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

Sautéed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Sweet, savory, spicy and just a tad bitter, this dish is the perfect balance of flavors. Use whatever greens you would like (e.g., Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach, etc.)—just keep in mind that spinach and turnip greens lose a lot of volume when cooked so use a large amount. 

Experiment with different dried fruits (e.g., cranberries, currants, cherries) and nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, pecans—these can be toasted in a pan, in the oven, or tossed in raw).

Learn about the nutritional power of dark leafy greens here.

Serves: 2  

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 large bunch of greens (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
  • Few pinches crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Roughly 1/4-1/2 cup of water
  • Pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste


Instructions:

  1.  Soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes then drain
     
  2. Rinse greens well; tear or cut leaves away from stems and discard stems; coarsely chop*
     
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat
     
  4. Add the pine nuts; toast, stirring frequently, until they’re fragrant and begin to brown (pay attention as they burn easily); remove from pan
     
  5. Add the olive oil to the pan and swirl it around
     
  6. Add the garlic and optional red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds (be careful not to burn the garlic)
     
  7. Add the greens a few bunches at a time, tossing with tongs to evenly coat with oil
     
  8. Toss in pine nuts, raisins and salt
     
  9. Add a splash of water if needed; toss to combine and let the liquid boil away; remove from heat once the liquid boils off and the greens are wilted (about 2-4 minutes)
     
  10. Add salt and black pepper to taste 

*For kale, remove the tough, thick center stems.  For Swiss chard, chop the bottom stems and sauté for a few minutes before adding the leaves.