I’ve mentioned in a recent post on how to wash fresh fruits and vegetables that dark leafy greens are the healthiest foods on the planet. Whether it’s dandelions, arugula, beet greens, cabbage, chard, collards, kale, mustards, spinach, turnip greens, rapini, chicory, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, or others, dark leafy greens are the most nutritious foods you can eat. And they’re also inexpensive (typically $2 to $3 a pound for fresh, organic greens), so they also give you the biggest bang for your buck of all foods.
In fact, dark leafy greens have so many health benefits that researchers have yet to study them all. What we do know is that the nutrients in green leafy vegetables (including vitamins A, B, C, E and K, and calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and fiber) can help you live longer; decrease your risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancers; build strong bones; and even improve memory.
And yet, nearly 90% of Americans don’t eat the minimum recommended daily amount of any vegetables, which is just 3 cups of raw, cooked, blended or juiced veggies.
So in case you’re in that number, here are 9 easy ways to add more dark leafy greens to your daily routine. I personally try to eat them three times a day. 😉1) Drinks – Start your day with a green smoothie, blended greens, or juice. Smoothies and blended greens are best for daily intake and long-term health maintenance because they’re loaded with fiber. Juiced greens, which contain little fiber, are good for short-term cleansing and detoxifying, or just to add more variety to your repertoire.
Here’s a Pineapple Spinach Smoothie recipe from our Ageless Vegan book:
What you need:
2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 avocado, pitted
2 cups fresh or frozen spinach
1 1/2 cups water
What you do:
In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately. (Makes 2 servings.)
2) Salads – This one’s pretty obvious, but I highly recommend eating a salad daily with different types of dark leafy greens as a base.
3) Wraps – This is one of my favorite ways to eat greens. Anything that I’d put in a tortilla or pita, I can also put in a collard green leaf or cabbage leaf.
4) Sandwiches – Instead of using lettuce in a vegan sandwich or vegan burger, try using kale, arugula, or bok choy.
5) Soups – You can make vegetable soup, of course, but you can also add thinly chopped slivers of dark leafy greens to any soups and stews you make. Treat them just as you would fresh basil, cilantro or parsley. You’ll increase the nutrient content of the dish exponentially, without changing the taste. It’s also a great way to get veggie-avoiding kids and adults to eat their greens.
6) Sauces – Ditto #5, but add your slivers of dark leafy greens to pasta sauces, gravies, curries, and more.
7) Steamed – Using a pot and steamer basket, steam your dark leafy greens until they’re just wilted, but still bright green. About 2 to 3 minutes is all it takes for fragile greens like arugula and spinach, and about 6 to 8 minutes for sturdier greens like kale and collards. Remember, greens are like fruit in that they’re already done. You don’t have to cook them. (And you should definitely stop cooking them to death like your grandmother did!)
8) Sautéed – The healthiest way to sauté greens is to use about 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, instead of oil, over medium heat. The greens will taste just as delicious, especially with onions and garlic and your favorite seasonings. But if you do want to use oil, try healthier olive, safflower or sesame oils.
9) Baked or Roasted – Kale chips and roasted Brussels sprouts are two great examples of oven-cooked dark green leafy vegetables.
Here’s a recipe for Balsamic Brussels Sprouts from Ageless Vegan.
What you need:
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved and trimmed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Into a large bowl, add Brussels sprouts, optional oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat evenly. Place Brussels sprouts onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
2. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, until crisp and golden brown, shaking baking sheet every 10 minutes. Remove from oven, immediately drizzle with vinegar, and toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately. (Makes 4 servings.)
And there you have it, fam! Nine simple ways to eat the most powerful foods on the planet. So go ahead and eat more dark leafy greens every day. Your body will love you for it! 🙂