Arugula, collard greens, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, radicchio, spinach, swiss chard, turnip greens, watercress, beet greens, fennel. What do all of these items have in common? They are all leafy greens! May is a great month to talk about “leafy greens” as May is National Salad Month!
Most of us know that we should be eating 3-5 servings of vegetables each day—so why not try the most nutrient dense foods available... leafy greens? Dark leafy greens in particular are some of the most concentrated sources of nutrition of any food.
Greens (particularly those darker greens!) give you a lot of “bang for your buck” in terms of vitamins and minerals, are 100% natural (no processing here!), come in endless varieties and are available year round and all over the globe. Many can even be grown in your own backyard.
Leafy greens are a rich source of minerals (including iron, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E and many B vitamins. They also offer other phytonutrients, which studies have shown protect our cells from damage. They are rich in folic acid, high in dietary fiber, low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are low in calories. They are also packed with water, helping us stay hydrated. In addition to nutritional benefits, increased consumption of greens has been linked to prevention of age-related cognitive declines, reduced risk of cancer (particularly skin) and heart disease, prevention of cataract and increased eye health, a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, a lowered risk of diabetes, and maintained bone health.
Lets dive a little more deeply into a few of the benefits of greens such as collards, spinach, and swiss chard, which contain-
- Beta-carotene, which can contribute to the growth and repair of the bodys tissues, including protecting your skin against sun damage. Foods that contain beta-carotene are also some of the best ways to get your vitamin A fix, as beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body.
- Calcium, which can help our little ones build strong teeth and bones in their growing years, and help protect against osteoporosis.
- Folate, which is believed to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and memory loss. Folate also contributes to the production of serotonin, which may help ward of depression and boost mood.
- Antioxidants like vitamin C and lutein, which may help reduce risks of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin C has also been tied to other benefits, including the promotion of collagen production in the body, which means maintained joint flexibility, reduced risk of arthritis, and healthy skin and hair.
- Vitamin E, helping to protect skin from the suns powerful rays, and also may help reduce risks of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Now that we know how good greens are for us, lets talk about eating them! Step out of your usual salad options of romaine and spinach, and try something new…there are so many varieties to discover and try. Try taking a family trip to your local farmers market or grocery store to see how many you can identify, and see how many you can create new recipes with, or if you have space for a garden nearby, try growing some leafy greens yourself.
Although many greens appear very similar in shape and appearance, they are diverse in flavor from one to the other and can be further diversified by eating them raw or cooked. They are easy to incorporate into meals—through soups, salads, stir fries, dishes—and even in drinks like green juices and smoothies. Try adding more sharp greens such as kale, mustard greens, broccoli rabe and collards to add pizzazz to stir fries or soups. Milder greens like Bok Choy can be also be added to similar dishes, giving a sweet and softer taste. A lesser known but equally delicious option includes sea vegetables or seaweed, with a salty flavor that is great for similar dishes and even great cold in salads. Some great news- feel free to add a moderate amount of fat to your greens (like olive oil), as it is believed to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamin K.
For more recipe ideas, we love Greens Glorious Greens by Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers, which includes more than 140 ideas to prepare all those great tasting, super healthy, beautiful leafy greens.
If your little one attends at a Red Rabbit partner school, this month they may get to try Red Rabbits Spring Harvest salad, a mix of local and seasonal greens mixed together with sliced fruit (like green apple), healthy grains, and a tasty dressing. Be on the lookout for the fun recipe card to come home with them from school!
Red Rabbit Team