Why eat your greens every day

11 Apr 2024

From brain health to heart health, dark leafy greens such as salad greens, kale and spinach, are an essential food to get in your daily meals. Here’s why and our favourite ways to load up on greens!

Eat a daily portion of greens to…

1. Lower your risk of premature death, heart disease and stroke

The evidence keeps piling up that leafy greens can improve many health outcomes. A 2021 umbrella review found that 100 grams of leafy greens per day was associatedwith a 25% lower risk of all-cause mortality, heart disease and stroke.

2. Keep your brain sharp

Eating leafy greens every day could help preserve memory and thinking skills. Research by Rush University Medical Center found that people who ate at least 1 serving of leafy green vegetables per day had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who rarely or never ate them – the equivalent of being 11 years younger. A higher intake of green leafy vegetables was also associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.

3. Improve your muscle function

People who eat green leafy vegetables daily (∼1 cup) have better muscle function, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Even if you’re not lifting weights or hitting the gym, muscle function is vital for maintaining good overall health, especially bone strength later in life. 

How does it work? Daily leafy greens give you a dose of:

  • Nitrate - it helps blood vessels relax, improving blood flow and possibly lowering blood pressure over time.
  • Lutein - a type of carotenoid with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which suggests an important role in protecting the brain and combatting chronic diseases.
  • Folate - a natural form of vitamin B9. It’s critical for producing red blood cells and may influence cancer risk.
  • Dietary fibres – essential for effective digestion and to ‘feed’ our gut microbes. Collard greens are one of the highest.
  • Minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin K and potassium 

How to load up on leafy greens

How much? At least one portion every day, roughly 80g, which is about 4 heaped tablespoons of cooked kale or 2 heaped tablespoons of cooked spinach.

Which greens are best?

  • Mix it up: Leafy greens come from edible leaves of all kinds of plants, spanning various botanical families. You’ve got Brassica greens like kale and collard greens, Amaranth greens led by spinach and leaves from the Daisy family like different types of lettuce – each with unique nutrient and flavour profiles. Variety is key!
  • The darker the better. A darker green usually indicates a higher amount of phytochemicals with antioxidant properties.

Coming in season: Keep an eye out for lots of greens fresh from the field, like spinach, Spring Greens, Kale, Lettuces like Lamb’s lettuce and little gem lettuce, Pak choi and wild garlic. Find a farm shop near you.

If you’re not a fan of leafy greens, there are still plenty of ways to add them to your meals:

  1. Blend them into smoothies with berries, frozen bananas, peanut butter and seeds. You’ll still get all the nutritional benefits without the green flavour.
  2. Hide them in sauces, soups and stews. Most leafy greens make fantastic pesto bases. You can also finely chop them and throw them in your favourite soups and stews during the last few minutes of cooking.
  3. Add them to eggs like omelettes and frittatas.
  4. Start with milder options, like baby spinach or little gem lettuce.
  5. Add a flavourful dressing! If you’re having them raw in a salad, add a strong-tasting dressing and lots of fun toppings like nuts, seeds, cheese, grains, olives and grilled vegetables.

Leafy recipes

Dive Deeper

Multiple health outcomes: Morris et al. Neurology. 2018

Cognitive function: Li et al. Food chemistry. 2021

Muscle function: Sim et al. The Journal of nutrition. 2021




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