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These pow­er­house veg­eta­bles are packed with nu­tri­ents and easy to add to your diet

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - /// BY MELISSA DI­ANE SMITH

Green Up Your New Year These pow­er­house veg­eta­bles are easy to add to your diet.

With­out a doubt, en­cour­ag­ing clients to eat fewer grains and more veg­eta­bles is the most com­mon ad­vice I give in my coun­sel­ing prac­tice. It’s also true that many peo­ple who aren’t used to eat­ing many veg­eta­bles are in­tim­i­dated by in­cor­po­rat­ing dark leafy greens into their diet. But it’s eas­ier than you think.

Eat­ing greens ac­tu­ally is a New Year’s tra­di­tion for many peo­ple. The cus­tom de­vel­oped not for health rea­sons but for fi­nan­cial good luck, be­cause greens re­sem­ble money, specif­i­cally fold­ing money. In Ger­many, there’s a tra­di­tion of eat­ing green cab­bage in the form of sauer­kraut or stuff ed cab­bage leaves on New Year’s Day to bring an abun­dance of money. Other peo­ple who adopted the cus­tom swapped cab­bage for other greens that they pre­ferred or that grew in their area. In the Amer­i­can South, many peo­ple eat black- eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day.

Re­gard­less of whether they’ll bring you good luck, greens are nutri­tional pow­er­houses filled with vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, and phy­tonu­tri­ents. They are also rich in chloro­phyll, which al­ka­lin­izes the blood, and fiber, which keeps the colon healthy. The cur­rent USDA Food Pyra­mid rec­om­men­da­tion is that adults should con­sume about 3 cups of dark green veg­eta­bles per week, but many nutri­tional ex­perts think that is much too low.

There are three main cat­e­gories of dark green leafy veg­eta­bles: let­tuces, spinach and Swiss chard, and cru­cif­er­ous leafy greens. Here’s a run­down on how to use them.

It’s the begin­ning of a new year, and I know I should eat more veg­eta­bles. Un­for­tu­nately, I don’t know what to do with many veg­eta­bles, es­pe­cially dark green leafy veg­eta­bles, which are sup­posed to be so packed with nu­tri­ents. Can you pro­vide some ideas? — Michelle N., Dal­las

Let­tuces

Dark green let­tuces in­clude ro­maine, green leaf, and but­ter­head. These nu­tri­ent­dense leaves are eas­ily in­cor­po­rated into the diet by mak­ing raw sal­ads. If you’re ac­cus­tomed to eat­ing sal­ads made of ice­berg let­tuce, start “green­ing up” your diet by mix­ing in one of these darker let­tuces, and grad­u­ally add more and more dark green let­tuce each week.

If you al­ready eat sal­ads made with dark green let­tuce, you can boost the nutri­tional sta­tus of your sal­ads by adding nu­tri­ent- rich car­rots, red onions, cu­cum­bers, and/ or other greens such as spinach or kale.

Spinach and Swiss Chard

Spinach and Swiss chard are leafy greens in the amaranth fam­ily. Both are rich in iron, which is needed to make the he­mo­glo­bin that trans­fers oxy­gen in the blood from the lungs to the tis­sues. These leaves are very ver­sa­tile: You can in­clude them in raw sal­ads; chop, sea­son, and sauté them alone or with pieces of poul­try or meat; or add them to egg scram­bles. Try mak­ing Filet of Sole Floren­tine. With spinach, onions, and olive oil, it’s a de­li­cious way to en­joy a mild fi sh.

Cru­cif­er­ous Leafy Greens

Kale, col­lard greens, cab­bage, bok choy, broc­coli, and arugula are cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles that be­long to the Bras­si­caceae fam­ily of plants. Cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles are packed with sul­fur- con­tain­ing com­pounds known as glu­cosi­no­lates, which have been shown to have can­cer- fi ght­ing prop­er­ties. They have also been linked to a long list of health benefi ts, in­clud­ing in­creased weight loss and im­proved heart health.

Cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles are not only low in calo­ries, they’re high in fi ber, which pro­motes sati­ety and wards off crav­ings. One study pub­lished in PLoS One in 2015 found that each serv­ing of cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles was as­so­ci­ated with 0.68 pounds of weight loss over a two- year pe­riod.

De­spite the health benefi ts of cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles, the di­ges­tion of raw cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles in the in­testines re­leases goi- tro­gens, which can in­crease the need for io­dine, and in ex­cess, can cause dam­age to the thy­roid. If you have thy­roid prob­lems, you might want to err on the side of cau­tion and eat only cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles that have been cooked.

Here is a quick run­down of easy- touse cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles:

Arugula— The sharp fl avor of this pep­pery salad green makes it a great stand­alone op­tion with a vinai­grette dress­ing. You also can chop and sauté arugula just like spinach. Or steam it on top of cooked eggs.

Bok Choy— Noth­ing says Chi­nese stir- fry quite as much as adding baby bok choy leaves to a wok with other veg­eta­bles and tamari sauce or co­conut aminos, then stir- fry­ing un­til ten­der. If you buy large bok choy, rip the leaves from the stems, chop the stems in small pieces, stir- fry them fi rst un­til they’re done, then toss in the leaves.

Broc­coli— The eas­i­est way to pre­pare broc­coli is to steam it un­til ten­der, then top it with but­ter, co­conut or av­o­cado oil, and salt and pep­per. Or you can add shred­ded cheese on top.

Cab­bage— Stuff ed cab­bage leaves with meat and rice is a tra­di­tional New Year’s meal for some. Or make a Chi­nese stir- fry with Napa cab­bage and bok choy, chicken or meat, gar­lic, and tamari. An­other great way to use green cab­bage or green and red cab­bage is to make cole slaw. Try it with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro leaves, and av­o­cado in place of may­on­naise.

Col­lard Greens and Kale— The most com­mon way to use col­lard greens and a va­ri­ety of diff er­ent types of kale is to tear the leaves, dis­card the stems, and sauté the leaves in oil with gar­lic, salt, and pep­per. You also can add a bit of chicken or veg­etable stock for ex­tra fl avor, and add chicken or beef pieces to turn the side dish into a meal. Or make a nest of sautéed greens, then crack two eggs on top, and cover the eggs to steam them un­til they’re done to your lik­ing.

The eas­i­est type of kale to use in sal­ads is di­nosaur kale, also known as Tus­can or la­cinato kale, which is more ten­der and less bit­ter than curly kale. Mas­sage a dress­ing of olive oil, salt, and lemon juice or or­ange juice into la­cinato kale leaves, add some dried cran­ber­rie s, and al­low the greens to mac­er­ate on the counter for at least an hour. Mix in chopped or­ange pieces be­fore serv­ing.

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