Popeye was onto something when he was eating his favourite leafy green – spinach. Leafy greens are well known for their low calorie and high nutrient content. Aside from being naturally low in sodium and unhealthy fats, they are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, folate and fibre. Since all leafy greens are nutritious and provide different amounts of nutrients, it is important to vary the types of leafy greens consumed. Although Canada’s Food guide recommends that at least one serving (1 cup raw or 1/2c cooked) of dark leafy greens should be consumed daily, their bitter taste can make it unfavourable for many individuals. In fact, their bitter taste is a natural defense mechanism against animal consumption. When prepared or included in recipes correctly, leafy greens make for a tasty and nutritious meal addition. Common flavour enhancers include garlic, sesame seeds, lemon, sundried tomatoes, capers, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or red or white wine vinegar. Although there are numerous leafy greens available in grocery stores, below are four popular greens that are easy to pair with and used in many recipes.
Kale, member of the cabbage family, is one of the most popular nutrient dense vegetables consumed. Although kale contains many nutrients and posses’ antioxidant properties, it is well known for its’ vitamin A (involved in eye health) vitamin K (involved in blood clotting), vitamin C (water-soluble antioxidant), manganese, calcium and potassium content. When purchasing these long and curly leaves, choose crisp leaves that are absent of any yellow pigmentation. Remember to remove the center stalk before cooking kale.
How to eat them: raw or cooked; add to salads, omelets, pastas, stir-fry’s and smoothies or bake with olive oil to make kale chips.
Collard Greens (Collards)
Kale is a close cousin of collard green, but it seems to get most of the attention for its’ potential health benefits. Although both have a similar taste, one cup of boiled and chopped collards can provide nearly three times the amount of fibre and calcium, and twice as much protein and iron than kale. They are also packed with antioxidants, vitamin K and omega-3s (a healthy fat linked to brain and heart health). When purchasing these long and flat leaves, look for crisp, green leaves absent of yellow pigmentation.
How to eat them: sautéed, steamed, or baked; add to stews and soups; drizzle with olive oil and bake to make chips.
Spinach is a popular leafy green that is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. It is well known for its vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium content. It is also high in carotenoids, which can be convert into vitamin A in our bodies. Choose leaves that are crisp, dark green in shade and void of yellow pigmentation.
How to eat them: raw, cooked or creamed; sauté with garlic, add to smoothies, tomato or meat sauce, and use to make pesto.
Arugula is a versatile and tender leaf that is often tossed with other lettuces (e.g. spinach) in salads. Its natural peppery, with a tinge of mustard, flavour makes for a delicious herb to balance other ingredients in recipes. When choosing arugula, look for bright green leaves.
How to eat them: add to salads, soups, pastas, and pizzas; use to make pesto sauce or pair with shrimp/chicken dishes.