February 26, 2009

The Importance of Leafy Greens

Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems, among many other effects. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats.  The star vitamin that these leafs are loaded with is Vitamin K, which they are finding it more beneficial than we had once thought.  It helps with bone and heart health, the prevention of diabetes, regulates inflammation and aids in clotting.

In my recipe section, I have the Green Smoothie listed, which has really been my main way of getting these power house vegetables into my diet but recently I wanted to increase my intake but I’ve been intimidated on how to prepare them.  I’ve recently conquered swiss chard and it has been delicious. Thought I’d share how I prepared it since it was such a hurdle for me over the years. 

First take a bunch of swiss chard.  Cut off and throw away the lower stems.  Rinse and chop into 2” pieces.  Don’t worry about getting all the water off because you’ll need the little water gathered on the leaves to cook with.  Next, heat in a pan a small amount of water, maybe a tablespoon and add a clove of crushed garlic. Saute for a few minutes.  Then add the swiss chard and cover for 3-5 minutes.  Next, drizzle with small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt (optional), stir a few seconds and all done!  Serve with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  It’s important to include the olive oil because Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin so, in other words, in order for our bodies to absorb the vitamin, it needs to be eaten with a bit of fat. 

You can really cook any leafy green the same way (kale, collards, spinach…).  This is a basic way to start out cooking these awesome veggies!  The health benefits are astounding and we should be incorporating them into our diets on a daily basis, or at least attempting to, right?

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