… Who needs gold at the end of the rainbow on St. Patrick’s Day, when you can have green all the time? In your veggies, that is.
Bringing the green into your home on St. Patrick’s Day, or any day for that matter, is as easy as incorporating some of these powerhouse “greens” into your regular diet. They are delicious, nutritious (I’ve included some health benefits for each green below), and oh so easy to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle (I’ve even provided some serving suggestions.) You’ll be so healthy, you just might feel like you’ve got the luck of the Irish with you. Oh the leprechauns will be green with envy!
Kale – Brassica family of vegetables, which include cruciferous vegetables, great source of vitamins A, C and K, which are all high in antioxidants. Vitamin K is also important nutrient essential in one’s body being able to maintain normal blood clotting, as well as building good bone health. Kale is very high in fiber, which can lower cholesterol and aid in building a healthy heart by reducing the risk of heart disease. And your eyes will thank you when you eat kale. Lutein and zaxanthin, two phytochemicals found in kale, play a key role in protecting the retina and lens of your eyes. Serving suggestions for raw kale may include adding finely chopped kale leaves to soup, substituting half of the greens used to make salad with kale, or adding finely chopped kale to tuna salad. Kale is delicious when baked in the oven for kale “chips”. One serving equals 1/2 cup cooked kale or 1 cup raw kale.
Brussels Sprouts – Brussels Sprouts belong to the cruciferous vegetable category. They are packed with vitamin A, which supports the immune system, as well as being good for the eyes and a strong cancer-fighting component. They are also loaded with calcium, affecting our nerves and muscles. Calcium is additionally vital not only for building strong bones, but also for proper growth and reproduction of the human body. Brussels Sprouts also pack more protein per serving than other cruciferous vegetables. Serving suggestions include roasted Brussels sprouts with olive oil and fresh pepper, sautéing them in some olive oil and seasoning with onion and garlic powder then adding to risotto, or dicing the sprouts very finely and adding them to salad, spaghetti sauce, or meatballs. One serving equals 1/2 cup cooked or raw Brussels Sprouts.
Broccoli – Another member of the cruciferous vegetable family. Along with all the great benefits of cruciferous vegetables already mentioned, broccoli is very beneficial in the digestive system. Broccoli’s fiber make-up helps bind with bile acids in the digestive tract. This makes the bile more easily eliminated from the body, which can help lower cholesterol. Serving suggestions might include finely chopping florets and mixing them into sauces (such as spaghetti sauce) or soups, lightly steaming florets then adding them to stuffed baked potatoes, sprinkling them with olive oil seasoned with lemon juice, then top with chopped almonds, or lightly steaming broccoli and tossing with freshly chopped kale, pomegranate seeds and tangerine wedges for a fresh salad. One serving equals 1/2 cup raw or lightly steamed broccoli. Note: Over-cooking broccoli will greatly reduce its health benefits.
Peas – I love fresh peas. Fortunately, they are becoming easier to find during a greater duration of the year. Peas are a type of legume and are thought to be one of the most nutritious in this category. The peas we are referring to here are the little green round peas typically known as peas, sweet peas, garden peas, or english peas (snow peas and snap peas are in a different category). High in essential B-complex vitamins, as well as folic acid, which is a vital nutrient supporting the development of healthy neural tubes in a developing fetus, peas are also high in vitamin K and vitamin A. Serving suggestions can include quickly blanching then ice-bathing fresh peas and adding them to salads, mixing blanched peas with pasta and tuna then tossing with a light mayo dressing for a quick cold salad, or making a “creamed” pea puree as a side dish or dip with crackers. One serving equals 1/2 cup fresh peas.
Spinach – Being considered one of the best dark leafy greens, spinach offers flavonoids, beneficial for protecting against age-related memory loss. It also contains lutein, important for protecting against cataracts of the eye. High in vitamins A and C, spinach is a good go-to food as a cancer-fighting food. Serving suggestions are numerous, including adding fresh spinach leaves to fruit smoothies, stirring in coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves to tomato-based sauces such as spaghetti sauce, chili, or sloppy joe’s, or mixing salad greens with spinach leaves. Finely chopped fresh spinach leaves can also add a nutritional boost to zucchini, pumpkin, or banana bread (without altering the flavor profile). Cooked spinach makes a great “creamed spinach” side dish with steak, and adds a flavor dimension in lasagna. One serving equals 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves.
And if you want to make your entire St. Patty’s Day a green celebration, here are some other green, or green-hued, foods to experiment with (all of which are full of health benefits in their own right): Parsley, Green Lentils, Green Grapes, Green Apples, Celery, Green Onions, Pistachios, and Pepitas (yes, even pepitas have great nutritional value while having a green tint to them.)
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!