Yes, There’s A Reason To Eat Dark Leafy Greens
TV dinners may be a thing of the past (at least we hope!), but the American diet is still saturated with sodium and rich in red meat, leaving little room for essential green vegetables.
Dark leafy greens (any member of the cabbage family whose leaves do not form a compact head) are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients (including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and Vitamins A, C, E and K), and abundant in fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phyto-chemicals. They help support blood purification, improve circulation, strengthen immunity, improve mood and ease breathing.
So, we challenge you to venture away from ordinary iceberg lettuce, which is of little nutritional value, and try a new dark leafy green.
Give several different greens a try and, when you find the ones you love, work them into your regular routine. The wide variety of leafy green vegetables available makes it hard to tire of them and, as with any food in your diet, it is important to eat a wide variety in order to reap all of the benefits and give your body the opportunity to absorb the maximum nutrients. As always, we recommend that you choose locally grown, organic greens when possible. For the freshest product, make sure that the leaves are deep in color and show no signs of wilting, yellowing, or browning.
Here, some of our top dark leafy greens…
The Best Dark Leafy Greens
Kale: There are several varieties of kale, each with its own distinctive taste, from bitter and peppery to sweet and delicate. Kale tends to have a deep green or purple leaf that is dense and curly or embossed. The smaller the leaves, the more tender the texture and more mild the flavor.
Collard Greens: The broad, blue-green leaf and the mild taste distinguish collard greens from kale. Choose collards that are deep green all over and un-wilted. To store, chill them in the refrigerator unwashed and wrapped in a damp paper towel. The sooner you eat them, the less bitter they will taste.
Turnip Greens: These leaves of the turnip plant are smaller and more tender than collard greens and have a slightly bitter taste. Usually available with their roots intact, they should be crisp and dark green in color. Turnip greens store for about four days in the refrigerator once removed from the root and stored separately in a plastic bag.
Mustard Greens: Rarely green and more often red or deep purple in color, mustard greens have a distinctive pungent taste. They can come flat or wrinkled and the leaves are often jagged.
Spinach: A delicate green and probably the one you are most familiar with, spinach has a sweet taste when eaten raw and becomes more acidic when cooked. There are various types of spinach like savoy, smooth-leaf, semi-savoy and baby spinach, all with unique textures.
Swiss Chard: The wide, green leaves of this plant fan off of a tall, hearty stalk which comes in a variety of colors like red, white, yellow and orange. Swiss chard tastes slightly bitter and salty. Both the stems and leaves are edible, although the stems can be a bit tough.
Beet Greens: From the same family as spinach and chard, beet greens tend toward a bitter taste. The leaves are crisp and crunchy and become soft when cooked. Remove the greens from the root before storing so that they do not pull moisture away from the root.
While spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens pack a healthy punch, these greens must be eaten in moderation. Their high levels of oxalic acid can deplete calcium from bones and teeth leading to osteoporosis. To balance the effect of the oxalic acid, cook or consume these greens with rich ingredients such as tofu, seeds, nuts, beans, oil or animal products.
Many of the benefits of leafy greens come from the many ways they can be prepared. Greens can be steamed, boiled, sautéed in oil or water, eaten raw, juiced or, our favorite, blended into a smoothie. When boiling, steaming or sautéing greens, be careful not to overcook them. Most greens need under a minute to cook in order to maintain their fiber and nutrients. Balance any bitter tendencies in the greens with a drizzle of organic olive, toasted sesame oil, umeboshi vinegar or a sprinkling of gomasio or dulse flakes for added flavor, nutrients, and minerals.
Be creative and enjoy your new spring treat!