GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES are an essential food most frequently missing in modern diets. Learning to cook and eat greens is a significant way to create and maintain good health. When you nourish yourself with greens they naturally crowd out foods that are less nutritious. Greens help boost your immune system, strengthen your blood and your respiratory system.
Numerous Health Benefits
You’ve heard about certain berries or extracts from far away places being lauded as “superfoods”? They may well be, but close to home, you’ll find dark green leafy vegetables – among the most concentrated source of nutrition.
Greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E, K and some of the vitamin B complex. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients such as zeaxanthin, lutein and sulforaphane, which are increasingly receiving research attention for their disease-prevention properties. Certain greens (purslane in particular) even contain Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Eating dark green leafy vegetables will help:
- purify your blood
- prevent cancer and other diseases
- improve circulation
- strengthen immune system
- promote healthy intestinal flora
- improve liver, gall bladder and kidney function
- clear congestion, especially in lungs by reducing mucus
- support strong bones
- may help prevent atherosclerosis by reducing calcium in arterial plaques
- support healthy regulation of inflammation, offering protection against inflammatory diseases such as arthitis
- alkalize the body, aiding in disease prevention
- slow your digestion, thereby supporting an even blood glucose level, which is beneficial for optimal weight, energy and diabetes prevention.
With so many greens to choose from, I encourage you to start with the greens you know and like best and eat them often. Then, be adventurous and expand your green horizons – you’ll be amazed how many you’ve never had before.
Broccoli is popular among adults and children, and can be a good place to start. Add the florets to macaroni and cheese for a more colorful and healthier “mac’n’trees.” Experiment with bok choy, nappa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, nettles, broccoli rabe, dandelion and other leafy greens, by substituting them for more common greens such as broccoli and spinach in familiar recipes. Green cabbage is a nicely versatile vegetable, which can be enjoyed cooked, raw or fermented as sauerkraut or kim-chi (which adds probiotics to the list of nutrients). In addition to lettuce, greens typically eaten raw include arugula, endive, spinach, chicory, watercress, mesclun and wild greens. Another source of green leafy goodness is culinary herbs, so use parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon and others liberally.
Try a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, baking, roasting, sautéing in oil and water sautéing. Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. I recommend boiling for under a minute so that the nutrients in the greens do not get lost in the water. You can also drink the cooking water as a broth or tea to capture those nutrients. Steaming makes greens more fibrous and tight, which is great if you are trying to lose weight. Raw salads are also a wonderful food. They are crisp and refreshing, and offer live enzymes, which are otherwise destroyed by the heat of cooking.
You can use the chart below to help get into the habit of adding more dark green leafy vegetables to your diet – you’ll be happy you did.
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Simple Greens Recipes:
- 2 tablespoons butter, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil
- 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 bunch or bag of greens (roughly 20 ounces), washed.
- 1/4 cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
- optional additions: 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, chili flakes, parmesan cheese, almond slivers, raisins…..
- Heat butter or oil in skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic and cook just 1-2 minutes.
- Add greens, toss to coat; add water and cook another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add salt, pepper and any other seasonings or toppings you like.
Basic Steamed Greens
- a bunch or bag of greens, washed, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
- a steaming basket
- 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, flaxseed or sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold your steamer.
- Add greens, cover, lower heat, and allow to steam for 5 minutes.
- Place steamed greens on serving dish and add oil, seeds, salt and pepper.
For many more delicious recipes, I recommend these cookbooks:
- Greens Glorious Greens: More than 140 Ways to Prepare All Those Great-Tasting, Super-Healthy, Beautiful Leafy Greens
- Spinach and Beyond: Loving Life and Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
And two of my favorite vegetable cookbooks (both with plenty of attention for dark green leafies):