoli

·       Peppers

·       Mushrooms

·       Tomatoes

And a sliced avocado on top is the icing on the eggs!