Hopefully everyone continues to make green efforts when it comes to the environment (as there is much to do there…), but we are focusing on going green → as in consuming greens as much as possible.

What exactly are “leafy greens?” — they include kale, spinach, arugula, chard, collards, escarole, dandelion greens, mustard greens, etc. They are the most commonly consumed veggies in the United States today. These lovely greens provide us with an array of light and dark shades, but sticking with the darker shades is where you find your abundance of nutrients.

Why should we eat them every day? Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium. Low in calories, high in fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients, greens are a gift for your health, that you can keep on giving, every day!

How to eat them every day — they can easily be added to absolutely anything you are making — any protein dish (fish, chicken, tofu), any grain dish (lentils, barley, pasta, rice), and even mixed into other veggies (eggplant, sweet potatoes, roasted tomatoes). Keeping frozen greens around is highly recommended, as you will always have some on hand — no washing or chopping needed!

Not convinced you need daily greens? Check out the results from multiple recent studies:

  • Smarty pants👖- those who ate the most leafy greens each day had slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who ate the least. Go green and keep your brain healthy.
  • Belly Bloat😑— ugh, never a good feeling. Bloating can be caused by what you eat, hormones, gut and digestive issues. The mineral and electrolyte known as potassium, which is abundant in greens, is essential to keep an optimal fluid balance in your body. Spinach is an excellent source of potassium, with 840 mg in one cup of cooked spinach.
  • You are glowing! 🤩— beta-carotene, the plant pigment that we normally associate with carrots, turns out to be vibrant and plentiful in leafy greens via the form of vitamin A. Not only that, beta-carotene gives your skin that special glow. Kale is the rockstar green here, with 480 mg beta-carotene.
  • I am so stressed😫 — I need chocolate! — Actually you need a green smoothie :). Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Move over wine…it is green smoothie time!
  • Stand up straight🕴🏼 — by keeping your calcium intake on par. No need for cow’s milk when you can get plenty of calcium from dark, leafy greens. And for a bonus, green veggies such as broccoli and kale also contain tons of vitamin K.
  • Support your local produce market🍑 — AND a healthy inflammatory response. Leafy greens contain antioxidants and polyphenols, the disease-fighting compounds found in plant foods.
  • Who needs detox as the summer comes to a close😌? — Greens are a natural detoxifier, thanks to chlorophyll–the pigment that makes greens…green! Chlorophyll-rich foods such as spinach, collard greens and mustard greens bind to heavy metals and toxins in your blood and carry them out of your body. Chlorophyll also helps with the cleansing of your liver to support your body’s natural ability to detox, and supports immune function to keep toxins from collecting in your body.
  • You are what you eat🥗 — especially when it comes to digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are critical for breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from our food, so if you are deficient in these enzymes you are likely to experience all sorts of gastrointestinal issues including bloating, constipation, leaky gut, and reflux. Top that off with some inflammation from food sensitivities, chronic stress, genetics and aging, adding to this lovely equation called digestive issues… Raw, leafy greens to the rescue again, as they are one of the best foods you can eat to support your body’s natural ability to produce digestive enzymes.

Whether in whole food form or in smoothies, greens provide amazing benefits to the health of your body.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

HOT AND SPICY GREENS
This quick method works with just about any greens — spinach, kale, escarole, collards, beet greens, etc. Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to taste.

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds spinach or greens, washed and stems removed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2–3 garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
1/4 — 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional additions: currants, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds

PREPARATION
Place iron skillet over medium heat. Add oil and spread to cover bottom of pan. Add garlic cloves and sauté for about 4–5 minutes, until slightly browned. Turn heat down to low and add spinach or other greens to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until leaves are tender and wilted. Remove from heat and stir in red pepper flakes and salt. Place in serving dish — a dash of balsamic glaze on top is a favorite :)!

KALE WITH A TWIST
Traditional greens tend to include a ham hock, which adds excess fat and sodium to an otherwise healthy dish (although very tasty flavor, of course). Using just a small amount of bacon can impart that traditional smoky flavor.

INGREDIENTS
1 pound kale, washed, stems removed
1 slice bacon (turkey bacon works just as well), chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon miso
Freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION
Place cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and sauté until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and spread evenly to cover the bottom of the skillet, mixing with any leftover bacon grease. Add onion and cook until tender and lightly browned, about 5–6 minutes.

Add kale to the pan and drizzle with final teaspoon of olive oil and miso. Mix into onions and sauté until kale is wilted, about 4–5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Place in serving dish and top with crumbled bacon. Makes 4 servings.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

SIMPLE GREEN SMOOTHIE
You could almost throw anything in a smoothie with greens, but this simple and tasty combination will make your gut smile.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup frozen fruit — any combination like 1/2 cup strawberries + 1/2 cup mango; or banana, blueberries, pineapple, raspberries, etc.
1 cup almond milk
1 banana, peeled and cut in large pieces
1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt, plain
optional: squirt of honey

PREPARATION
Throw all of the ingredients in the blender, and blend for about a minute. (Tip: If your blender is not super powerful, blend the spinach with the almond milk first, then add the rest of the ingredients.) Pour into glasses and serve. Garnish with your chosen fruit. Makes 2 servings.

Green Tips:

  • Always choose crispy leaves with a fresh green color. When the leaves are turning yellow or brown, it means they are aging and losing their flavor.
  • No need to dump the dressing on top of your greens. Instead, pour it against the side of the bowl — using only enough to glaze the leaves — then toss…says Bobby Flay.
  • To preserve your greens as long as possible, store in a glass container. If you wash leafy greens before storing, you can potentially promote bacterial growth and enhance spoilage, so don’t do it.
  • If leafy greens are labeled as “pre-washed” or “ready-to-eat,” washing them is not necessary.
  • What’s that smell🙄? Overcooked collard greens will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooking. To cook more quickly and avoid the scent, chop the leaves into smaller pieces first.

I’m a big greens fan. I’m a big vegetable fan. I’m a big whole grains fan. And I exercise a lot. That’s how I keep this petite dancer’s figure.~ Guy Fieri

For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: amysmargulies@gmail.com

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.