During the spring months, we are flooded with an array of greens peeking into our world again. Leaves pop out on the trees, grass begins to grow, plants come back to life. It is almost as if mother nature is giving us a hint about what our bodies need! We need a flood of antioxidant-rich nutrients after the long and dark winter. What is a good source of these nutrients? You guessed it - leafy green vegetables.
Dark green veggies are a great source of minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They also provide important vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. Greens have a significant amount of folate, a B vitamin that promotes heart health and helps prevent birth defects. The Vitamin K, calcium and magnesium content of dark green leafy vegetables protect bones from osteoporosis and play a significant role in building healthy new bone. Many dark green vegetables contain carotenoids and antioxidants that protect cells and play roles in blocking the early stages of cancer.
Green vegetables are good sources of fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar, reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of colorectal cancers. While being high in fiber, dark green vegetables are low in calories, so you can feel comfortable filling up on these nutrient powerhouses without putting on extra weight.
Which Green Vegetables Should You Eat?
There are many leafy greens you can eat. Here is a list of some of some of the commonly available greens:
- Kale: Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate, potassium, and fiber. It protects the heart and can prevent or slow down cancer.
- Collards: Collards contain nutritional value very similar to Kale.
- Green leaf, red leaf, and Romaine lettuce: These are full of vitamin A and folate. The darker leaves are more nutritious than lighter varieties.
- Turnip greens: The tops of turnips are loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, and calcium.
- Swiss Chard: Chard can come in a variety of colors and contain a healthy amount of vitamins A and C.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is rich in vitamins C and A, potassium, folate, fiber, and iron.
- Spinach: Spinach contains folate, vitamins A and C.
- Mustard greens: These greens have a similar nutrition profile to turnip and collards.
- Cabbage: This vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.
- Small leafy greens, like cilantro, parsley, mint, spearmint, sage, thyme, and fenugreek: These greens are potent in nutrients similar to the large leafy greens noted above and also have a ton of flavor.
Including leafy greens is vital to a healthy, balanced diet. Below are some ways to include leafy greens in your meal:
- Make a salad with different types of greens to improve your nutrition profile and add some different textures and flavors to your salad.
- Stir some leafy greens into soup.
- Add a handful of greens to stir fries, chili, casseroles
- Add leafy greens to an omelet.
- Include greens on sandwiches, in wraps or in stuffed pita pockets
- Add greens to a smoothie - like this healthier version of a Shamrock Shake!
Nu Shamrock Shake
1 cup macadmia nut milk, unsweetened
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 cup spinach or kale greens
1 banana, frozen
10-12 mint leaves
1 Tbsp liquid agave sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
Wash and chop greens, avocado and mint leaves. Add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth and creamy. If you prefer a thicker shake, add 3-5 ice cubes and blend. Want a thinner shake? Just use more milk or add a splash of water. Garnish with cocoa powder for that extra yum! Enjoy right away.