Hello friends! I hope this new year is finding you happy and well. I kind of feel like my new year so far has been a whirlwind and bam, it’s already the 18th. We’ve visited more with friends, we’re back to soccer and baseball practices and we’ve been home a lot lately due to the bitter cold temps in KC. This week we had -20° windchill and then it will be 50° this weekend. That’s KC for you.
One thing holds true for me when I am out of my food routine (whatever that really is) for whatever reason, I miss eating something green! I don’t discriminate (too much) when it comes to what kind of green foods I like to eat but I want them regularly! I’m going to share with you why green foods are good for you and easy ways to incorporate them into your routine, even when life gets, well, like life.
Greens are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and carotenoids. Antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage. They can be vitamins, minerals or carotenoids. Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are compounds found only in plants that help protect them. They also have health benefits. Common Phytonutrients are lutein and beta-carotene. Carotenoids are a phytonutrient that has antioxidant properties. Anyway, there is a lot of great s#!$ in green veggies, or all veggies for that matter.
My favorite greens to eat on the regular are broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, and arugula. I also like green peppers, other green lettuces, and cucumbers.
This is probably my favorite veggie out of all of them, well maybe besides sweet potatoes. Broccoli is a cruciferous veggie that contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin K, folate and fiber. It is a nutrient power house. Did you know that 1 cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? Vitamin C helps build collage and is an antioxidant. The best ways to cook broccoli are steam, roast, stir-fry or microwave to preserve nutrient content. My favorite ways to cook and eat broccoli:
- My favorite is to roast broccoli. It gives it a bit of a charred taste and leaves it a little crunchy. I roast it at 400º for about 15 minutes with olive oil and salt.
- I like roasted broccoli on my pizza.
- We also like frozen broccoli for convenience. The Bird’s Eye Baby Broccoli Florets are the best.
- Steam broccoli if you don’t like it roasted. Watch it carefully because it can turn mushy pretty quickly.
I know kale is kind of old school in all things nutrition, right? I don’t eat it as regularly as broccoli or some other greens but I still enjoy it. Kale, also a cruciferous veggie, has a high content of the carotenoid, lutein, which supports eye health. It is high in vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin C. It also contains manganese, copper, vitamin B 6, calcium and fiber. It is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Another nutrient powerhouse! My favorite ways to eat kale:
- In this soup.
- I also like to sauté kale with olive oil, garlic and chopped walnuts. Add a little water and throw a lid on after it sautés for a few minutes to finish the cooking. And of course add salt and pepper.
- Baby kale is great in salads.
- Kale, however, is NOT a green that I enjoy in a smoothie. Just being real!
So I just started eating brussels sprouts over a year ago. Some really good brussels with all kinds of bacon and stuff at a restaurant converted me! Brussels sprouts are another cruciferous vegetable and have a lot of the same nutrient qualities. They are also studied frequently for their cancer preventative substances called glucosinolates. How to cook:
- I like to roast my brussels sprouts and get all of the little crunchy pieces! I halve them and roast them with olive oil and salt at 400º for about 20 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Flip them over 1/2 way through cooking. Super quick, super easy!
- You can also cook them with bacon and apple and/or add a little drizzle of balsamic glaze at the end.
- I have also had them in a cheesy gratin for a holiday and YUM!
I kind of have a love-hate relationship with spinach. Obviously it has health benefits and is probably one of the more commonly eaten greens. It is high in antioxidants. It contains fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, niacin, folate and lots of other vitamins and minerals. It contains beta-carotene, which we normally think of in orange-colored foods. Spinach is one of the dirty dozen foods meaning it can have a lot of pesticides so buying organic spinach is recommended over conventional if possible. I have yet to find a way that I like cooked spinach but if that’s your thing then do it. Here are easy ways to use spinach:
- As a salad green. If you prefer a “crunchier” type of lettuce you can always add spinach in to whatever you are using.
- In a smoothie. It is so easy to add a handful of spinach to your smoothie mix and it doesn’t change the flavor but will add some different nutrients. I keep a bag of TJs organic spinach in my fridge weekly for smoothies. The organic is only like 20 cents more than regular.
- Puree spinach with a small amount of liquid and add in to baked goods. I do this with pancakes mostly. I make banana pancakes in my magic bullet and just add it right in. For a pancake mix that you make in a bowl, just mix the pureed spinach in with the other liquid. Again it won’t change the flavor but adds nutrients and it’s kid friendly!
- Chopped up and add to scrambled eggs. Add in at the very end of cooking.
- On pizza.
Arugula, or rocket, is by far my favorite salad green. I love it’s pepperiness. Is that a word? It also lasts a little longer in the fridge than a lot of other salad greens. Arugula is another cruciferous vegetable, so obviously I really like those. Arugula contains vitamin K, which can help with bone health. It also contains folate, B vitamins, carotenoids and other antioxidants. It is low in oxalates, which can inhibit the absorption of some nutrients. Here is how to use arugula:
- As a salad green. It’s especially good with parmesan, EVOO and lemon juice. It also mixes with with other greens like spinach. If you are in the KC area, you must try the rocket salad at The Mixx (with salmon, duh). It’s so good!
- On pizza. Put on top after cooking.
- On a sandwich.
Maybe you now know a little more about green foods and easy ways to use them. Do you have to? No. Should you? That is totally up to you. Are you capable? Absolutely! It doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time but greens can offer you a lot of nutrients and health benefits. So, lettuce eat greens!