You cannot find another food as perfectly matched to our everyday human needs as vegetables, especially the dark leafy kinds! The nature of vegetables and of human health are matched up in a way that simply cannot be duplicated by other food groups, including fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, grains, seafoods or poultry and meats. Green is associated with spring, the time of renewal, refreshment and vital energy.
In Eastern medicine, green is related to the liver, emotional stability and creativity. Nutritionally, greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals that may help protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and perhaps even cancer. Learning to cook and eat greens is essential to creating health and nutrition. When you nourish yourself with greens, you will naturally crowd out foods that make you sick. Greens help build your internal rainforest and strengthen the blood and respiratory system. They are especially good for people living in cities who rarely see fields of green, like in an open countryside. Some of the benefits of eating dark leafy greens are:
- Blood purification
- Cancer prevention
- Improved circulation
- Strengthened immune system
- Promotion of healthy intestinal flora
- Promotion of subtle, light and flexible energy
- Lifted spirit and elimination of depression
- Improved liver, gall bladder and kidney function
- Clears congestion, especially in lungs by reducing mucus
- Clears brain fog, promotes clear thinking and focus
Whenever possible, choose organic. Find greens that you love and eat them often.
There are so many greens to choose from. But when you get bored with your favorites, be adventurous and try greens you’ve never heard of before.
Broccoli is very popular among adults and children. Each stem is like a tree trunk, giving you strong, grounding energy. Rotate between bok choy, napa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, dandelion, Amaranth and other leafy greens. Green cabbage is great, cooked or raw, or in the form of sauerkraut. Arugula, endive, chicory, lettuce, mesclun and wild greens are generally eaten raw, but can be consumed in any creative way you enjoy.
Spinach, chard and beet greens are best eaten in moderation because they are high in oxalic acid, which depletes calcium from bones and teeth, and may lead to osteoporosis. Cook these vegetables with something rich like tofu, seeds, nuts, beans, butter, animal products or oil. This will help balance the effect of the oxalic acid.
Thankfully many leafy greens — especially the more familiar spinach and broccoli, Amaranth, Malabar Spinach — are available ALL year-round – however if you’re trying them out for the first time or want a new variety, you’ll have a happier introduction if you buy them locally grown during THE summer and autumn growing seasons and TRY cooking them simply. Kale, Collards, Fenugreek AND Mustard Greens are more easily available in winters.
Try a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, sautéing in oil, water sautéing, waterless cooking or lightly pickling, as in a pressed salad. Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. Boil for under a minute so that the nutrients in the greens do not get lost in the water. You can also drink the cooking water as a health-giving broth or tea if you’re using organic greens. Steaming makes greens more fibrous and tight, which is great for people who are trying to lose weight. Raw salad is also a wonderful preparation for greens. It’s refreshing, cooling and supplies live enzymes.
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to optimize your vegetable intake is to juice your vegetables. Juicing helps our bodies absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables by making them easily digestible while avoiding the risk of damaging their sensitive micronutrients by cooking. Another benefit of juicing is that it allows you to add a wider variety of vegetables to your diet that you might not normally enjoy eating whole. This way, you’re working with the principle of regular food rotation, which will lessen your chances of developing food allergies.
When some people hear “leafy green vegetables,” they often think of iceberg lettuce, but the ordinary, pale lettuce in restaurant salads doesn’t have the power-packed goodness of other greens. Get into the habit of adding these dark, leafy green vegetables to your daily diet. Try it out for a month and see how you feel.
Kale: (Karam Saag)
This nutritional powerhouse offers everything you want in a leafy green. It’s an excellent source of vitamins, has a good amount of calcium for a vegetable and also supplies folate and potassium. Kale’s ruffle-edged leaves may range in color from cream to purple to black depending on the variety.
Collards: (Haak Saag)
They have a heartier and chewier texture and a stronger cabbage-like taste. A half cup has 25 calories.
Turnip greens: (Hari Shalgam)
If you buy turnips with the tops on, you get two vegetables in one. Tenderer than other greens and low on cooking time, this sharp-flavored leaf is low in calories yet loaded with vitamins as well as calcium.
Amaranth leaves: (Chaulai Saag)
Cooked amaranth leaves are a good source of vitamin A, C and folate; they are also a source of other vitamins such as thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin, plus some dietary minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Malabar spinach: (Poi Saag)
High in vitamins A & C, iron, and calcium, Malabar spinach is low in calories by volume but high in protein per calorie. The succulent mucilage is a particularly rich source of soluble fiber. Among many other possibilities, Malabar spinach may be used to thicken soups or stir-fries with garlic and chili peppers.
Popeye’s favorite vegetable has 20 calories per serving; plus it’s packed with vitamins A and C, as well as folate. Cooked spinach gives you more nutrition than raw because heat reduces the green’s oxalate content, freeing up its dietary calcium. Spinach leaves can be cooked quickly in the water that remains on them after rinsing, or they can be eaten raw in salads.
Mustard greens: (Sarson)
Mustard greens have scalloped edges and come in red and green varieties. They have a peppery taste and give off a mustard-y smell during cooking. Their spiciness can be toned down by adding an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, towards the end of cooking. Cooked mustard greens have 10 calories in one-half cup.
With 25 calories a serving, broccoli is rich in vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, potassium, and folate. Its stalks and florets add both crunch and color to stir-fries. While some kids may call this veggie “trees,” they often like it best raw or steamed with a yogurt-based dip.
Endives are rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate, vitamins A and K and fiber too. Endive is also a common name for some types of chicory.
Dandelion Greens: (Dudhal/kanphul)
Considered excellent food for the liver, dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins, minerals, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese.
Simple Nutrient Packed Juice
This will give you a great nutritional boost in the morning. This green juice recipe for beginners is a delicious treat. It is ideal to have an 80/20 ratio for green juice (80% vegetables, 20% fruit)
- 1 small bunch of greens (usually kale, spinach, parsley or a mixture of salad greens)
- 1 large apple or pear, cut up (remove small core with seeds)
- 1/2 of a lemon or lime (peel the lemon’s yellow skin)
- Wash well, remove thick stalks, cut into small pieces and juice them.
Tanushree Handoo is a certified health coach with a holistic approach to health and happiness. She received her training at Integrative Nutrition at New York City and is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Her passion is supporting people get back to nourishing food, self-care, activities and relationships that enhance their lives. She leads groups and workshops on Nutritional re-balancing and offers individual health and wellness coaching. If you want to know more about Tanushree, please mail us at email@example.com or visit Tanushree’s website.