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Get your greens!

It may not be news that green vegetables are good for you. But researchers have recently gone a step further and evaluated a wide range of fruits and vegetables to produce a list of "superfoods" that contain high levels of the most critical nutrients to health. Topping this list are a number of green foods; some you may already eat occasionally, and others you may want to get to know better.

The powerhouses

Watercress. Topping the list of powerhouses is watercress, one of the oldest greens known to have been eaten by man. There are records of consumption during Greek and Roman times.

Chinese cabbage. This leafy green often used in Chinese cuisine can be found in a several varieties under different names — Napa cabbage, bok choy and pak choi among them.

Chard. One of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean, this spring-harvest vegetable has stalks that can range in color from white to yellow to red.

Beet greens. If you’ve just been using the red portion of your beets and tossing the tops, you’re missing out! The green tops of beets are highly nutritious with a sweet and earthy flavor.

Spinach. It looks like Popeye was onto something after all! Possibly the most recognizable of the powerhouse greens, spinach packs a powerful nutritional punch cooked or raw.

Chicory. This plant produces bright blue flowers, but it’s the plant’s green leaves that make excellent additions to salads and other dishes.

Adding greens to your diet

Want to add some of these super veggies to your daily meals? Here are some great ways to add more greens to your diet.

Include veggies with every meal. When you meal plan, think about what vegetables will complement the other foods you plan to serve.

Start your meal with a small salad. One great way to add more greens, even if you’re stumped on how to incorporate them into the meal you planned, is to begin with a small mixed green salad before the main course. This has the added benefit of filling your belly with nutrient-rich, low-calorie food before eating the higher-calorie foods that follow.

Add more veggies to your pizza. Foods like pizza and spaghetti can easily be made more exciting and healthy with the addition of extra vegetables without dramatically changing their flavor.

Move vegetables to the top shelf.Traditionally, vegetables are placed in the vegetable crisper portion of the refrigerator, usually located at the bottom of the fridge. But most vegetables, when bagged properly, will last just as long on the top shelf of your refrigerator. Keeping them on the top shelf helps make them visible and enticing every time you look inside.

Smoothie. A fun way to get your greens is to whirl them into a delicious smoothie. Make it about 8 to 12 ounces and be sure to use two to three times the amount of fruit and veggies as liquid in the blender – less if you are using thickening produce like bananas or avocados and less for citrus fruits. Plain yogurt, almond milk and other milk substitutes are a nice addition, as well as seeds and ice or frozen fruit. Start with a few pieces of kale and adjust it to your taste. If you steam them first, it will remove the bitterness.

Find healthy recipes online. Looking for great ways to prepare all of these healthy greens? See the slow cooker vegetable lentil stew recipe as one place to start, and then visit the USDA’s What’s Cooking websites for more delicious, nutritious and economical ideas. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ www.eatright.org also offers many tasty and healthful recipes.

Slow cooker vegetable lentil stew

Here’s a great recipe that uses chard as well as kale, another nutrient-rich green!

Number of servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt (optional)
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 cups chard, chopped
  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (or stock)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (16 ounces)
  • Fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt (optional)

Directions

  1. Sauté onion and garlic with olive oil.
  2. Combine sauté mix with the rest of the ingredients (except yogurt) in a slow cooker.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  4. Spoon stew in bowls to serve and top with a dollop of fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt (optional).

Per serving: 250 calories, 4.5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 40 g carbohydrates, 14 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar, 14 g protein, 100 percent vitamin A, 60 percent vitamin C, 15 percent calcium, 35 percent iron. Percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whatscooking.fns.usda.gov.


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This publication does not constitute professional medical advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither the publisher nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. If you have medical questions, consult your medical professional. Images may be from one or more of these sources: ©Thinkstock, ©iStock, ©Fotolia, Mark Thau. ©2014 BlueSpire Strategic Marketing I bluespiremarketing.com.

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