Many people — maybe even you — are still reluctant to cook with dark greens. “A lot of people aren’t sure what to do with them,” says registered dietitian Leslie Beck. “But the truth is that they’re probably the quickest thing to throw into a soup, pasta or stir-fry.” Here’s a look at five leafy greens, along with tips on how to incorporate them into your diet. Experts recommend having at least one serving (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw) a day.
This member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family has a zingy, peppery flavour.
Star nutrients: It’s a good source of immune-boosting zinc and vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, a mineral that helps keep blood pressure in check. Bone-building calcium and magnesium also come in every bite.
Smart storing: Rinse leaves, layer on paper towel and put them (paper towel too) into a plastic bag. Then pop them in the refrigerator crisper. But arugula doesn’t stay fresh for long, so eat within a day or two of buying.
Mealtime tips: “Arugula is amazing raw, with lemon, sea salt and pine nuts,” says Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Diet. If the veggie’s flavour is too intense for you, mix it with other salad greens, such as romaine lettuce. It’s also delicious when sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic. Or try replacing some or all of the basil with arugula in your favourite pesto recipe.
We owe Popeye for making this vegetable universally popular.
Star nutrients: Iron! Spinach is a great source of the vital mineral. It also provides loads of folate for red-blood-cell production, and vitamins A, K and E.
Smart storing: Stash unwashed spinach in a resealable bag in the refrigerator crisper for up to three days.
Mealtime tips: To best absorb its iron, eat spinach with a vitamin C–rich food, such as tomatoes. Put it on a pizza or in an omelette, or toss it into a pasta dish. In fact, it’s actually a good idea to cook spinach, as doing so breaks down a substance called oxalic acid that can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium and iron. That said, it’s still healthy to enjoy it raw in a salad.
Enjoy many varieties of this cabbage cousin. Flavour-wise, it has a subtle note of pepper.
Star nutrients: Kale brims with vitamins K and A and potassium. It also offers quite a bit of immune-boosting vitamin C, as well as calcium and magnesium.
Smart storing: Keep unwashed kale in a perforated veggie bag in the fridge for five to seven days.
Mealtime tips: “You can add kale to almost anything you can think of: sauces, soups, egg scrambles, curries and stews,” suggests Elson M. Haas in More Vegetables, Please. Or you can use the leaves to make baked kale chips, which are a crunchy, nutritious snack. To make, tear the leaves into small pieces and rinse. Dry them thoroughly so no moisture remains, spread them on a cookie sheet (do not let edges touch or they won’t get crispy), spritz with grapeseed or olive oil and bake in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes, or until they’re crispy. Season with sea salt just before eating.
4. Collard greens
This calcium-rich leaf has anti-inflammatory benefits and tastes a little like cabbage.
Star nutrients: This veggie delivers more calcium than any other leafy green (about 130 mg in 1/2 cup, cooked). It’s also loaded with vitamins K and A and folate — a B-vitamin that helps ward off anemia and helps your nerves function optimally.
Smart storing: Place unwashed collards in a perforated veggie bag and store in the fridge’s crisper for up to five days.
Mealtime tips: Before eating, remove their tough stems. Then enjoy the leaves raw or cooked. One of Carr’s favourite ways to eat collards is to use the raw leaves as wraps instead of tortillas. (If the leaves are tough, lightly steam them.) Wrap one around a veggie burger, or stuff a leaf with hummus, avocado and roasted veggies.
5. Swiss chard
This one has big green leaves and stalks that come in red, orange or white. If you like spinach, you’ll love chard, as it tastes similar.
Star nutrients: Enjoy this vitamin A–rich veggie for the sake of your eyes and skin. It’s also a source of vitamin K, and serves up lots of vitamins C and E and magnesium.
Smart storing: To keep chard fresh in your refrigerator for three to five days, store it unwashed in a perforated vegetable bag or alone in the crisper.
Mealtime tips: This green adds texture and flavour to salads. It’s tasty in omelettes (sauté lightly before adding eggs), quiches and pasta entrees like lasagna. It’s also a great side dish: On low heat, sauté chard in olive oil with garlic and onions for a few minutes, then season.
Did you know that eating leafy greens can help you combat three leading diseases? Click here to read more.
Check out this video of Breakfast Television host Dawn Chubai profiling these five fabulous greens on Citytv!