Food for Thought: Go Green!
I’m not talking St Patrick’s Day green; I’m talking about green veggies and the powerful nutrients they pack to support your overall health. Tis the season for some serious spring greens to pop up at your local farmer’s markets, so be prepared to add more of this vibrant color to your plate!
So why eat your greens? Well, they are chockful of vitamins and minerals that go to work cleaning up your insides, helping your skin to glow and your hair to shine! In addition, they are filled with antioxidants that slow down the aging process and can even help protect and fight against cancer. The potassium in leafy greens can support the reduction of high blood pressure as well. They are high in fiber, which aids in digestion and elimination. These green superfoods are one of the best natural anti-inflammatories and you don’t need a prescription to indulge!
Some of my favorite greens include cruciferous veggies: kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, arugula, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, mustard greens, watercress, cauliflower (the white green food), and many more. Cruciferous veggies have long been known for being superheroes when it comes to fighting disease. To gain the many benefits, it is best to consume 1.5 – 3 cups a day.
Herbs are a powerful green as well and not only add great flavor to food, they are nature’s medicine. Fresh or dried, they are high in antioxidants. I especially love cilantro and parsley for the added benefit of a spring detox.
Bitter greens like arugula, dandelion, and mustard, just to name a few, are incredibly helpful for stimulating digestion. It’s important to rotate your dark leafy greens and drink lots of water to avoid kidney stones that may develop from eating too many greens, such as spinach, that contain oxalates.
Last but not least when I think of greens, I like to include sea veggies, like chlorella, spirulina, dulse, kombu, arame, nori, and kelp. They are a great source of protein, iron, iodine, and vitamin C. They can easily be incorporated into smoothies, salads, and soups.
If you are on blood thinners, be sure to ask your doctor about avoiding veggies with vitamin K! Romaine and iceberg lettuce tend to be lower in vitamin K and may be a good choice, but always consult with your physician before consuming greens when taking this medication. If you have a thyroid issue, be sure to cook your cruciferous veggies, versus eating them raw.
If you notice gas and bloating from eating too many raw veggies, you may need to steam or cook your greens to support optimal digestion. Be sure to chew all your food to liquid, as your stomach does not have teeth!
Let’s look at three ways to serve up your greens:
Living: Sprouts are at the top of my list! They are a living food as they are still growing when you eat them and are filled with powerful phytonutrients that gives you the highest nutritional content. They are wonderful in salads, wraps, or on top of other prepared dishes.
Raw: These greens when freshly picked still have that “life-force-energy” in them and the more energy in your food, the more energy in you! If you think about what would happen if you boiled a seed and then tried to plant it… would it grow? I highly doubt it, as the heat would certainly zap all the “life-force-energy” from the seed. Having said that, raw food may not be for everyone (see the note above about thyroid and digestive issues). Raw greens can be added to smoothies, blended in dressings, used as wraps, chopped in salads, and juiced for a powerful dose of nutrients. The “other” green, cauliflower, is fun to pulse in a food processor until it resembles rice or couscous and then tossed with your favorite dressing and other herbs and spices.
Cooked: When you use a steamer to cook your greens you lose some valuable nutrients in the water. Rather than throwing away the water, try steaming them directly in a small water bath that gets mostly absorbed and then there is no need to drain the greens and lose all the wonderful nutrients. Sautéing is another great option, as long as it is done on a medium to low heat with quality oil. It is best not to brown greens and to not overcook them. You want them to retain their vibrant green color. Oven roasting is another option, stirring often to prevent burning. This works especially well with broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
The bottom line, eat more greens! Try to incorporate them into every meal. Remember to mix it up and rotate those greens. Have spinach in your morning smoothie; romaine lettuce, with cucumbers, sprouts, microgreens, and other assorted veggies for lunch, topped with a grain or protein; and make some sautéed kale, collards, or chard for the base to your dinner. You will be amazed at the increase in energy you will feel, the decrease in your inflammation, and how your skin and hair will improve! Food is medicine; it is the software that programs your sophisticated bio-computer. Eat Your Greens!
Massaged Kale Salad
This is a raw kale salad that you can make early in the morning, or two to three hours before you’re ready to serve. It is best fully “marinated.”
1 bunch kale leaves, remove stems and tear leaves into bite size pieces, curly works best.
¼ cup olive oil, or your favorite dressing.
Juice of one lemon or orange, unless you are using a pre-prepared dressing.
¼ cup dried, fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries.
Organic pecans or walnuts, lightly sautéed in avocado oil with a drizzle of pure maple syrup.
Massage the kale leaves with the olive oil, using your hands. Add in other ingredients, except nuts and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the nuts just before serving to keep them crisp. Get creative with this. You can do a Mediterranean version with kalamata olives, capers, and chopped tomatoes.
Apricot Swiss Chard
One bunch Swiss chard
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
2-3 T olive oil
1 T apricot preserves (fruit juice sweetened)
½ t garlic powder or 1-2 cloves minced.
½ t onion powder or 1 small onion chopped.
Pinch of sea salt
Wash and dry the Swiss chard leaves. Tear from stems into bite sized pieces. Chop stems into small chunks if desired. Heat oil on medium heat and gently simmer the onion and garlic. Add the Swiss chard and the apricots. Sauté for 10-15 minutes on medium heat until the greens are tender. Add preserves and sea salt and mix well.
Collard Green Wraps
Collard Greens, lower stems removed
All of the below ingredients are optional. Include what most appeals to you!
Assorted veggies, sliced into thin sticks (carrots, peppers, cabbage)
Sprouts, microgreens, and or pea/sunflower shoots
Roasted red peppers
Fresh herbs, like cilantro, dill, or basil.
Dressing: drizzle with olive oil & lime juice, your favorite dressing, or a yummy nut-butter sauce (1/4 cup nut-butter, 1 T pure maple syrup, ¼ cup hot water, 1 T Braggs Amino Acid, dash of lemon juice, and dash a cayenne).
Have your greens washed and stored in the refrigerator with a paper towel in a container for ready use. You can also prep veggies sticks in advance and store in an airtight glass container. Have some prepared hummus or quinoa on hand. Lay the collard greens on a flat surface and lightly layer assorted “stuffers” and gently roll, folding in the ends to prevent the loss of your stuffers. If you are using large leaves, cut the rolls in half. Serve with a dipping sauce or dressing of choice.
Kale chips make a great nutritious snack when you need something a little savory or salty.
1 bunch curly kale
2 T olive or avocado oil
Seasonings of choice: (cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika) (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) (rosemary, dill, oregano).
Dash of sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Wash kale leaves and dry thoroughly. Remove stems and tear leaves into chip sized pieces. In a bowl, whisk oil with desired seasonings. Toss the kale pieces into the oil & seasoning mixture, best to use your hands for an even coating of all chips. Place chips on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Keep chips from touching for best results and a crispy texture. Bake for 15 minutes, then toss and continue to bake for 5-10 minutes. Watch them closely so they do not burn. Best eaten right away, but they will store for 2-3 days in an airtight container after they are completely cooled.
1 handful of spinach leaves, fresh or frozen.
½ small cucumber, chopped into large chunks.
1 small fresh banana, or ½ cup chopped frozen banana.
3-5 fresh or frozen strawberries.
¼ cup frozen pineapple chunks.
1 t spirulina algae powder.
1-2 cups non-dairy milk of choice or coconut water.
Wash all fresh ingredients. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.
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