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Let’s Talk Nutrition: Greens for Health

Around this time of year, many gardens are abundantly supplying dark leafy greens. We know greens are good for us, but when its harvest time, what do we do with all those greens?

Here are suggestions for enjoying the abundance the season offers:

Managing mounds of Mustard greens? Think hormone balance – mustard greens are rich in glucosinolates that impart a spicy, bitter flavor. You can prepare saag, Indian-style, with red onion and peppers, or you can prepare your mustards southern style, simmering with onions to make a fragrant soup-like side dish. When you chop or juice your greens, the exposure to air triggers an enzyme reaction that forms I3C (indole-3 carbinol), that helps to balance hormones and enhances the destruction of abnormal cells in your body, a process known as apoptosis.

Pow-pow… all this happening while you have dinner!

Veggie box crammed with Collards? Sauté the collards with garlic for a savory side dish that’s rich in calcium, a nutrient know to promote a positive mood and maintain bone health. Collards are also a great source of iron, important for prevention of anemia, especially in teen girls. For those not fond of cooked greens, try using smooth collard leaf as a wrap filled with hummus, shredded veggies and spicy sprouts.

Got lots of Bok Choy? Chop into a stir-fry for a meal loaded with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps with wound healing and keeps our skin supple. While citrus is the most common source of vitamin C, dark leafy greens also provide the immune boosting vitamin. Serve with a splash of lemon juice to add bioflavenoids, which enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C as well as the flavor of the greens. In addition to vitamin C, bok choy, supplies folate, a B-vitamin essential for a healthy heart and brain. While many adults are concerned about heart and brain health, it’s never too soon to think about heart-healthy nutrition for kids: low dietary folate leads to plaque in arteries that begins to accumulate in childhood when dietary folate is low. Adding any variety of greens will supply an abundance of folate.

If your garden is a “Greens-Machine” read on:

Questioning how to consume all the Kale? Toss with carrots, red bell pepper and olive oil for a colorful salad that’s not only pretty to look at but also supplies lutein and zeaxanthin, phytonutrients that can protect your eyes from age related vision loss.

These compounds are concentrated in the fovea – a satellite-dish-like depression in the back of your eye, that increases your visual acuity by focusing beams of light that enter your eye. The fovea sits in the center of the macula, a patch of vision processing cells that is yellow from all the concentrated

Kale growing at McDonald Farm

carotenoids from yellow, orange and green plant foods. Cooking greens increases the bioavailability of carotenoids. While we often hear about carrots being helpful for vision, greens contain lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids that help to protect delicate vision processing cells from becoming damaged by UV light.

Swamped with Swiss chard? Swiss chard is a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E, essential for heart health. Although more commonly found in whole grains, seeds, and nuts, greens are known to carry Vitamin E as well as many other nutrients that are heart-protective. One study showed that people who ate more dark leafy greens had less heart rate variability. This stability of heart rate was associated with a much lower risk of sudden cardiac death. The protective effect was even seen in the research participants who ate lots of greens, but didn’t exercise that much (shhhh….don’t tell!) For a heart-healthy meal, top your greens with a splash of olive oil that provides polyunsaturated fats, and a handful of chopped walnuts that provide omega-3 fatty acids.

There are so many varieties of greens we can enjoy, and they are truly some of the most healthful of all veggies. Enjoy the season!

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