Leafy greens are getting a lot of great recognition recently for their abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Typically, the greener the vegetable the more nutrient density is packed within the green goodness. This does not necessarily mean that you always need to eat only salad. So let’s look at these super-saturated, nutrient-dense, green-leafed supermarket all-stars:
1. Kale: Packed with a powerful antioxidant nutrients from vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lutein. In addition, it contains a phytonutrient sulforaphane, along with brocolli and Brussels sprouts, which have shown cancer-fighting properties. You can eat kale in salads, steamed, sauteed, in juices and smoothies, as well as in delicious kale chips.
2. Spinach: Rich in folate and potassium for protection against cancer and proper muscle function, respectively. Spinach contains glycoclycerolipids, the main fat-related molecules in the membranes of light-sensitive organs where photosynthesis is carried out by plants. These molecules serve as protection for the lining of the digestive tract from damage, such as systemic inflammation. Also, rich in vitamins C/E/K/A, beta-carotene, iron, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
3. Microgreens: Underdeveloped combination of greens (kale, arugula, and broccoli) are harvested just one to two weeks after planting and are packed with vital nutrients, such as vitamins (C & E), minerals, and antioxidants that are needed to support the growth of developing plants. Harvesting not-yet-mature plants ensures that they will be still packed with more of the healthy nutrients. Ranging in flavor from peppery to tangy, microgreens can be used in salads, soups, and sandwiches.
4. Arugula: A pungent, peppery flavor works in a variety of recipes and it is an excellent source of calcium to support bone-building. Additionally, arugula has high levels of natural nitrates that the body utilizes to increase muscle blood flow for efficient muscle function during exercise.
5. Collard Greens: Packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and higher amounts of dietary fiber than other leafy greens. The collards have large, leathery leaves and a mild flavor, but take longer to cook due to high fiber content, which has protective benefits against heart disease.
6. Mustard Greens: Full of beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A for eye and bone health, and phytonutrients / glucosinolates that can rev up detoxification enzymes against free-radical damage in liver and other organs.
7. Swiss Chard: Packed with loads of vitamin K that is responsible for blood clotting, fortifying bone strength, and reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
8. Boston/Butterhead Lettuce:
Full of a good dose of vitamin K and manganese, a mineral necessary for proper carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Try using the large pliable raw leaves for making wraps as a lower calorie option. It is also a hydrating fresh summery choice!
9. Romaine Lettuce: Include nutrients of beta-carotene, folate, potassium, and vitamin C. Store in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel for up to 3 days to preserve the head of romaine.
10. Iceberg Lettuce: Made up mostly of water, it helps keep hydrated and enjoy the crunch in sandwiches, tacos, and mixed green salads.
Creative recipe ideas:
A power-packed creamy smoothie
Combine the following ingredients and blend until smooth:
1 1/2 cups coconut water
1 ripe avocado
4 kale leaves
1 celery stalk
1 cup mango cubes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
Mash together and stir together in a large bowl:
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 cup black beans
1 diced plum tomato
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt.
Mash together in a separate bowl:
1/2 ripe avocado
Juice of 1/2 lime.
Spread avocado mixture on small corn or whole-wheat tortillas and top with egg mixture and shredded iceberg lettuce.
A microgreen sauce for a lean protein
Place the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined:
1 packed cup microgreens
1 chopped shallot
1 minced garlic clove
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
With the machine running, pour in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil through the feed tube and blend until just slightly chunky.
Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times, until coarsely minced:
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup basil
3 chopped garlic cloves
1/3 cup walnuts
Add next 3 ingredients and process until combined:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
With machine running, pour in 1/4 cup olive or walnut oil and mix until fully combined.
Swiss chard or kale chip snacks
Preheat oven to 350 degress.
Tear 1 bunch Swiss chard leaves into fairly large pieces.
Toss with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Place leaves on two baking sheets (or prepare in batches) and bake until crispy, about 15 minutes, being careful not to burn leaves.
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Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana
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