This is a guest post by Iris Thieme
Leafy greens were listed in the top 10 healthiest foods in a study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, which ranked 41 fruits and vegetables by their nutrient density. They are high in vitamin K, which helps blood to clot; and folate, which is a type of B vitamin that is important for cell division and key to the body’s ability to heal itself. Research has shown leafy greens to be beneficial in preventing memory loss and slows decline in cognitive function. Leafy greens have been linked to a lowered risk of death from heart disease. They are also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidants that support healthy vision. Leafy greens such as arugula, bok choy, cabbage, and kale are part of the cruciferous family, and are considered some of the best sources of glucosinolates, which are key to protection against cancer.
Many people, even adults, seem to be afraid of dark leafy greens due to their stronger flavor. The key is to gradually add more servings and more variety to your diet, with a goal of up to 6 servings per day! It is possible! There are many to choose from including: kale, spinach, swiss chard, romaine, arugula, beet greens, beets (yes, beets!) bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, parsley and asparagus.
Leafy greens can be eaten raw or cooked, but keep in mind that boiling cruciferous vegetables can cause some glucosinolates (cancer-fighting compounds) to leach into the water, so a quick steam or stir-fry is better.
To steam, chop washed, stemmed greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens) and steam for about 3 minutes, let cool and refrigerate for 3-5 days or freeze. These can be added to any dish (soups, pasta, stir fry, mashed potatoes, etc.). You can also add any raw or frozen greens to your dish toward the end of cooking. Once leafy greens are cooked, they shrink exponentially, so you can add more and more to your dishes over time as your palate adjusts. Freezing raw or steamed greens causes them to become brittle and they tend to break into smaller pieces, which makes it easy to “hide” in the dish.
Make a Green Smoothie
Spinach is one of the easiest dark greens to add to almost any dish, including fruit smoothies since it is quite sweet, and you hardly know it’s there! Again, start with a small handful of spinach, then add more each time. Kale is also great in smoothies, particularly baby kale or the darker lacinato kale.
Eat a large salad.
Start with spinach and romaine but try adding the other “lettuce” greens over time. Arugula makes a great accent to a salad or “bowl”.
Serve as a savory side.
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and beets make great sides, especially with some balsamic vinegar or lemon or other spices. Make it fun!
Embellish wraps, burgers, or sandwiches with a leafy green such as arugula, kale, or spinach. Or use collard greens as the wrap.
Garnish any dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
Snack on “cheesy” kale chips:
- 7 cups kale (dense, curly, fresh)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic salt
Rip kale into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl, along with the rest of the ingredients. Toss with your hands until covered, the spread out onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake @ 300F for 25 to 30 minutes until crispy. Store in airtight container.
There you have it–some easy ways to work more greens into your diet!