Benefits Of Collard greens

Collard greens:

Description


All cruciferous vegetables provide integrated nourishment across a wide variety of nutritional categories and provide broad support across a wide variety of body systems as well. For more on cruciferous vegetables see:
  • Eating Healthy with Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Feeling Great with Cruciferous Vegetables
Collards are leafy green vegetables that belong to the same family that includes cabbage, kale, and broccoli. While they share the same botanical name as kale, Brassica oleracea, and some resemblance, they have their own distinctive qualities. Like kale, collards are one of the non-head forming members of the Brassica family. Collards' unique appearance features dark blue green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively broad. They lack the frilled edges that are so distinctive to their cousin kale.

Long a staple of the Southern United States, collard greens, unlike their cousins kale and mustard greens, have a very mild, almost smoky flavor. Although they are available year-round they are at their best from January through April.

Nutritional Benefits

Widely considered to be a healthy food, collards are good sources of vitamin C and soluble fiber, and contain multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and sulforaphane. Roughly a quarter pound (approx. 100 g) of cooked collards contains 46 Calories.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have recently discovered that 3,3'-diindolylmethane in Brassica vegetables such as collard greens is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with potent antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer activity.

Health Benefits


Unlike broccoli and kale and cabbage, you won't find many research studies devoted to the specific health benefits of collard greens. However, collard greens are sometimes included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that are lumped together and examined for the health benefits they provide. Based on a very small number of studies looking specifically at collard greens, and a larger number of studies looking at cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including collard greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for collard greens with respect to their health benefits.

This connection between collard greens and cancer prevention should not be surprising since collard greens provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are
  • The body's detox system
  • Its antioxidant system
  • Its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system
Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of collard greens: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Detox Support Provided by Collard Greens
The detox support provided by collard greens includes antioxidant nutrients to boost Phase 1 detoxification activities and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 activities. Collard greens also contain phytonutrients called glucosinolates that can help activate detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity. Four key glucosinolates that have been clearly identified in collard greens in significant amounts are glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucotropaeolin.

If we fail to give our body's detox system adequate nutritional support, yet continue to expose ourselves to unwanted toxins through our lifestyle and our dietary choices, we can place our bodies at increased risk of toxin-related damage that can eventually increase our cells' risk of becoming cancerous. That's one of the reasons it's so important to bring collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables into our diet on a regular basis.

The Antioxidant Benefits of Collard Greens
As an excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, and a good source of vitamin E, collard greens provide us with 4 core conventional antioxidants. But the antioxidant support provided by collard greens extends far beyond the conventional nutrients into the realm of phytonutrients. Caffeic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol are among the key antioxidant phytonutrients provided by collard greens. This broad spectrum antioxidant support helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells. Chronic oxidative stress meaning chronic presence over overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules and cumulative damage to our cells by these molecules is a risk factor for development of most cancer types. By providing us with such a great array of antioxidant nutrients, collard greens help lower our cancer risk by helping us avoid chronic and unwanted oxidative stress.

Collard Greens' Anti-inflammatory Benefits
As an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), collard greens provide us with two hallmark anti-inflammatory nutrients. Vitamin K acts as a direct regulator of our inflammatory response, and ALA is the building block for several of the body's most widely-used families of anti-inflammatory messaging molecules. In addition to these two anti-inflammatory components, one of the glucosinolates found in collard greens glucobrassicin can be readily converted into an isothiocyanate molecule called I3C, or indole-3-carbinol (I3C). I3C is an anti-inflammatory compound that can actually operate at the genetic level, and by doing so, prevent the initiation of inflammatory responses at a very early stage.

Like chronic oxidative stress and chronic weakened detox ability, chronic unwanted inflammation can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases (especially cardiovascular diseases).

