Have you ever gone through your week, and realized that you didn’t eat any greens?
I used to do this and then would crowd in a salad here or there thinking that was enough.
But was it enough? NO! We should be eating greens EVERY day, with EVERY meal. Sounds strict, and I know a plate of greens isn’t as much fun to eat as a plate of French fries. Let’s move past what our taste buds want and move forward to what our bodies need as a WHOLE.
We need greens. Greens help build your internal rainforest and strengthen the blood and respiratory system. They act as a systemic purification, or detoxification, for our body, and help to balance our internal pH. Dark, leafy greens are essential to establishing a healthy body and immune system, which makes them serious sickness and disease fighters! Green vegetables also will help to replenish our alkaline mineral stores and filter out pollutants from the environment.
Nutritionally, greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. If we could find a quick way to give ourselves a boost of nutrition, greens would pack a hard punch because they contain so many essentials.
Greens also contain surprising amounts of protein. One cup of the following cooked:
- Brussels sprouts = 4 grams of protein
- Spinach = 5.35 grams of protein
- Asparagus = 4.32 grams of protein
- Collard greens = 5.15 grams of protein
- Broccoli = 3.71 grams of protein
- Kale = 2.47 grams of protein
Other possible benefits of consuming 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
- Improved liver, gall bladder, and kidney function
- Cleared congestion, especially in the lungs, by reducing mucus
There are several ways to incorporate greens into our diets. One is through juices and smoothies. These are a great way to pack a nutritional punch into the day. Juices will give you immediate access to the nutrients, as they are rapidly absorbed into the body. But, juices do not include fiber, which is included in smoothies. Just make sure that when you choose your juices or smoothies, you keep the sugar content on the low end by mixing in lots of greens (of course!) and using low-sugar fruits like green apples and berries.
Another way to enjoy greens is by lightly steaming them.
This works well for broccoli, okra and kale. Furthermore, it tastes great to steam these and then enjoy them fresh from the steamer, or refrigerate and enjoy cold later. Braising is also delicious for cabbage, collard greens, Swiss chard and bok choy. Most green vegetables taste delicious sautéed in olive oil and/or grass-fed butter. Roasting is delicious for Brussels sprouts and asparagus. And, of course, a raw salad is an excellent choice. Arugula is my favorite raw green right now, but endive, leaf lettuce, spinach, romaine lettuce, dandelion, mesclun and wild greens also make a delicious green salad. It is always a great idea to buy what is in season in your local area, but if you can’t find local greens, choose organic whenever possible.
In order to make greens a highlight of every meal, you may have to “crowd out” other foods that may not be as dense in nutrients. Instead of eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast, try eggs, turkey sausage and sautéed spinach. I add a little water to the pan after I cooked the egg (same pan), throw in a big handful of spinach, and lightly stir until it wilts down. As a result of adding in the spinach, I “crowded out” the bread, which may be processed or full of unhealthy flour that may cause a blood sugar spike. This is just one example of how crowding out works. You may find that the more you crowd in the greens, the easier it is to take out some foods you know are not as good for you. Try it!!!
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28
Institute for Integrative Nutrition