Momma told you to eat your greens, and she was right! Dark leafy greens are among the LEAST consumed food in America today (in fact, if you look below, we aren't consuming anywhere near what we should be in general). However, they are amongst the HEALTHIEST foods to consume! Below is our veggie consumption from the USDA 2015 standards. Apparently we aren't listening to our mommas (or more likely, they've stopped telling us, since they don't eat them either?!) But why focus on greens in particular?
As Americans, we often think of nutrients in isolation-calcium, iron, Vitamins A, C, E, K, protein, etc. However, when eating whole foods, you are getting nutrients that interact and reinforce each other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The dark green colors you see in veggies like broccoli, kale, bok choy, spinach, swiss chard, and others, contain protective nutrients that decrease inflammation in the body. Dark leafy greens are the best sources of calcium, better than dairy (oh yes, it's true!).
Greens are also protein powerhouses, and full of iron. However, underneath that green lies other colors you can't see. Leaves of maples, oaks, and ashes turn color as the temperatures drop. This is because the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down with the temperature change, exposing the caretenoids (orange pigments) and xanthopyhlls (yellow pigments) below. The same pigments exist in all dark leafy vegetables. These pigments contain vitamins A, C, and E and are powerful antioxidants for the body. Dark leafy greens have been shown to help the endothelial lining of your blood vessels, cutting inflammation, and helping blood cells to glide through your arteries. One caveat-those on blood thinners do need to be careful. Dark leafy greens are high in Vitamin K. Vitamin K acts as a natural coagulant, and can work against blood thinning medications like Warfarin and Coumadin. You CAN still eat dark leafy greens, but you do have to let your doctor know you want to. By maintaining a steady intake, your medication can work effectively (hopefully, the more you eat plant-based foods, the less you'll need to take of that blood thinning medication).
What's MORE awesome about these veggies? They are some of the least expensive & easiest plants to grow! For the cost of $1.89, you can get a package of seeds that will last you 1-2 growing seasons. Greens like kale, collards, and swiss chard, are the more hardy greens, being able to grow from early spring all the way through the beginning of winter (and a row cover and you can virtually grow them year round-even in Buffalo, NY!). They grow well in containers and in the ground!
How much should you eat? As many servings a day as you can. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn from the Cleveland Clinic suggests 6 handfuls of cooked greens a day (that's because greens shrink when cooked). That's a lot! Add them into all of your recipes. If making soup, stir them in at the end. A salad, shred them up to change the texture, or massage them with some fresh citrus or balsamic vinegar. Sauté some up and top on a sweet potato.
Some great recipes that use greens?
2) Kale Salad with fresh mangoes and peppers (image above)
For tips on how to grow your own veggies, check out my gardening tips page! More how to videos coming this season!
Happy eating, and get your green on!
Jessica from www.gardenfreshfoodie.com