Eat Your Greens, and Try Something New

This time of year is a goldmine for fresh, local, in-season lettuces and other greens in Vancouver. While studies have shown that most consumers like to stay within their comfort zones and usually only purchase one of the three most common types of greens in North America (iceberg, romaine, and green leaf lettuces), there are many species that boast more nutrients, and contain different antioxidants.

Also, the looser the leaf when growing in the ground, the more antioxidants it contains. For instance, cabbage, whose leaves grow tight, has much less than leaf lettuce, whose leaves grow separated. The more direct sunlight a plant receives, the more antioxidants it has to make to protect itself against free radical cell damage.

When we eat a plant that is high in antioxidants, we absorb them, thereby protecting ourselves against cell damage (like cancer), too. Since variety is the spice of life, we’re going to go ahead and recommend you try something new. Check it out:

Collard Greens

We understand that these can be intimidating. A large-leafed, tougher plant, these suckers need to be cooked with fat to lose their bitterness (which is actually indicative of the number of nutrients a plant contains—the more bitter, the more nutrients). In the south, collard greens are usually cooked with pork. But if you’re a vegetarian or are simply searching for a healthier alternative, we recommend sautéing the greens in extra virgin olive oil, instead.

For a vegan collard greens recipe from Martha Stewart, click HERE.

Swiss Chard

Honestly, Swiss chard is one of our faves—especially when you can find it in a variety of colours (rainbow). It makes a pretty salad, and also works extremely well as an alternative to the cabbage in cabbage rolls. It’s easy to grow and boasts great nutrients, such as 13 different polyphenol antioxidants!

For a recipe for Swiss Chard, click HERE.

Purple Kale

Kale

Okay—I’m sure by now everyone in the entire universe has heard of and tried kale. Hailed for the last few years as a superfood, this curly, yummy, easily grown (even in the snow!) green has been a favourite of many. And hey, any green that can produce a chip is definitely worthy of stardom. Kale can be found in green or purple, but we personally love purple. (It’s just prettier.) There’s also a popular Dinosaur Kale variety, which isn’t as curly, and has long, flat, broad leaves with a different taste and texture.

Click HERE for a kale chip recipe from Angela Lidden of Oh She Glows.

Mustard Greens

Again, this one can be intimidating. But mustard greens should be revered! Their spicy flavour make a fab addition to any salad, and they’re great to juice with, too. Mustard greens are super high in potassium, fibre, and protein, as well as vitamins A and C.

Want a recipe for Mustard Green Pesto? We thought so–click HERE.

Fresh organic beet greens

Beet Greens

Aaah, beet greens. These suckers are extremely high in iron, calcium, and magnesium, and are fantastic to add to a salad or juice with. In fact:

“A recent study from Chile has shown beet greens to be one of the top 10 food contributors to iron intake in that country.”(1)

Wow.

It’s sad when people use the beets, then toss the greens—greens need love, too! With a nutritional profile like this, they shouldn’t be wasted. For a fabulous beet and beet greens salad recipe, click HERE.

Italian Parsley

It may have started with a juice recipe, but this herb has become our new fave salad green! They taste extremely fresh, and the flat, broad leaves are super pretty. You can add them to salads, or actually use them as the main green. Here are some facts about parsley:

  • “Parsley is rich in many vital vitamins, including Vitamin C,  B 12, K and A. This means parsley keeps your immune system strong, tones your bones and heals the nervous system, too.
  • It helps flush out excess fluid from the body, thus supporting kidney function. However, the herb contains oxalates, which can cause problems for those with existing kidney and gall bladder problems.
  • Regular use of parsley can help control your blood pressure. The folic acid in this herb is like a tonic for your heart.
  • Parsley essential oil, when massaged into the scalp, may reduce hair loss.
  • Use parsley daily, and you’ll feel relief from joint pain. That’s because the herb has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Parsley tea relaxes stiff muscles and encourages digestion.
  • Studies indicate that parsley—especially its essential oil—may have a role in inhibiting cancerous tumors. In fact, scientists have billed it a ‘chemoprotective’ food.” (2)

Click HERE for a parsley juice recipe.

Purple Leaf Lettuce

Purple Leaf Lettuce

Last, but not least, is purple leaf lettuce. We specify purple, because different colours contain different antioxidants. Because everything we’ve mentioned so far is green, we thought we’d throw you a change-up.

Or curve ball. You know, some sort of baseball term.

Green lettuces typically “contain varying amounts of potent phytochemicals, such as lutein and indoles. Benefits include a lower risk of some cancers, improved eye health, rejuvenated musculature and bone, and strong teeth.” (3)

Purple leaf lettuce has “anthocyanins, which have been linked with antioxidants and anti-aging properties in the body. Blue and purple foods help promote bone health, and have been shown to lower the risk of some cancers, improve memory, and increase urinary-tract health. The main benefit of blue and purple foods is increased circulation and microcirculation.” (4)

For a guide on how to grow your own lettuces, click HERE.

That’s it! Broaden your horizons, get out of your comfort zones, and experiment with different greens—your body will thank you, and you’ll get better dinner ideas out of it.

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Quote References:

(1) “Beet Greens.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. Web. 2015. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=151

(2) Shubhra Krishan. “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Parsley.” Care2. Web. 2013. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-surprising-health-benefits-of-parsley.html

(3) “Eat Coloful Foods for Better Health.” EXOS Knowledge. Web. 2012. http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/nutrition/eat-colorful-foods-for-better-health.html

(4) “Eat Coloful Foods for Better Health.” EXOS Knowledge. Web. 2012. http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/nutrition/eat-colorful-foods-for-better-health.html