No matter how you eat your greens, in a salad, soup, stir fry or green drink or smoothie, eating your greens has such benefit to health, it’s important to make space on your plate, room in your menu, time in your day, and slot eating greens onto your meal planning calendar. Yup, it’s that important.
You don’t always need to eat your greens raw either; some greens deliver a bigger nutritional pack better if they are cooked. Cruciferous vegetables (sometimes called brassica or cole vegetables), like the following, fall into this category:
On the other hand you don’t necessarily have to over cook them either.
You’ll notice cabbage is on the list and that might make you think of sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is one way of preserving food (brining or fermenting, too) that still keeps it raw but makes it more digestible.
Both raw and cooked vegetables and greens are good for you but if you have digestive problems you may find lightly steaming your greens means a more comfortable aftermath. No more gas or bloating! Also uncooked cruciferous vegetables contain thyroid inhibitors that can worsen thyroid conditions.
Whether you choose to eat your greens by throwing them together in a tossed salad or put them in a green smoothie, leafy green veggies have many health benefits. Let’s see just how healthy they are.
There are surprisingly many different types of greens you can choose from.
Most greens range from 10 to 25 calories per ½ cup or serving. High nutrition, with low carb, low calories benefits.
Here are a few of the most nutritious varieties that you can eat raw or throw into your recipes. Let's start with one of our family favorites.
This is a powerhouse of nutrition that has everything you need in a green. It s a top source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K as well as calcium, potassium, and folate. Kale can be cream-colored or blackish, depending on the variety you choose. Kale leaves are strong enough to be used in place of bread or buns for low carb/low calorie fare such as burgers and sandwiches.
Try it fresh, cooked, juiced or baked, as in, Kale and Apple Cake.
I dry kale for easy addition to smoothies or NutriBullet drinks, though I prefer to use fresh. Dried kale is something I would pack in my Bug-Out-Bag or emergency supplies.
Kale Chips are a fun snack to have within reach, too.
These are the tops of beets and are a valuable source of iron (about 1 cup equals 15% of daily recommended amount) , calcium and magnesium (about 25 % of daily recommended amount per serving). They are also are good source of lutein which is helpful in eye health. Both the root and the top leafy greens are valuable sources of nutrition but the top leaves actually pack more of a punch of nutritional value. Beet greens rank about twice as high as the beet roots.
This is not just a pale green vegetable of the cruciferous type but it also comes as dark Purple Cabbage and wrinkly looking Savoy Cabbage (pictured above). The word is always, dark green is best,
but even the pale green cabbage great source of Vitamin C and cancer fighting compounds. It
can be cooked, stir fried, or made into a
shredded Cole Slaw. We like to mix the purple and green cabbages together in our slaws and other salads or add either grated or shredded into rice, quinoa, and other grain dishes. Savoy cabbage is
perfect for cabbage rolls and the kind of cabbage my mom used for her old time (and very delicious) Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls.
Cabbage is so versatile it needs to be kept as a staple in your kitchen to add to salads, soups,
or stews. It's perfect if you are a bit reluctant to eat your greens and can also be used to stretch many soups, stews and casseroles With it's mild sweet taste it's a sneaky way of adding an extra serving of vegetable. Nobody (me neither) admits to eating Kraft Dinner, but if you do, one way to add some food value to it is to add some grated cabbage. Nobody sees it, it goes further, and you will feel much better about eating it.
A ½ cup has only 15 calories. It only gives off a strong smell if it is overcooked.
These are often used in Southern cooking and they are a lot like kale. They taste a bit more like cabbage than kale and have a chewy texture. Collard greens are a good source of lutein which is helpful for eye health. Collards contain only 25 calories in about a half-cup serving.
This is a green, popular in southern style recipes, that is very similar to collard greens and turnip leaves. Mustard greens have wavy frilled leaves that come in white, green and red varieties. Larger leaves are coarser and more fibrous and need to be cooked. Young tender leaves may be eaten raw. These greens go well in green drinks, stir fries, pesto, soups, and as a side dish with many sauces, cheeses, nuts, and other fruits and vegetables. There is a peppery taste to the greens that is often toned down with sauces/dressings with a vinegar or lemon base.
This is not the same plant that gives mustard seed for the condiment.
This is a more bland tasting lettuce because it contains a lot of water. It is ideal for weight loss because it is very filling and great in salads and sandwiches. It is popular but contains less nutrition in it than many of the other darker greens. It can be a green that people start with while working their way to eating other healthier greens. Iceberg Lettuce has virtually no calories and can be eaten liberally.
