eat your dark green leafies
When the cat’s away, the mice … eat dark green leafies?
This past week, I experienced a sort of preview of coming attractions: being an empty nester. With my daughter in Minnesota, my son in South Dakota, and my husband in Hong Kong, communications suddenly involved four time zones!
When I posted about my temporarily empty nest, a friend on Facebook commented that I could now really let my hair down and party. Yeah, I said—the first thing I’m going to do is eat dark green leafies at every meal.
I know. Crazy, huh? Perhaps my hair’s too short for me to consider anything more wild than that.
As odd as it may seem, I’ll admit that one of the things I’m looking forward to this fall, when Kermit the Dog and I are the only ones in the house, is being able to cook and eat in the way I prefer—more plant-based and with a ton of dark green leafies included.
I’m not saying I only cook to satisfy others’ tastes—my kids were never served from a “kids menu” at home because I refuse to make more than one meal per sitting, and it wasn’t always food they loved. And just about every dinner included dark green leafies.
dark green leafies
Dark green leafy vegetables—think arugula, Romaine, spinach, cabbage, chard, collards, kale—are perhaps the least commonly eaten vegetables in America. Sure, kale had its day. I even saw a bumper sticker that said, “Collards are the new kale.” It seems that both have lost top billing to cauliflower these days.
When I ask my clients to tell me about the vegetables they eat, what I call the “sturdy” vegetables (green beans, peppers, zucchini, winter squash, mixed veggies, etc.) normally come out way ahead. Sorry, folks, peas are technically legumes, and corn is a grain.
Dark green leafies are nutritional powerhouses, being very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are also full of fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.
They are considered to have the following benefits (a mix of Western and Eastern, conventional and alternative opinions here):
- Blood purification
- Cancer prevention
- Improved circulation
- Strenghthened immune system
- Promotion of subtle, light, and flexible energy
- Improved liver, gall bladder, and kidney function
- Cleared congestion, especially in lungs, by reducing mucus
- Promotion of healthy intestinal flora
Wow! That’s right—superfoods in our midst, and we’re off buying expensive, trendy foods that frequently come from places where the growers are not making a living wage and are destroying their croplands to feed our privileged, seemingly insatiable “hunger” for the next shiny silver bullet. [Climbs down from soapbox.]
Want to feel better? Eat more dark green leafies, which I call DGLs.
getting the DGLs in
Please note that there are some medical conditions (especially kidney disease) and medications (particularly certain blood thinners) that can be affected by eating too many dark green leafies. Make sure to consult your primary care provider before you start piling on the DGLs. That said, for most people with these issues, DGLs are not out of the question; rather, it’s the amount and consistency of consumption that need to be examined.
Normally, the very first recommendation I make to clients is to figure out their hydration sweet spot.
The second one? Get at least one serving of DGLs in daily. If that’s not already a habit, it can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s early summer and there are an enormous variety of them at the farmers’ market and the store.
If you’re new to greens, start with the milder ones: spinach, Romaine lettuce, other baby lettuces, cabbage, chard. Then move on through the more peppery ones: mustard greens, arugula. And then try the truly bitter ones: kale, collards, arugula. Note that when they’re cooked, greens lose a bit of their bitter and/or spicy flavors.
I am not a fan of “hiding” vegetables—the point, in my opinion, is to develop your palate to appreciate them. That said, there are lots of ways to fit DGLs in daily. For those who don’t have to watch their intake of dark green leafies, consider one portion to be two large fistfuls, raw (they shrink a lot when cooked).
So here are my tips for making that happen:
- In spring/summer, eat a green salad with lunch or dinner (or even breakfast, if it’s savory!) Sorry, iceberg lettuce doesn’t count—it’s full of fiber and water, but it just doesn’t have the nutritional punch of its darker relatives. However, if you’re out traveling the country on the interstate highway system, even an iceberg lettuce salad is better than no greens for the day!
- Sauté some greens and either mix them into your scrambled eggs, put them in an omelet, or use them as a base for eggs any style. This is a great place to use up planovers—those extra greens you cooked for last night’s dinner veggie.
- If you’re into smoothies, put in a handful of a milder-flavored variety in—you likely won’t even notice they’re there.
- Greens can be steamed and sautéed and served as a hot or room-temperature side dish.
- Greens can be cut into ribbons and added to just about any soup or stew.
- Greens can be chopped finely and added to casseroles, meatballs, meatloaf….
make the connection
If you’re not in the habit of eating dark green leafies and you don’t have a medical condition or take a medication that could be affected, try eating a serving of them daily—then notice how you feel, not just physically but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually/energetically. DGLs are magic, I promise you!