Boost Your Health with these Nutritional Powerhouses: Dark Leafy Greens

How often do you go to bed thinking, "I really need to drink less coffee, wine, beer or soda, or eat fewer french fries, cookies, cheese burgers or 10 p.m. bowls of ice cream?"

Sound familiar?

So often we focus on what to delete, rather than what to add. This puts us in a constant state of deprivation, rather than one of abundance.

Crowding Out
I invite you to shift your thoughts and energy toward focusing on adding healthy things to your diet. By doing so, you will eventually "crowd out" those not-so-healthy habits as you fill up on more nutritious fare. Your desire for extreme foods, like sugary treats or fried snacks, will naturally start to diminish as you nourish yourself with cleaner, more balanced foods.

You may not believe me now, but you will even start to crave healthier foods. As a former cookie addict who now craves kale, I speak from experience.

Talking of kale, an excellent place to start is with dark leafy greens.

Nutritional Powerhouses
Dark leafy greens, like kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula, spinach, dandelion greens and bok choy, are some of the most nutrient-rich foods on our planet. Plus, they are fast and easy to prepare and pretty darn cheap. Most importantly, they are crazy delicious.

Loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant nutrients), the benefits of eating dark leafy greens are abundant. These veggie superheroes can:

  • Reduce inflammation (the root of all disease)
  • Decrease your risk of cancer, diabetes and blood clotting
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Detoxify your body
  • Promote a healthy gut
  • Improve circulation
  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Boost energy and mood
  • Alleviate depression

That's a lot of bang for your buck!

Greens Keep You Clean
Packed with fiber, greens are quite filling and keep your digestive system trucking along. By eating a bowl of greens before your dinner entrée, you'll get a mega dose of nutrients.

Go Great With Everything
Greens go great with pretty much everything and can be eaten raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, boiled or pickled. I love greens mixed with beans, atop brown rice or quinoa, or stirred into soup. Heck, I even pile sautéed greens on top of almond-butter toast!

Slap on Some Fat
Many vital nutrients in veggies are better absorbed with a bit of fat. Prepare your greens with olive, coconut or avocado oil, or toss with some nuts, seeds and/or avocado.

Eat Greens Challenge
To help you get into the habit of adding greens to your daily diet, I challenge you to eat a serving of greens four to five days a week. Even if you're dining on takeout pizza, enjoy it with a side of greens.

If you're already a great greens eater, experiment with new varieties and recipes.

Focus on adding in greens for a month and feel what a difference it makes. Challenge your partner or a pal to play along. Here are a few tasty recipes to kick start your Eat Greens Challenge.

Can't-Eat-Just-One Kale Chips

Easy Speedy Sautéed Greens

Zingy Creamy Tahini Greens

Sautéed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Dandelion Greens with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette

Dandelion Greens: The Wonder "Weed"

If you're lucky to have a lawn, you may be lucky (yes, lucky!) to have a flourishing crop of dandelions. Considered an annoying weed by many lawn owners, the greens on those sweet yellow flowers are extremely nutrient-dense. 

An inexpensive and accessible super-food, dandelion greens are one of the most vitamin-packed foods on the planet. They contain four times the amount of beta-carotene found in broccoli, have 32 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, and more calcium than a cup of cottage cheese.

Bitter greens like dandelion greens are highly cleansing, helping to detoxify our liver and kidneys. Dandelion greens support digestion, reduce swelling and inflammation, and have been traditionally used to treat gout, eczema, jaundice, edema and acne. They have both mild laxative and gentle diuretic properties that purify the blood and cleanse the system, and are said to help dissolve kidney stones.

Buy a bunch at your local grocer or farmers’ market. Organic is best. You can also pick them right from your yard, but not from a pesticide-sprayed area!

Dandelion greens are best when young; more mature leaves are quite bitter. The mild-tasting young greens can be enjoyed raw, whereas mature leaves are best lightly cooked.

Consume within a day or two after purchasing. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, place the greens in a colander and wash them well with cold water. Pat the greens dry with paper towel.

Here's a yummy, simple recipe for enjoying these vitamin-loaded weeds.

Dandelion Salad with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch dandelion greens, tough stems discarded, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat
     
  2. Add garlic and nuts and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden (be careful not to burn it)
     
  3. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper
     
  4. Add greens, tossing until coated with the dressing and slightly wilted

I like to add caramelized onions if time allows.

Enjoy!

*Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook