4 POWERFUL GREENS TO ADD TO YOUR DIET
By Marissa Nieves
Spinach is a great source of calcium; vitamins A, C, K and E; antioxidants and folic acid. Historically, spinach was considered one of the best sources of iron. In reality, 100g of raw spinach has only 2.7mg of iron (we are able to absorb a little more from cooked spinach), which is a very high concentration for a vegetable but not as high as it was believed in the past.
Iron enters the body in two forms, both of which are relatively slow when it comes to absorption. The great news is that vitamin
C rapidly increases the absorption of iron,
so consider having a juice with it. Other nutrients in spinach are also very important for blood building, cell growth (yes, that means muscles!) and protein metabolism (there
is no point downing protein in supplement form if you aren’t absorbing it). Spinach also contains the amazing antioxidant lutein which is vital for eye and skin health, not to mention heart health (yes, cardiovascular and strength exercise).
Personally, I love to eat spinach raw in salads or sautéed with a little garlic, topped with olive oil and oven roasted tomatoes.
Swiss chard (aka silver beet or spinach chard) belongs to the family of beetroot. It has large, dark green leaves and edible stalks. They come in a few varieties; probably the most well known are the green stalks and red stalks. There is also a type of chard that has
a multi-coloured stalk (pink, purple, white, yellow and orange). This green leafy veggie is often recommended to those trying to control cholesterol and weight, mainly due to its very low calorie count and antioxidant properties. Swiss chard’s most likeable qualities are vitamins B, C, K, A; omega 3 fatty acids; beta carotene; manganese; and iron. It is said that the levels of vitamin C in these foods can prevent osteoporosis, iron deficiency and aid connective tissue growth.
I prefer to eat mine raw in salads because steaming, frying and boiling are known to lower antioxidant properties.
Mustard greens are one of my favourites. They provide a wonderful spicy flavour, crunchy texture, beautiful decorative leaves and are certainly one of the most nutritious of the bunch. These particular greens actually contain more vitamin A, K and antioxidants than many of the commonly used fruits and vegetables. Mustard greens are comparable to spinach in their nutritional composition. They are also a reliable source of folic acid which serves an important role in DNA synthesis (commonly known as a requirement before and in early pregnancy). Studies have indicated that mustard greens may even assist in the prevention of and curing asthma.
I love my mustard greens raw in salads or wraps. Add to avocado, tomato and cucumber for an easy-to-make lunch or dinner bursting with flavour. You can also juice them!
This leafy green resembles the collard greens in looks, and botanically they are related to broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Kale is often referred to as the ‘super green’ as it
is widely recognised for its healing qualities. Kale is comprised of borecole, a rich source
of flavonoids that have strong antioxidant
and anti-cancer properties, health-promoting phytochemicals, immune-modulating metabolites and carotenoids which are known to prevent macular degeneration. It also contains good quantities of vitamin A, C, K and B-complex (essential for healthy metabolism in the body). What’s more, kale has a mile-long list of minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and copper.
Fresh, young kale can be used raw in salads, though the mature leaves are often chewy and preference lies in sautéing. They can compliment any Mediterranean dish and are often enjoyed in soups, stews, salads, pizzas and pasta. My personal favourite: smoothies and fresh juices!
Whether you grill them, crunch them, munch them, juice them, play tag with them or sneak them in to your dishes, I’m sure you will agree it’s time to get these lean machines on to your plate!