Healthy Eating Tips

You Only Need One Cup of Greens Each Day To Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease—Here Are 4 Ways To Check That Box

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/Mateusz Mozol EyeEm
Even in adulthood, past the point where you think broccoli is poison, getting a hefty helping of your vegetables is tough. But let's shoot for a manageable goal: According to a recent study out of Edith Cowan University, eating a cup of nitrate-rich vegetables—which includes leafy greens—daily can significantly lower your risk of heart disease.

The study analyzed 50,000 people residing in Denmark over the course of a 23-year period. They found that those who consumed the most nitrate-rich vegetables had about a 2.5 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure, and between 12 to 26 percent had lower risk of heart disease. It showed that only a cup of veggies raw (or half a cup cooked) worked it's heart-happy magic.

A cup a day of healthy leafy greens? Now that's seriously manageable. You can thank the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in leafy greens for bolstering your heart health, says Amy Gorin, RDN. Among her favorite recommendations are spinach, kale, arugula and collard greens—all coming with specific benefits.

"For instance, kale provides 19 milligrams, or 32 percent of the daily value, of immunity-helping vitamin C per cup, as well as fiber and other nutrients," says Gorin. "And spinach offers iron, important for transporting oxygen throughout your body. Note that you’ll absorb more of that iron if you pair it with a squeeze of lemon or orange juice."

The best to incorporate healthy leafy greens into your meals, according to a dietitian

1. Sauté leafy as a side dish

"I love to sautéed leafy greens in low-sodium vegetable broth," says Gorin. "It’s easier to eat more volume when leafy greens are cooked, and this is a great way to add taste to the greens."

2. Make leafy greens the base of your salad

As Gorin points out, this is probably the easiest way to eat your greens. She loves using them to make Mediterranean salad rich with olive oil, seafood, spices and legumes. She also favors a lupini bean salad that utilizes crushed pistachio.

Here's an easy kale salad recipe:

3. Put leafy greens on a healthy pizza

Undoubtedly this wins the award for The Most Likely Way You'll Get Me to Eat My Vegetables. Sprinkling some crispy greens on top of a carb-and-cheese wheel is a perfect magic trick. "Fresh arugula on top of pizza is so delicious," says Gorin. "The arugula has a peppery bite to it, and this is a great way to eat your greens."

This avocado pizza has a cauliflower crust:

4. Make leafy greens a part of your protein bowl

Gorin loves to use leafy greens as a base for a vegan protein bowl, but if you want to mask the taste a little bit, mix it up! The study's lead researcher, Catherine Bondonno, MD, says that blending your greens will still reap you the benefits, so long as you don't juice it. That means a protein smoothie bowl can help your greens intake.

Start your day off right with this green goddess breakfast bowl:

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