With today being St Patricks Day, and me being Irish-South African (yip, I have an Irish passport), I thought I’d get into the spirit of things by writing about GREENS.
What do you mean by ‘greens’?
In this post I’m talking about dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and baby spinach.
What’s the big deal about greens anyway?
When I was in varsity (and at school during Biology class for that matter too) whenever we were asked in a test what the food sources were of a particular nutrient, we were guaranteed to get at least one mark if we answered ‘dark green leafy veg’. That’s because dark green leafy vegetables are so flipping jam-packed full of incredible nutrients! There was good reason why Popeye ate spinach to give him those bulging muscles!
Here are just of the reasons why you want to make sure you are eating dark green leafy veg
- They are high in fibre, which plays an important role in weight management, prevention of heart disease, managing blood sugar levels, prevention of certain cancers, among other things.
- They are rich in many vitamins such as vitamin A, C, K and folate.
- They are rich in minerals such as calcium and iron, potassium and magnesium.
- Nutrients in these greens play a role in promoting good heart health and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.
- They are rich in healthy promoting phytochemicals such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
- The high levels of vitamin K present help in promoting good bone health.
- They act as a powerful antioxidant, removing free-radicals from the body before they become harmful.
- Compounds present in them can help to inhibit the growth of certain cancers.
How can I include greens in my diet in a yummy way?
I hear you...spinach is not always the tastiest food item! So, it’s important then to find ways of including dark green leafy veg in the diet in a way that actually makes you want to eat them.
Some top tips to help you eat more dark green leafy vegetables
- Spinach with eggs
This is a nice option for breakfast, but can be enjoyed for other meals too. My favourite is spinach inside an omelette with some mushrooms, onion, peppers and a little cheese. Another favourite is scrambled eggs with spinach and mushroom and feta.
- Green smoothies
This is quite a ‘craze’ at the moment. But, for good reason...it’s an awesome way to get maximum nutritional ‘bang for your buck’ by getting in a load of green leafy veg without even realising it! I’m not referring to green juices here. While those are good, what is even better is green smoothies. What’s the difference? Well, with green juices you extract the juice component and leave all the great fibre out of the picture. With green smoothies, the whole green veg is blended, so you get the nutrients and the fibre in your drink. Worried that it will taste gross? I was too, at first! There is a bit of an art to making a yummy green smoothie. It takes some trial and error. But, basically, start off with a handful of greens, then add one fruit for some sweetness, and then the ‘magic’ trick...add a teaspoon of nut butter. I’ve found that the nut butter is the thing that really takes the bitter ‘bite’ out of the smoothie. You get all the goodness of the greens without the bitterness. Win, win situation! I use the NutriBullet which is awesome for making green smoothies.
- Baby spinach salads
When you make a salad, use a dark green leafy veg instead of ice-berg lettuce which is fairly deficient in nutrients compared to the dark green leafy veg. Or, at least use half ice-berg lettuce and half dark green leafy veg. I use baby spinach in salads, as I find it less bitter than the larger spinach varieties.
- Use large spinach leaves as wraps
Why use a boring and low-in-nutrients white-flour wrap when you could use a large spinach leaf as a wrap? Give it a try! It’s nice and crunchy...can get messy as it breaks up when you bite into it...but that makes it fun to eat! This is also a good gluten-free alternative to standard wraps.
- Spinach in savoury mince
Next time you make a savoury mince dish like cottage pie or chilli concarne, sneak some spinach in there.
- Spinach in gem squash with feta
- I enjoy this as a side of veggies next to my main. Just steam the spinach and the gem squash, put the spinach inside the gem squash and add a little feta. Delish!
- Add them to stir fries
Next time you make a stir-fry...throw in those dark greens too!
- Add them to soups
Eating soups is a great way to get more vegetables in at meal-times. Next time you cook up a big pot of veggie soup, make sure that the dark green leafy vegetables feature in there too.
I hope you’re inspired to get those greens in...your body will thank you for it!