The Goodness of Leafy Greens
“Eat your greens; they are very good for you!” Most of us have heard that this at one time or another, maybe from our parents, from a well-meaning partner or a cheeky friend. But it just said what is it that makes the leafy greens so good for your health?
What are they?
Leafy greens are vegetable item which is highly nutritious members of the vegetable family that can add more texture to your sandwiches, flavour to your soups and salads and give bright colour to your plate. There is an amazing array of different leafy greens, and each country that seems to have its own favourites. They include a typical salad staples like baby spinach and lettuce but also having a plenty of others like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and of course kale. Then you have your meals with common leafy greens like beetroot and turnip leaves. Some leafy greens are very mild and also sweet tasting (like lettuce and cabbage), some have a stronger slightly bitter taste (like spinach and silverbeet), and others will have a peppery bite (like rocket and mustard greens).
Some types of leafy greens
• Lettuce (cos, butter lettuce, red leaf, green leaf, iceberg)
• Brussel sprouts
• Baby spinach
• Mustard greens
• Beetroot greens
• Turnip greens
• And many, many more…
What makes them good for me?
Leafy greens are beneficially considered to be a nutritional superstars. They are very rich sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but at the same time they are extremely low in fat and sugar content. It makes them an ideal food to bulk up and flavour your meals with, without adding an extra calories – nature’s perfect weight-management food! Even better, including a plenty of them in your diet has also shown to help in reducing your risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even certain cancers!
These are some of the other health-promoting nutrients that you can get from leafy greens:
• Vitamin A: It helps with a good vision and healthy function of immune system. Leafy greens are a good source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids like beta-carotene which makes your body to use vitamin A.
• Vitamin C: It is required for the growth and repair of tissues present throughout your body, including bones and also teeth. It can also help in function as an antioxidant, protecting your DNA from damage by free radicals. Vitamin C can also help your body and absorb iron from plant-based (non-haem) sources like beans, lentils and broccoli.
• Vitamin K: It plays an crucial role in helping your blood to clot which stops in continuous bleeding when we have a cut or bruise. There is also increasing evidence that vitamin K can improves your bone very healthy and can reduces the risk of bone fractures, but researchers are still looking into this.
• Folate: It is a B-vitamin which is essential for the healthy development in early pregnancy, particularly in preventing a neural tube defects. It is also very important in DNA synthesis and then in building or repairing of tissues like red blood cells.
• Potassium:It is an electrolyte that helps in keeping fluids balanced in your blood and tissues. Potassium also helps to control blood pressure and leafy greens are a particularly help in good source.
• Magnesium: is an essential fo the hundreds of different processes in your body, including the energy production, bone development, mineral balance, muscle contraction and also protein and DNA synthesis.
• Calcium: is very essential Nutrient for healthy bones and also teeth. While dairy foods are the best source, some of the leafy greens may contain high amounts of calcium as well, particularly kale, rocket and bok choy.
Which leafy greens are the healthiest?
It is highly rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, as well as calcium and potassium, but if you are not a fan you don’t need to worry. A number of other greens are actually more nutrient dense for overall than kale. A recent study that was assessed and ranked in 41 different vegetables according to their nutrient density at only placed kale at only number 15. This was based on 17 specific vitamins and then minerals. The top leafy greens were watercress, bok choy, silverbeet and beetroot greens.
How much should I eat?
For optimum health we should be aiming to eat atleast 5-6 serves of veg each day. With the vegetable intake, variety is key to make sure that you will get all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, so make sure to mix it up easily . And don’t forget that to include those leafy greens! A serve of leafy greens is having 75g, or about 1 cup of raw greens (like chopped lettuce, kale or rocket) or ½ cup of cooked greens (like broccoli, cabbage or English spinach etc.
How do I keep them fresh?
So you must have decided to add more leafy greens for your life, and also you go out and buy a generous helping of silverbeet, and a bunch of kale and a pack of rocket.
The secret to storing of leafy greens, especially very delicate ones like herbs or rocket,it is keeping them in a cool (but not too cool) climate with a little amount of moisture. If it is too dry, the leaves tend to wilt, and if it’s too wet they will rot.
Some of my favourite greens:
This is one of the Asian green that tastes great in stir fries, as it keeps its crunch in the finished dish. It needs to be cooked for a minute or so. Bok choy also get tastes great in Asian soups and makes an excellent side dish when lightly steamed.
Salmon with Asian Greens and Rice
Chicken, Cashew and Vegetable Stir Fry
Silverbeet, also called Swiss chard, is used a lot in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. It can be a bit of a contentious green; some people love its strong slightly bitter taste, while others not so much. The trick with silverbeet is to slice it thinly (since it’s quite fibrous) and then cook the leaves briefly (a couple of minutes is usually enough) but the stalks at a bit longer (they taste great sautéed, but can also be stewed, steamed or boiled). It will pairs really well with lemon or feta, and can make them a great side dish if lightly sautéed with garlic.
With their pretty red and the green leaves, baby beetroot leaves will be very attractive and tasty addition to salads. A good place will find them is in those mixed leaf bags at the supermarket. Mature beetroot leaves are not used as commonly, but they will lend a lovely earthy flavour to soups or stews.