Collard Greens and Cardiovascular Support
Researchers have looked at a variety of cardiovascular problems including heart attack, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis and found preliminary evidence of an ability on the part of cruciferous vegetables to lower our risk of these health problems. Yet regardless of the specific cardiovascular problem, it is one particular type of cardiovascular benefit that has most interested researchers, and that benefit is the anti-inflammatory nature of collard greens and their fellow cruciferous vegetables. Scientists have not always viewed cardiovascular problems as having a central inflammatory component, but the role of unwanted inflammation in creating problems for our blood vessels and circulation has become increasingly fundamental to an understanding of cardiovascular diseases. Of particular interest here has been the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane, which is made from glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate) found in collard greens. Not only does this ITC trigger anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system, it may also be able to help prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage.

A second area you can count on collard greens for cardiovascular support involves their cholesterol-lowering ability. Our liver uses cholesterol as a basic building block to product bile acids. Bile acids are specialized molecules that aid in the digestion and absorption of fat through a process called emulsification. These molecules are typically stored in fluid in our gall bladder, and when we eat a fat-containing meal, they get released into the intestine where they help ready the fat for interaction with enzymes and eventual absorption up into the body.

When we eat collard greens, fiber-related nutrients in this cruciferous vegetable bind together with some of the bile acids in the intestine in such a way that they simply stay inside the intestine and pass out of our body in a bowel movement, rather than getting absorbed along with the fat they have emulsified. When this happens, our liver needs to replace the lost bile acids by drawing upon our existing supply of cholesterol, and as a result, our cholesterol level drops down. Collard greens provide us with this cholesterol-lowering benefit whether they are raw or cooked. However, a recent study has shown that the cholesterol-lowering ability of raw collard greens improves significantly when they are steamed. In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed collard greens was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), collard greens bound 46% as many bile acids (based on a standard of comparison involving total dietary fiber).

In addition to the support factors described above, it is impossible to talk about the cardiovascular benefits of collard greens without mentioning their exceptional folate content. Although this cruciferous vegetable scores a rating of "excellent" in our food rating system, we would like to point out just how "excellent" excellent is when you're talking about collards. These greens provide more than 350 micrograms of folate in every hundred calories. That's 50% more than the amount provided by 100 calories' of broccoli, 100% more than the amount provided by 100 calories' of Brussels sprouts, 3 times the amount provided by 100 calories' of cabbage, and over 7 times the amount provided by 100 calories' of kale. Folate is a critical B-vitamin for support of cardiovascular health, including its key role in prevention of homocysteine build-up (called hyperhomocysteinemia).

Collard Greens and Digestive Support
The fiber content of collard greens over 5 grams in every cup makes this cruciferous vegetable a natural choice for digestive system support. You're going to get 85% of your Daily Value for fiber from only 200 calories' worth of collard greens! Yet the fiber content of collard greens is only one of their digestive support mechanisms. Researchers have determined that the sulforaphane made from a glucosinolate in collard greens (glucoraphanin) helps protect the health of our stomach lining by preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori in our stomach or too much clinging by this bacterium to our stomach wall.

Other Health Benefits From Collard Greens
The anti-inflammatory nature of glucosinolates/isothiocyanates and other nutrients found in collard greens has been the basis for new research on inflammation-related health problems and the potential role of collard greens in their prevention. Current and potentially promising research is underway to examine the benefits of collard greens in relationship to our risk of the following inflammation-related conditions: Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.

Consumption Tips

Both stalks and leaves are edible. Tough stalks and thick leaves are trimmed using paring knife. The leaves should be chopped in to smaller sections to aid quick cooking.
Extensive cooking may result in loss of some amount of vitamins like folates and vitamin-C.
Here are some preparation tips:
  • Collard greens blend very nicely with either salads or with cooked meat or fish dishes.
  • The fresh leaves can be also used as fresh juice along with fruit juice.

Caution

Individuals with pre-existing or untreated kidney and gall bladder problems should avoid the consumption of collard greens, as they contains measurable amount of oxalates. These oxalates, when too concentrated in body fluids, can crystallize and cause health problems. Studies have also shown that oxalates may interfere with the absorption of calcium by the body.
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