Want to Cut Your Risk for Diabetes? Go (Leafy) Green

Pile more spinach, kale, and other dark green veggies on your plate

Popeye would never have gotten diabetes. Why? Well, besides the fact that cartoon characters have a very low risk of chronic disease, it was all the spinach he ate. At least, that’s the conclusion we might draw from a new study published this week by the British Medical Journal that shows eating green, leafy vegetables can substantially lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. And you don’t even have to eat as many cans of the stuff as Popeye did.

Researchers at the University of Leicester in England reviewed six studies involving more than 220,000 people that focused on fruit and vegetable consumption and diabetes risk. They found that one-and-a-half extra servings of green, leafy veggies a day can reduce the risk of diabetes by 14 percent. Green, leafy vegetables include romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy and collard greens.

Eating more fruit and vegetables in general, on the other hand, does not appear to have any significant effect on diabetes risk -- though they are good for overall health, so don’t get any ideas about switching to an all-green diet. (According to the study, 2.6 millions lives could have been saved in 2000 alone if people ate the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables.)

The researchers speculate that leafy greens’ high magnesium content could be responsible for the lowered risk of diabetes. Among other roles, magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels and is involved in metabolizing food into energy. Previous research suggests that getting enough magnesium in your diet could lower the risk of diabetes by up to 34 percent. Taking mega-doses of the mineral, however, did not offer extra benefits. The current RDA for magnesium is 310-320 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men.

Include more magnesium-rich greens in your diet by making some simple switches. Choose romaine lettuce over iceberg; add chopped frozen spinach to your pasta sauce; or toss some kale into your morning smoothie (trust us, you won’t taste it).

Just remember: All things in moderation. In an attempt to control her diabetes, an 88-year-old woman gave new meaning to the term “food coma.” She ate two to three pounds of raw bok choy every day for many months. Though it may have lowered her blood sugar, it also landed her in a coma. Luckily, she has since recovered. Our suggestion: Aim for two or three servings of greens a day.

How many servings of leafy greens do you get each day? Chime in below.

Like This? Try These Recipes:
-Spinach Salad with Feta, New Potatoes, and Artichokes
- Tuscan Kale and White Bean Ragout
- Spinach Fettuccine

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