Dark green leafy vegetables, calorie for calorie, are considered the most nutrient- dense foods available. Specifically, they are an excellent source of several minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium as well as vitamins K (providing nine times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 1 cup serving) C, E, and many of the B vitamins. Vitamin K plays an important role in preventing osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and arthrosclerosis. Vitamin E has been shown to prevent skin cancer. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and magnesium regulates blood sugar. Greens also contain folate, which plays an important role in the repair of damaged cells. Folate is known to reduce the risk of colon, lung, cervix, and breast cancer.
In addition, leafy greens provide a number of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin and also contain small amounts of fatty acids. All of these antioxidants help protect our bodies from free radical damage and
boost our immunity.
Leafy greens contain very few carbohydrates, much of which is offset by its high fiber content (so much so that the leafy greens are generally considered a “freebie” vegetable in most low-carbohydrate diets).
Let’s Talk Taste
Leafy greens run the whole gamut of flavors, from sweet to bitter, from peppery to earthy. Young plants generally have small, tender leaves and a mild flavor. Many mature plants have tougher leaves and stronger flavors.
-Collards, Swiss chard, bok choy, and spinach provide a mild flavor.
-Kale, turnip greens, and broccoli rabe are more pungent.
-Arugula, mizuna and mustard greens provide a peppery flavor.
One should always choose crisp leaves with a fresh vibrant green color. Yellowing is a sign of age and indicates that the greens may have an off flavor.
**One tip to remember, however you are eating greens, is to always add a little fat (either in the form of coconut, olive, or flaxseed oil, or the addition of some nuts or seeds) as it helps promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamin K.
How and When to Use
Mix and match in salads – when using tougher greens like kale or collards, make sure to slice the greens in shreds, cut out the tough stem, and massage with some olive oil, lemon juice and salt to break down the fibers. This makes them much easier to chew and digest.
Blend them up in smoothies or soups – smoothies don’t always have to be sweet! Blend greens with some savory spices, garlic, lemon juice, and a touch of salt. Add in spices like curry, ginger and turmeric, to make a warming soup, or basil, oregano and thyme for an Italian kick! The addition of avocado adds your fat and also a great creamy texture.
For juices, put a variety of greens through your juicer along with your favorite fruits and you’ve got a delicious blend of flavors and nutrients all in a glass! It is much healthier to make your own “green juices” rather than buy store bought which are often full of added sugar and not so budget friendly.
by Krissa Schwartz & Heather Haxo Phillips