Is one of your goals this year to be healthier by eating better? Everyone should aim to eat at least five servings of vegetables daily (that is about 2 1/2 cups of cooked vegetables), and that includes leafy greens. One of the best ways you can improve your diet is to eat more green leafy vegetables.
Leafy greens are full of many vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They contain fiber, a key nutrient for weight loss and maintenance because it helps control your hunger. Fiber can also lower cholesterol and helps control blood-sugar levels.
Some leafy greens, like collards and kale, are rich in highly absorbable calcium, which helps keep your teeth and bones strong and reduces your risk for osteoporosis. Calcium also contributes to muscle function and a healthy blood-pressure. Leafy greens contain potassium as well, which protects against osteoporosis and helps maintain healthy blood-pressure levels.
The antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin that are in leafy greens may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin C assists with collagen formation. Collagen plays a role with joint flexibility, may lower your risk of arthritis, and keeps your skin and hair healthy. Vitamin C may also slow the rate of bone loss and decrease your risk of fractures.
Leafy greens that contain beta-carotene, such as collard greens, spinach, and Swiss chard, help the growth and repair of the body’s tissues.
Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
While leafy greens offer many health benefits, they can sometimes aggravate IBS in individuals who are sensitive. If you are taking a blood thinner like warfarin (Coumadin), have your doctor monitor your blood and your medication as you eat more dark leafy green vegetables. These vegetables are rich in vitamin K, which plays a major role in blood clotting.
If green, leafy vegetables are not something you are used to eating…don’t worry. Start small, adding a little throughout the day will add up. I usually stick to spinach and kale, which are easy to find and easy to incorporate into foods you probably already eat. Here are some ways to help you painlessly include those dark, green leafy vegetables into your day.
- Toss them in a smoothie. Try a CRAVE IT SmoothZ and make it frozen with 1 cup of frozen fruit. Even most vegetable haters can toss a handful of spinach or romaine into a mixture of bananas and berries and enjoy the drink. Green leafy vegetables can be added to just about any smoothie, but I think they work especially well when combined with berries The taste of spinach is mild when mixed with other ingredients,your taste buds will barely know it’s there. Kale is a bit more assertive but adds a very mild green flavor to smoothies and juices. A big handful or two of spinach per servings is about right. You’ll need a high-speed blender to break kale down smoothly; a regular blender is sufficient for spinach.
- Try some kale chips in place of your potato chips! I was skeptical at first. Give them a try, they are super simple. Tear up some kale and toss them in Do You Bake? Season All, olive oil and lemon juice. Then cook them at 300 degrees F for 25 minutes on a baking sheet.
- Make soup! I love a warm bowl of soup this time of year. Make up a batch of a Do You Bake? Soup mix such as Fireside Tortilla, Hometown Chicken Noodle, Pasta Fagioli. Add a cup or two of extra fresh or frozen vegetables for added nutrition.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Add spinach or kale to scrambled eggs, an omelet, or frittata. This is a great way to get your day started off with some veggies in the morning. Don’t forget to shake things up and serve breakfast for dinner once in a while.
- On the Side. Try sautéed kale with garlic and mushrooms. This is a nutrient-rich side for just about any meal.
- Go Mexican. I love adding spinach to my enchiladas.My favorite flavor combination is sweet potato, black bean and spinach…but you can add spinach to regular beef or chicken enchiladas as well. The greens will absorb the other flavors of the dish — a great way to get kids and adultsto eat more vegetables!
- Substitute greens for wraps. Those leafy greens make a great substitute for tortilla wraps. And speaking of sandwiches, if you are making grilled cheese, go ahead and add a layer of green.
- Pizza: There’s no reason you can’t add a little green to your favorite slice of pizza. Some spinach leaves can add a fresh factor to that warm and gooey cheese. Make your own homemade pizza with one of the Za Kits by Do You Bake?
- Pasta: As you are just about finishing up your favorite pasta dish, around the time when you might normally add some fresh basil, try adding some spinach instead. Spinach also works really well in lasagna. Don’t tell my kids, but I have been known to mix spaghetti sauce and spinach in the blender before they come to the table!
10. Add greens to stir-fries. I’m moving away from the traditional leafy green vegetable here…but I love adding bok choy or cabbage to my mix.
Making steps toward a more nutritious diet can be delicious. Try incorporating more great-for-you greens into your favorite meals you’re already making.