We’re already down to 10 days until Christmas!
Let’s talk about the color green, and not just its role as a representative color of Christmas (cheesy, I know).
With tons of holiday food, holiday-induced (and year-end) stress, and the cold weather, we’re already fighting an uphill battle to overcome flu season and maintain thriving health during these sun-deprived months.
It’s funny how the antidote to all of these issues is truly eating our greens. It is so cliché, but so true. Even the cartoon Popeye was developed to stress the importance of eating our greens.
Health Benefits of Greens
Among the dozens of health benefits that this Christmas-tree color provides include:
1) Highly Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation is like a sprained ankle inside the body and the root cause of disease. It easily stems from systemic imbalance, eating poorly and other environmental inputs (poor sleep, exposure to toxins, poor stress management, etc.). We must put the fire out in order to maintain homeostasis, and greens do just that with their highly alkalizing (rather than acidic) properties.
2) Powerful Detoxifiers
With the amount of chemical and environmental toxins that we are exposed to in the air, food, and water, we need all the help we can get to detoxify our livers! Greens, especially cruciferous greens (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.) are extremely helpful in aiding the liver at flushing out toxins.
3) Loaded with Calcium
In a post I wrote earlier this year on dairy and calcium, I explained about the dangers of dairy, the calcium myth, and that we can actually get TONS of calcium from eating whole foods… Especially greens! Click here and scroll to the bottom for the calcium content of greens.
4) Low in Carbohydrates
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with sugar and processed carbohydrates, which has been a major contributor to our country’s diabesity (diabetes + obesity) epidemic. We can take back our health by eliminating the majority of these man-made foods from our diet, and replacing with lower carb, nutrient-rich foods… like GREENS, which hardly impact our blood glucose levels.
5) The MOST Nutrient-Dense, Anti-Cancerous Source of Food!
In general, greens are full of magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamins E, C, K and many of the B vitamins. Loaded with phytonutrients, they protect our cells from toxins, genetic mutations, disease, and have many anti-cancerous properties.
I typically aim to eat green during at LEAST two, if not more meals during my day to reap the benefits. Read on for ideas on how to better incorporate greens into your everyday eating.
What an AMAZING green fruit (yes, it is a fruit), loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and tons of nutrients. For a quick snack:
- Cut avocado in half
- Sprinkle with sea salt
- Scoop with a spoon.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Typically portrayed as a terrible, bitter food that kids (and adults) hate to eat, this reputation couldn’t be more wrong. Brussels sprouts, when prepared properly, are some of the most delicious, sweet, protein-filled greens!
My favorite way to prepare them?
- Fry a few strips of bacon on the stove (in butter or its own bacon grease)
- Simultaneously, sauté a leek or half of an onion in butter
- Chop brussels sprouts in halves or quarters, and sauté with leeks/onions
- Crumble the cooked bacon into the dish and serve!
3. Swiss Chard
Pictured above (and to the side), this is my favorite vegetable of the year 2012! Not only is it beautiful with its array of red, pink, white, green, and yellow stems; it is loaded with phytonutrients and makes for a simple, tasty side.
See my recipe here for how I like to prepare it!
For the busy and working, steamed broccoli takes minutes to prepare, and pays off health dividends for days.
- Boil water and then steam (or boil) broccoli for 3- 5 minutes
- Strain water, then add butter or olive oil and sea salt to taste
Note: The broccoli is done when it turns bright green. When it begins to turn yellow, it is overcooked and has lost much of its nutrients.
Start your day off right with a bright green smoothie! Seriously, this is one of the easiest, most delicious and nutritious way to eat your greens. It’s a great way to especially get your child to eat greens, too.
- Add 1/2 c coconut milk, almond milk or water to blender
- Add a large handful of spinach, a few slices of cucumber, 1/2 of an avocado, and a banana
- Blend and serve!
6. Kale Chips
Kale has been the “it” vegetable of the year, I swear! It’s everywhere, and rightfully so, because it’s basically the King of Greens, loaded with protein and all of the fabulous minerals and vitamins that we discussed earlier.
Most people have a really hard time enjoying the bitter taste of kale (which I personally think is delicious sautéed in butter!), so I encourage you to try this crunchy, salty substitute for chips.
- Set oven to 350 degrees
- Wash and de-stem kale leaves
- Chop kale into medium-sized pieces
- Line and grease a baking sheet with aluminum foil or baking paper
- Place the kale pieces on the sheet, and sprinkle olive oil, sea salt and garlic powder on top
- Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until edges are brown, but not burnt
Whether raw or cooked, this is another powerhouse green, and high in protein, just like kale and brussels sprouts. A few ways to eat spinach:
- Sauté in butter or olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and squeeze a slice of lemon on top
- Add to an omelet in the morning
- Eat a raw spinach salad with veggies and dressing
Celery is one of the easiest greens to eat, with its portability and crunchability (new word – I like it).
- Chop and use to scoop dip, rather than using chips (see guacamole picture above)
- Ants on a log: Add peanut butter or almond butter, raisins, and/or honey for a kid-friendly snack
Though technically in season in the early springtime, most grocery stores do carry this year-round. As an aid for digestive health, and full of fiber and antioxidants, there are several different ways to prepare this delicatessen.
- Bake at 350 degrees until tender with olive oil and sea salt for 15ish minutes
- Sauté on the stove with butter or olive oil and sea salt
- Boil or steam for a few minutes until tender
- Chop and add to an omelet
- Grill for 15 minutes for a smokier flavor
10. Romaine Lettuce
This underrated green is slightly sweet and crunchy, and promotes vision health, amongst other benefits, with its high vitamin A content.
- Eat raw in salads
- Rinse and use large romaine leaves as wraps for sandwiches, fish tacos, etc.!
Enjoy these simple ways of eating greens, and please share your favorite green recipes below.
Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods. George Mateljan Foundation: 2007.