Eat your greens

Summer garden kale is the best source of lutein, the phytochemical that helps prevent macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.

Eat your greens is for those who have no desire to go needlessly blind when they get older.

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This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 17th August, 2019.

By Bernard Preston

Eat your greens

Eat your greens because, from your food, lutein is far more effective and cheaper than from a pill.

I started off calling this enjoy your greens but decided to rephrase that; we ignore them at our peril, so we eat them whether we like them or not.

So, what is it about our greens that makes eating them so imperative?

Firstly, those of you who read the Witness avidly will have recently seen the grave consequences of colorectal cancer. Your greens contain the very necessary fibre that keeps the stool soft and easy to pass; visits to the loo become easy, daily, two minute affairs.

Then, your greens are loaded with the vitamins, minerals and phytochemical that keep us in optimal health. Because the spread of these vital substances varies substantially from one variety to another it is important to enjoy as wide a spread as possible. The darker the colour the better, so iceberg lettuce rates very low, for example.

Known collectively as dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV), beet tops for example are loaded with calcium and magnesium; both these minerals are essential for bone strength and the prevention of arthritis. 

Consider then the vitamin, folate, sometimes called folic acid, which every single woman of child bearing age must have daily. Before she even knows she is pregnant, the neural tube is forming; should she be low in this B9, the foetus will develop a very serious spinal defect called spina bifida.

Folate intake is also directly related to the performance of our children in school and is absolutely essential in many different chemical processes in the body.

Lastly your greens are amongst the best sources of carotenoids in the body. The decision to write this page was sparked by a visit to the optician.

Said he, you obviously eat a lot of greens.

I was astounded; how could he possibly have known? Said he, you have absolutely no sign of cataracts or macular degeneration, which is unusual at your age. You are obviously getting more than enough lutein and zeaxanthin from your food.

These two phytochemicals are found in very high concentration in the cones of the eye; a deficiency is one of the major causes of eye diseases related to aging.

I could write pages on why dark leafy green vegetables are called “functional foods” - they promote health and prevent disease, and there is masses of scientific evidence confirming it. We, and our children, need to eat them daily, whether we enjoy them or not.

I have gone to town on my lunch yesterday, but it is really not that atypical. You’ll spy several different types of lettuce, sprigs of parsley and fresh coriander, leaves of kale, baby spinach, red sorrel, beet tops, fresh green peas, homemade hummus, and bread made with 100% wholewheat flour, butter and cherry guava jelly. Drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, it makes a delicious lunch.

Eat your greens daily, preferably some raw with a little fat to increase the absorption of the carotenoids, and some lightly steamed. More about lutein macular degeneration.

An autumn lunch consists mainly of greens.

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Hilton, KZN

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