THE IMPORTANCE OF GREENS
TSMART EATING HE SUN IS out, the air is getting warmer and farmers markets are starting to open and present the first bounty of the season. I love farmers markets for all the different foods we can find there instead of the grocery store, including rainbow carrots, fresh tomatoes and everything green. Typically we associate warmer air with green. Green grass on the ground, green leaves on the trees and green food on our dinner plates. As Canadians, we don’t eat enough greens, even though we know we should be eating more, especially dark, leafy greens. The health benefits are staggering, with even just a cup a day.
Dark, leafy greens including spinach, kale and collard greens are incredibly high in fibre. One cup can have up to 20 per cent of your daily recommended intake, which is fantastic considering that’s one part of a single meal.
Tip: Try starting your day with a green smoothie to get your system moving. Add a cup of spinach, kale or parsley to your smoothie for extra get-up-and-go.
One cup of kale has more calcium than a cup of milk. Most leafy greens contain a great amount of calcium which is excellent news for people with lactose intolerance, or if you just want to lower your dairy intake. Don’t forget about magnesium and vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. Luckily spinach contains both calcium and magnesium, all wrapped up in a beautiful bouquet just for you. Vitamin D can be obtained through fish, cheese, fortified dairy, egg yolks, sunshine or supplementation.
Tip: Make a salad for lunch with shredded kale and spinach. Top with salmon for vitamin D and your bones will be thanking you.
Having low iron in your body can cause fatigue and irritability among other symptoms. Luckily, iron can be found in many sources, whether you eat meat or not. The darkest leafy greens contain the most iron, including spinach, turnip and beet greens, along with kale.
Tip: Buy turnips or beets with the greens attached – it’s like getting two vegetables for one. Make sure you wash them well before adding them into your next stir-fry.
Vitamin K is essential to overall health as it promotes blood clotting in the body, preventing excessive bleeding. It’s also incredibly good for your skin, keeping you looking young and vibrant. Vitamin K can be found in dark leafy greens and lettuces, usually containing more than your daily requirement in one serving.
Tip: Add watercress to your next wrap or sandwich for well over your daily requirement of vitamin K. 100 g of watercress will give you over 200 per cent.
Your organs do an excellent job of detoxing on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hurt to give your body a little boost with extra fibre, vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens contribute to your boy’s detoxification by adding bulk to your digestive system, acting as little scrub brushes for your colon. Greens also contain antioxidants such as chlorophyll which can help cleanse your blood of harmful environmental pollutants.
Tip: Place some chopped leafy greens in your bowl before you ladle in your hot soup. The greens will wilt slightly and add flavour, fibre and nutrients to your lunch.
The best way to introduce greens into your diet is to simply eat them every day, a little bit at a time.
Seanna Thomas is a nutritionist from Toronto.