Many of us know that one of the healthiest dietary choices we can make is adding a generous portion of greens to our meals. Luckily, greens can be used in a variety of different ways – far beyond serving as a traditional salad base.
The term ‘greens’ is used rather loosely, but usually refers to leafy greens spanning the brassica (cabbage) and chenopod families. All of these greens are rich in numerous vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which support optimal health and reduce the risk of many diseases.
Brassica greens, also known as cruciferous greens, include arugula, bok choy, collard greens, kale, mustard greens and watercress. These greens are high in vitamins A, C and K, plus fiber, folate and protein, among many other nutrients. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and compounds known as glucosinolates, which have been linked to potent anti-carcinogenic qualities.
Greens in the chenopod family include spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens. Greens in this family are high in vitamins A, C, E and K, and are also a good source of the minerals selenium and zinc.
The antioxidant compounds found in chenopod greens, including carotenoids, have been linked to promoting bone health, as well as to combating aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
With all of the nutrients that greens provide, there’s no question that they should feature on the menu as often as possible. The following are five delicious ways to enjoy your greens:
Greens taste great when prepared simply by quickly sauteing to desired consistency in organic coconut oil or grass-fed butter, topped with sea salt. When prepared this way, sturdier greens like kale and collard greens will maintain their structure better, while spinach and arugula will become softer.
Sauteed greens make a delicious side dish with just a bit of sea salt, but if you’d like to add some extra flavors and textures, sprinkle on some chopped, raw nuts or add some dried cherries or cranberries. Experiment with the spices of your choice to find a flavor you love.
When constructing a burrito, who needs a tortilla when you’ve got a fresh, crisp Swiss chard leaf? While many people are familiar with lettuce wraps, Swiss chard packs a greater nutritional punch.
Simply spoon your favorite burrito ingredients (chicken, beef, sauteed vegetables, beans, rice, fresh salsa, etc.) on a large Swiss chard leaf (making sure not to overfill), roll, and enjoy!
This gourmet-sounding word is simply Italian for a small bite with a wrapping surrounding a filling. There are so many ways to incorporate greens into this. One idea is to take a spinach or arugula leaf, place a small piece of chicken, thinly-sliced fish, falafel and/or cheese on top, wrap each piece, and close with a toothpick.
Alternately, you could do the inverse: chop up the greens of your choice, mix with fresh ricotta cheese, and wrap in thin slices of meat, cheese or grilled eggplant, using toothpicks to secure if needed. Makes great appetizers.
Sturdier greens, such as kale and collard greens, make wonderful chips. It’s as easy as chopping into chip-sized pieces, tossing in organic coconut oil (making sure to strain excess oil), sprinkling with sea salt and your favorite seasonings, and baking at 325 degrees F to desired crispness (about 15 minutes).
You can also make kale and collard chips in the dehydrator. This preparation method maintains optimal antioxidant content. For a great dehydrated kale chip recipe, check out our recent article with recipe included.
An excellent and simple way to get your greens is by simply tossing a handful of raw greens of your choice into your favorite smoothie. There are a virtually endless amount of ways to mix and match various greens into delicious smoothies. For one yummy option, start with a base of organic yogurt with live cultures, add a banana, a few slices of apple or pear, and a handful of spinach. Simply blend and serve.
-The Alternative Daily