It is a good source of potassium, iron, calcium, fiber and Vitamin K.
Serve it as a standalone salad, cut into wedges and topped
with your favorite salad dressing and toppings. Add crumbled bacon, cheese, or
even heated or cold white kidney beans for a more hearty dish.
Kids love lettuce leaf rolls for a snack. Simply spread peanut butter or sunbutter on single large leaves, roll up and serve.
This wonderful lettuce comes in red and green leaves and is great for salads, sandwiches and even juicing or smoothies. Nutritionally, it is high in fiber, vitamin A, c and k, as well as in folate, iron, potassium and manganese. Leafy lettuce is softer than romaine, which is a bit crunchy. The darker leaves have more nutrition in them than lighter leaves. One cup is only about 10 calories.
Baby Red Romaine lettuce is milder in flavor than the green romaine. It contains the pigment, anthocyanin, which is responsible for the red in food plants. It may be used on its own in a salad, sandwich or burgers.
Both red and green romaine lettuces handle high heat. They are excellent grilled, even used in soups. Try them in stir fries. Well loved in Caesar Salad as shown above.
Spinach has only about 20 calories per half cup serving and has plenty of vitamin C and vitamin A for better health. It also is high in folate and lutein. It reduces its oxalate content on heating so it is actually better for you cooked than raw.
Spinach, like many lettuces, can be started early in cold frames in your garden, making it very economical.
This has red stalks, veins, and stems on the leaves and it tastes a lot like beets. It is a great green to sauté and can bind to calcium so it doesn’t cause kidney stones. It has only about 15 calories per half cup serving.
These are the tops to turnips and are just as good as the vegetable itself. These are commonly used in Southern cooking like collard greens but they are more tender than other types of greens so they don’t have to be cooked as much to be flavorful.
Yes, this is a green, too. Broccoli is best known with its full dense heads, that resemble cauliflower but it also comes as sprouting broccoli with short thin stems which may be more difficult to find in supermarkets.
It contains only 25 calories per serving and is high in vitamin A and vitamin C. A great way to eat your greens is in stir-fries, where a green like broccoli, if not overcooked, adds a crunchiness and enjoyable fresh taste. It can also be eaten raw, lightly steamed, grilled, in salads or as a snack with low fat dip. Broccoli goes great over pasta, in soups and in casseroles. It is one of nature’s best plant foods so make sure when you plan to eat your greens as a new way of life that you include broccoli.
Broccoli is a valuable source of carotenoids which have antioxidant properties capable of preventing and reducing risks of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Beet greens, spinach, chard, and quinoa are all members of the amaranth/chenopod family which, according to whfoods show an increasing number of health benefits not readily available from other food families. See their recommended servings here.
There’s no question that when you eat your greens you get a health boost. Ever wonder what those benefits are?
Here are some of its healthier benefits:
Greens contain vitamin K, which helps clot blood. Too little vitamin K in the diet predisposes you to heart disease, kidney calcification, arterial plaques, and fragile bones. One cup of raw greens will give you your daily requirement of vitamin K, with kale being the best, along with dandelion greens and Swiss chard
This is true especially of kale and mustard greens. When you bind bile acids in the fiber of these types of greens, it exits the body instead of going into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol.
This is especially true of Swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and kale. They contain many types of lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps filter out high energy light. This is a type of light that can damage your eyes. They are also helpful in fighting glare so they decrease your chances of getting cataracts.
One cup of escarole when eaten raw will give you a tenth of what you need of pantothenic acid, which is vitamin B. This helps convert carbohydrates into glucose to be then be used as fuel to make energy for the body. You need to eat B vitamins every day because they are water-soluble and any excess will just exit the body each day.
The bitter taste of many of these types of greens means they are high in calcium, which is good for your bones. You can’t get enough calcium just by eating greens but they can help. About a 1/2 cup of dandelion greens, for example, contains 78 milligrams of calcium.
This is especially true of mustard greens and kale, which is a part of the Brassica family of foods (as are cabbage and broccoli). The more you eat them, the lower your risk for colon cancer.
When you start wanting to eat more fruits and vegetables, as part of a lifestyle improvement, you may find it easier to eat your greens everyday if you start with this selection. If you don't often eat your greens because you prefer other vegetables, like tomatoes and carrots which are excellent plant foods, too, then start by adding a favorite green or two to salads or mixed with other vegetables. Gradually increase until you are more comfortable with your selection. Very soon, just because you'll start to feel the health improvement, you'll be loving greens.
Best of Health to you!
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