Dark leafy greens: Why you must eat them and how to reduce those sugar cravings!

Dr. Tanya Hudson
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Tired of the same old vegetables?

Need to jazz up those weekly meals with more than just broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and cucumber?

Dark leafy greens in a bowl of healthy food

Vegetables are so important for optimizing our physical and mental health. We know that cultures who eat a mostly plant-based diet have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other major diseases.

I am frequently asked by patients which “diet” I recommend, but to be honest, this really depends on the individual, their medical history, and genetics. But I almost always recommend a mostly Mediterranean diet, with lots of good fats (including nuts and seeds, olive oil, fish, and avocados), vegetables, fruits, lean meats, eggs, and dairy (in moderation and assuming no allergy).

I suggest consuming a plant-based diet at least 3-4 days a week, focusing on legumes, organic soy, lentils, nutritional yeast, and whole grains, such as quinoa for adequate protein. Looking for some good vegan cookbooks? I love Dreena Burton’s book, “Plant-Powered Families,” Del Sroufe’s book, “Forks over Knives,” and “Power Plates” by Gena Hamshaw.

This article will focus on dark, leafy greens, which are considered “superfoods.” There are so many more “greens” than spinach and romaine!
Here are some reasons why kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach are vital to our health:
Loaded with nutrients including vitamins A, K, C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium.

  • Help reduce blood pressure and slow the rate of cognitive decline.
  • Help to decrease stress and strengthen bones.
  • Help to balance blood sugars and support the immune system.
  • Loaded with antioxidants like quercetin, beta-carotene and vitamin C. Antioxidants are substances that help counteract damage by free radicals in the body.
  • Loaded with nutrients like lutein which protects the eyes.

Help you feel full due to high fiber content and therefore can reduce cravings and subsequent weight gain.
High fiber content can help control cholesterol levels and keep you regular. 😊
Have anti-cancer properties due to phytonutrients called Di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane.
Rich in folate (needed to make DNA and other genetic material) and vitamin C.
Need I say more?

So how can you integrate more dark leafy greens in your day to day?

I love adding greens to protein smoothies. They are easy to hide (hint: great for kids) if you add berries and a banana for sweetness (or even a date or two).
See my “Resources” page on my website to find some of my favorite recipes using lots of dark leafies!

My favorite way to eat Swiss chard is by sautéing it with garlic and onions in olive oil and then adding tamari (gluten free soy sauce) or coconut aminos. SO easy!
When it comes to cooking with spinach, I just add it to any dish I can. This might be smoothies, eggs, pasta, burritos, soups, chicken dishes, and even worked into hamburger patties. Such an easy dark leafy to sneak in!

Hopefully, these cooking ideas will help you integrate more “greens” in your day to day.

Please note that the above greens should be kept to a minimum if you have hypothyroidism (or a low functioning thyroid gland) as these greens can decrease the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine, a key nutrient the thyroid gland needs to make T3 and T4. You would have to consume multiple servings of greens a day to negatively impact the thyroid gland, but still good to be aware of. Dark leafies also contain a high level of oxalates, which can be problematic for people who are prone to kidney stones. Please reach out to your doctor if you have specific questions about your health and consuming dark leafy greens.

Lastly, I want to discuss ways we can fend off those darn sugar cravings!

Here are some tips to reduce sugar cravings:

Consider stopping all added sugars for 30 days. Yes, 30 days. Sugar is as addictive as heroine. To stop the cravings, we need to get it out of our system. I’ve had many patients go through a Whole 30 program and report no longer having sugar cravings!

Get busy with something else when the craving kicks in! Most cravings pass within 5 min, so go for a short walk, make a cup of tea, do some jumping jacks, call a friend, read a book, etc, to get your mind off the craving.

Grab a date (the food 😊)! Dates are full of fiber and much healthier than a cookie. Dates also have a low glycemic impact, so they don’t spike your blood sugars like that chocolate egg.

Don’t buy the sweets! Keep them out of your house so you aren’t tempted.

Stay hydrated! Dehydration can lead to sugar cravings! Drink at least 1/3 of your body weight in ounces a day.

Have some fruit! I love cutie oranges for sugar cravings.

Grab some protein, like nuts or jerky! Protein helps to stabilize blood sugars and reduces cravings.
Sleep well and focus on exercise to decrease stress. More stress=more sugar cravings.

And if you really can’t get rid of that sugar craving, have some 70% or higher dark chocolate on hand. One square often does the trick. 😊

Stay well and continue to focus on self-care! Love and light to you all