11 Simple Steps for a Healthier and Happier ’11: Step 9

1/9/11: DARK GREEN LEAFIES

Fill up on the most lacking vegetable in American diets

If your January is like ours here in Northern Vermont, you’re well tucked in under a blanket of snow and ice. Don’t you miss green?  Well, you don’t have to, since filling your plate of dark green leafy vegetables is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Think of it as spring arriving early…every day.

Worthy of the label “superfood,” dark green leafy vegetables are among the most concentrated sources of nutrition.  They 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.

Broccoli is generally liked by adults and children, and can be a good place to start broadening your green horizons. 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 its 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.

With strong associations with regeneration, fertility, rebirth, and the natural world, green leafy vegetables deserve a prominent place in Western diets. A previous post includes preparation suggestions and a couple of easy recipes. All hale the Green!

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