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They’re green and leafy – and good for you. Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough green, leafy power veggies in their diet. Leafy vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and some, like cruciferous vegetables, are rich in anti-cancer compounds that help your liver break down cancer-causing chemicals you’re exposed to every day.
With benefits like that, these are veggies you want more of. Some green, leafy vegetables that offer exceptional health and nutritional benefits include kale, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, Swiss chard, Bok Choy and mustard greens.
How many servings of leafy vegetables do you get each day? If it’s not at least a three or four servings a week, you’re shortchanging yourself. Greens are low in calories and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that protect your cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are a factor in cancer and aging.
Need some inspiration? Here are simple ways to add more green, leafy vegetables to your diet so you can enjoy their many health benefits.
Pressed for Time? Buy Frozen Greens Instead
Have you ever bought fresh kale or collard greens and let them set on the counter because you didn’t want to clean them and chop them up? Making fresh greens does require a bit of work. That’s why frozen greens are a good alternative. You can prepare them quickly on the stovetop or in a microwave.
Frozen veggies are frozen at their peak of freshness and retain more of their vitamins than fresh ones. Fresh greens lose some of their nutritional value before they reach your dinner plate. Plus, frozen greens are less expensive and you can store them for several months in the freezer.
One trick if you buy fresh greens – clean them and remove the stems as soon as you get home. Then store them in the vegetable crisper until you’re ready to use them. Store them while they’re still moist in an OPEN plastic bag. If you seal the bag, they’ll become unusable very quickly. Don’t leave them hanging around on the counter where they’ll go bad before you can enjoy their health benefits.
Add Green, Leafy Veggies to a Smoothie
The green smoothie movement is going strong as people add more kale and spinach to smoothies to increase their nutritional value. Kale or spinach doesn’t sound like the tastiest smoothie ingredients, but when you combine them with berries or other fruit, the flavor of the greens is hardly noticeable.
Beginning the day with a green smoothie gives you a jumpstart on your vegetable quota for the day. We have a Vitamix blender we use to blend fruits and vegetables into thick, antioxidant-rich shakes and smoothies. Here’s one of our favorites:
Combine these ingredients in a blender:
1 cup frozen blueberries or strawberries
1/2 cup milk or milk alternative like almond, soy or coconut milk
1 handful of kale or spinach
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
This smoothie is a great way to start the morning. It’s filling and satisfying and a good source of calcium, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The flaxseed adds fiber. This smoothie is a little low in protein, so add a scoop of whey protein if you’re using it as a meal.
Make Kale Chips
When you want something crunchy and a bit salty, skip the high-calorie potato chips with little nutritional value and make kale chips instead. Here’s how:
Lightly coat kale leaves with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Place them on a baking sheet so they aren’t touching each another. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes. Then enjoy a snack that has all the crunch of a chip but is actually good for you.
You can experiment with different seasonings and spices by sprinkling them on after lightly coating the leaves with olive oil. If you’re brave, make spicy kale chips by sprinkling on paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper. Enjoy kale chips with a kick!
Be “Opportunistic” with Greens
Look for opportunities to add green, leafy vegetables to foods you already eat.
- Score a bag of frozen greens and scramble them into your next omelet.
- Add them to your next pizza, sandwich or wrap.
- Make soup in the slow cooker, and add greens for extra antioxidant power.
Some people even puree and stir pureed greens into brownie or cake mix to turn brownies into a healthier treat. Haven’t tried this yet though.
Eat a Salad Every Day
Make it a habit to start lunch, dinner or both with a salad so you can enjoy more raw greens. Don’t settle for iceberg lettuce. Fill your salad bowl with an array of dark, leafy greens like spinach, cabbage and arugula. Pick up some watercress and use it to add a peppery taste to salads that contrasts well with strawberries and other salad fruits.
At home, we make it a point to add watercress to salads because of its health benefits. One study showed eating watercress daily helps to reduce damage to DNA inside blood cells.
Don’t use a fat-free dressing. It’ll make it harder for your body to absorb the fat-soluble carotenoids in the greens. Use an olive-oil based dressing, preferably one you make yourself. Here’s how to make a quick kale salad to serve for dinner:
If you find kale to be too bitter in a salad, mix it with other salad greens.
When cooking green, leafy vegetables, don’t overdo it. For one, you’ll destroy some of the vitamins and minerals that make them so healthy. One way we like to prepare them is by simmering them. Here’s how:
[stextbox id=”custom” caption=”How to Simmer Greens”]
Place about an inch of water or vegetable broth into a large skillet.
Place de-stemmed greens into the liquid once its simmering.
Move the greens around in the liquid until they’re just tender and have a bright green color.
For frozen greens, sautee them with diced onion and sliced garlic cloves in olive oil. For a spicier flavor, add one or two minced hot peppers.
Can’t resist sharing one more recipe with you. Here’s a kale stir-fry you can whip up for dinner:
Love the quote the chef uses at the end, “think healthy, eat healthy.” Hope we’ve inspired you to do just that. If you need more ideas, we’re starting a Pinterest board with recipes using green, leafy vegetables. We’re just getting start but expect more recipes soon.
World’s Healthiest Foods website.