Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Well Being: July 2019

Don’t forget to hit the greens this summer

June 18, 2019
By Elias Markou

If you have been hiding under a rock the last six months, you may have missed the newest craze to hit the health world, celery juice. Yes, you heard correctly. Cold, pressed celery juice, 16 ounces on an empty stomach, has been deemed to be the cure-all for many complex diseases.

The celery-juice craze is hitting mainstream and the online world with a vengeance. Made famous about a year ago by Anthony Williams, best known as the Medical Medium, only now has it gained enough momentum to be classified as 2019’s “New Health Trend.”

This prompted me to take a step back and look at other potentially trendy, green vegetables and leafy greens that may someday become all the craze. Leafy greens should be a staple in every firefighter’s diet. They are high in minerals, fibre, water, phytonutrients, and they taste very good. Leafy green vegetables are chock-full with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties every firefighter should consume.

A February 2018 study in the Journal of Neurology indicated that a group of people who ate an average of 1.3 servings of leafy green vegetables per day had a lower rate of mental decline than those who didn’t eat any leafy green vegetables. A more recent study in the British Medical Journal suggested increasing your serving of leafy greens to 1.5 servings daily would lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 14 per cent.


Following are my top seven green leafy vegetables that should be a staple in the fire hall:

Spinach is well-known as the leafy green used to increase iron, but many don’t know that, among the leafy green vegetables, spinach has the most folate of all vegetables. This dark, leafy green has important properties that help skin, hair and bones to be healthy.

Arugula is a brassica family vegetable along with broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Arugula is known for its peppery flavour and is called the “elixir that gives flavour to life.” It is a great source for calcium and vitamin K, two well-known bone-building vitamins. Research has shown that higher intake of cruciferous vegetables like arugula can reduce the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers. Arugula and its family of vegetables can also reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Romaine Lettuce
This leafy green lettuce is by far the most popular green in any salad. I am sure many firefighters have enjoyed romaine lettuce in a classic Caesar salad over the years. This unassuming lettuce is a very good source of fibre, magnesium, copper, iron, biotin, vitamin C and vitamin B1. Romaine lettuce is also packed with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is known to be connected to lowering the risk of bladder cancer in women and men.

Collard greens belong to the vegetable family which includes spring greens and kale. Collards are packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, beta carotene, water, dietary fibre and protein. Many studies have shown high-fibre diets can help to ward off renal and breast cancer. You can often find collards in a vegan restaurant used as a wrap, a great replacement for a grain-based wrap.

The last five years have been good to kale. Kale has received a great resurgence in the culinary world. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Kale has lutein. It is also considered a great antioxidant that can help cancer patients with breast, liver and colon cancer. Kale is famous for sneaking itself into many morning juices and smoothies. Firefighters should make kale a staple in every fire hall.

Well-known around Mediterranean countries and their cooking, parsley is a phenomenal source of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. All these vitamins help with boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of many cancesr. In many countries, parsley is well-known as a leafy green vegetable that helps with kidney conditions.

Swiss Chard
This highly-nutritious, leafy vegetable can provide a high level of vitamin K to the body. Swiss chard can be eaten and enjoyed either cooked or raw. The word “chard” comes from the Latin word “carduus,” meaning artichoke thistle. Swiss chard is a leafy vegetable that has a spring harvest. The reddish and yellow stems have been known to lower risks for people with heart disease. Swiss chard is often used as an alternative to a burger bun, or can be added to an omelette.

A healthy balance of the leafy green vegetables mentioned here should be part of a firefighter’s balanced diet.

All firefighters, men and women, can benefit greatly from this group of natural immune boosters.

Dr. Elias Markou is in private practice in Mississauga, Ont., and is the chief medical officer for the Halton Hills Fire Department. Dr. Markou was a firefighter for six years. He is a firefighter health expert and blogger. Contact him at

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