Gone are the days when your only option was spinach, the
so-called miracle leaf that many were consuming raw and
by the bucket load. Today it’s a whole new, leafy-green world, and a brisk walk through any supermarket produce aisle proves it. Leafy greens are everywhere, and they come in
a variety of textures and flavors that provide opportunity
for everyone to find a favorite.
The health benefits gained from leafy greens go well beyond their concentrated source of nutrition. Many of you already know they are packed with fiber, the minerals iron and calcium, and loads of vitamins K, C, E and folate. But what really has nutrition experts singing the praises of these dark leaves (the darker the leaf, the better it is for you) is their phytonutrient content. These so-called nutrients are components found in plants that are thought to promote health but cannot be labeled as nutrients because they are not essential for life. In other words, we don’t need them to live but we can use them to boost our health.
You’ve Got Options!
Greens range in flavor from mild (spinach, escarole) to peppery (arugula, mustard greens) to slightly bitter (kale). And
if texture is your thing, you can opt for crunchy (escarole), soft (spinach) or chewy (kale). But why restrict yourself?
Try combining them to create a nice balance.
In addition to being eaten raw, greens can be sautéed, roasted and even grilled. These cooking techniques cause the greens to wilt a bit and, in turn, allow you to consume heaps of them. Try this month’s recipe for Garlicky Spinach & Watercress
and experiment with the sautéing technique using your favorite greens. This quick-cooking method not only preserves many of the vitamins; it also assures that you’ll get food on the table swiftly.
Wrap your greens in a slightly damp paper towel and place them inside a plastic bag before storing them in the refrigerator. This prevents the greens from drying out and wilting in the fridge and will increase their storage life.
Listed in order from mild to bitter: spinach, escarole, Swiss chard, beet greens, arugula, watercress, kale, mustard greens.
—Lourdes Castro, MS, RD
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