One of the healthiest habits you can incorporate into your daily life is to eat lots of leafy greens. It’s hard not to notice how mainstream “green drinks” are at your local health food store, and healthy boutique restaurants and juice bars are popping up all over the country. Today it’s easier than ever to eat, drink and slurp your greens, but buyer beware! Most commercial juices and smoothies are loaded with sugar so be sure to read the label and make them at home as often as possible.
Leafy greens are delicious eaten raw, steamed or sautéed, mixed into a pureed soup, or blended in a variety of smoothies and juices. We all know greens are good for us, but do you know why? According to the CDC, 90% of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables to reap the ongoing health benefits. So as my friend Dr. Nicol Giandomenico tells her patients, "Green up your diet!" Here are just a few reasons to go green:
· Greens are powerful immune boosters packed with a unique blend of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy, including calcium (that’s right, greens have calcium!), magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc; and vitamins A, C, E, and K
· Greens are a great source of natural fiber to help you stay “regular” and feel full longer, which helps control hunger and reduces cravings!
· Leafy greens are high-alkaline foods, which help fight free radicals (which can contribute to aging and disease). And because greens are also a natural source of folic acid, chlorophyll and other micronutrients, they help strengthen the blood and respiratory systems.
· Greens can lower blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
· Greens promote a healthy gut by increasing healthy intestinal flora (the good bacteria!)
· Also, according to traditional Chinese medicine, green nutrients are related to liver health, emotional stability and creativity. How many foods can say that?!?
And if you think greens means a boring head of iceberg lettuce, think again! The best greens are the dark, leafy kind, and here are just a few of my favorites. Serve them raw as a side or main salad; steam or stir-fry – greens are truly versatile.
Leafy Green Favorites:
- Kale (massage and tear the leaves for more tender salad servings)
- Collard greens
- Spinach (baby spinach is super tender!)
- Bok Choy
A few of the more unusual greens that can take things to a whole new level are:
- Mustard greens
Small steps lead to big changes, so if you feel like you need to ease into greens, try these 4 tips to sneaking them in:
1. Add spinach, kale or chard to your smoothie. You might not even notice it's in there, and if the green color isn't appealing to you or your kiddos, add blueberries to turn it purple!
2. Sneak some spinach or arugula into your grass-fed burger or veggie burger.
3. Use a collard green to wrap your "sandwich" or "taco."
4. While pizza's not an everyday meal for those on a healthy eating track, when you do indulge, do so happily and healthfully! Try topping off your pizza with fresh arugula drizzled with organic extra virgin olive oil to create a "salad pizza."