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.  

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