– by Joanna L Steven
Everyone knows that leafy greens are important, but often:
- we don’t really know why they are
- we’re not sure which greens are best
- and we wonder how much of them we should eat on any given day.
Standard American Dieters often try to have a daily salad, but it’s often a fairly small one that is generally drowned in store-bought dressings made with soybean oil (one of the most genetically modified crops in the US), cottonseed oil (a very pesticide heavy crop), white sugar, artificial colorings etc. and typically, iceberg lettuce (the poorest nutritional choice of lettuce) is a SAD favorite.
In the raw food movement, leafy greens are one food group everyone usually agrees on. Those who follow a low fat diet like 80-10-10 know to eat a whole pound of lettuce everyday, while those who follow a higher fat diet such as Brendan Brazier’s put dark green leafies at the bottom of their food pyramid. Likewise, advocates of blending like to consume large amounts of green smoothies, and proponents of juicing consider green juices to be indispensable to good health.
Why are leafy greens so important?
Fruits are usually very low in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium etc., and while nuts are often mineral-rich, they are also high in fat. Leafy greens are very high in many minerals, and very low in calories. They are a great way to get all the minerals we need without overdoing it on fatty acids.
Greens are also, of course, a great source of chlorophyll. Many people notice that with higher intakes of chlorophyll, their skin glows and becomes healthier. Chlorophyll is also thought to be a great blood detoxifier.
Rotating your leafy greens is important. Romaine lettuce is high in folate, but parsley is high in iron. Kale is high in calcium, while Swiss chard is high in magnesium. The list goes on.
How can we eat enough greens?
Here are the best ways I have found to eat massive quantities of greens and enjoy every bite. I personally think that eating at least a pound of greens a day is optimal, but even small amounts are better than nothing.
Juice Your Greens
Green juices don’t have to mean shots of wheatgrass. They can be delectable when made properly, and they are quick to make, too. For green juices to be palatable, you need to add the secret ingredient: fresh lemon juice. Lemon juice will take away the green taste and add a refreshing lemonade like flavor to the juice. Adding a little spiciness with ginger juice will make your green juice even better. By drinking 30 ounces of green juice a day, you can consume a whole head of lettuce on average without even noticing it! Don’t forget to add dark leafy greens such as kale.
Blend Your Greens
If you don’t think you are ready for green juices, start with green smoothies. Green smoothies are fruit smoothies, but with leafy greens sneaked into them. If you blend dark, sweet fruits such as berries, you can get away with adding several ounces of spinach without being able to detect any greenness. Green smoothies are a great way to eat a lot of swiss chard, too. My husband did not like green smoothies much at first, but now he loves them. I make sure to always include sweet fruits, and vary the greens.
Try New, Exciting Salad Dressings
People on the SAD (Standard American Diet) often equate salads with “boring”. Growing up in Europe where bottled salad dressings are hard to come by, I had to learn to make my own.
Try your hand at new recipes such as sweet dressings with mangoes, or spicy dressings with mustard, or even fat free dressings with blended tomatoes and fresh herbs! When I don’t have time to make an exotic dressing, I simply mix olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar at a 2:1 ratio, add a pinch of sea salt, a little mustard, and sometimes a little crushed garlic.
Vary Your Salad Ingredients
When I eat out at restaurants, I’m often disappointed by the salad selection. You can make large, delicious and satisfying salads without having to resort to the traditional iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Try layering lettuce with peeled citrus fruits and avocado, or tossing spinach with strawberries!
Try different greens, such as arugula (also called roquette) with fresh mushrooms. The possibilities are endless.
Marinate Your Greens
There are many types of greens that people shy away from, or wouldn’t eat unless they’ve been sauteed. Did you know that marinating your greens will reduce their size dramatically, and soften them as if they were cooked? I was never a big fan of kale salads until I started marinating them. Simply massage the leaves for a few minutes with olive oil and a little salt, and see them wilt down. Then, toss them with pine nuts, dry cranberries, and a sweet raspberry dressing, and you’ve got yourself a meal!