“Greens are the No. 1 food you can eat regularly to help improve your health,” says Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, a culinary educator in Northern California and the author of The Veggie Queen. Leafy vegetables are jam-packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant-based substances that can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and perhaps even cancer. Sounds like a pretty amazing preventative food to prepare and ingest, yet most of us just don’t eat enough of the green stuff.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women in their fifties should be eating 2.5 cups of vegetables each day, and men in the same age group should be consuming three cups per day. Yet only 27.4% of us are actually doing that. And remember, this doesn’t include fruit, which we should also be consuming at similar levels. But let’s stick to green vegetables for now.
By Nussinow’s account, the top green vegetables we should be eating in order of their highest nutritional value are the following:
Kale – it’s loaded with Vitamins A, C and K (K is good for blood coagulation) and has high calcium and potassium. Check out this recipe for some of our family’s favorite snacking dishes, and it’s really simple – Kale Chips: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/crispy-kale-chips-recipe.html.
Collards – this is, of course, a vegetable more notable in the South, but it has similar nutritional value as Kale. Collards are trending upward with followers of the raw food movement because their wide leaves are excellent substitutes for sandwiches that use tortilla wraps or bread-based products.
Turnip Greens – also similar to Kale and Collards in that turnips are high in calcium and Vitamins A, C and K. The most common way of preparing turnip greens, which is also a southern vegetable staple, is the sauté method found here: Sautéing is a wonderful way to cook turnip greens, and because they retain their crispiness and bright green color, sautéed greens are more palatable to many people than greens cooked by any other method. To sauté turnip greens, simply heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet, then sauté the turnip greens only until the leaves begin to soften. The greens are ready to serve. If you prefer softer turnip greens, add a few drops of broth or water, then cook until the greens are tender.
Swiss Chard – a great source of Vitamins A and C and there are only 15 calories in a half cup of this beet-like tasting vegetable. Swiss Chard also contain oxalates, which your doctor might recommend if you’re prone to forming kidney stones.
Spinach – Popeye wasn’t joking when he said, “I’m strong to the finish, cause I eats me spinach.” It’s packed with Vitamins A and C and has a healthy dose of folate which is vital for growth. Also known as folic acid, folate helps to build cells in your body, a process that occurs on a daily basis.
So, when your Mom said, “Eat your vegetables every day,” she sure wasn’t kidding. What she might not of told you as a kid growing up was that you needed to eat 2.5 – 3.0 cups of vegetables each day. But guess what? It’s not too late to tell your children to do it today.