Just a couple more weeks and spring will be here, adding a blanket of green to all the bare trees, fields and gardening beds around us. As the world turns more green, why not add a little green to our diets, too? Dark, leafy greens pack a serious punch when it comes to nutrient delivery, and it’s recommended that we eat about 1.5 cups of them each week. Keep reading to learn more about why dark, leafy greens are important for your health and how to add more to your meals. There’s no time like the present to add superfoods to your diet and help yourself feel and function better.
What are dark greens and why are they important?
Dark leafy green vegetables are “powerhouse” vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a powerhouse vegetable supplies 10 percent or more of the daily value of 17 qualifying nutrients per 100 calories, on average. From antioxidants and vitamin A to magnesium and potassium, these vegetables provide some crucial nutrients. Plus, they also provide macronutrients such as complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein.
Some of the best powerhouse vegetables include watercress, chard, beet greens, spinach, and chicory. The runners-up include Chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, and lettuce.
How much do you really need?
Almost 90 percent of Americans don’t get enough vegetables, according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is recommended that adults eat 2.5 cups of vegetables each day (that’s 17.5 cups a week!), including about 1.5 cups of dark green vegetables each week.
If you consider your usual diet and recognize that you could step up your vegetable game, know that you are not alone! Keep reading below for some easy ideas for adding more powerhouse vegetables to your regular rotation of meals.
How do you add more dark green vegetables to your life?
Besides adding a helping of vegetables to every meal you eat, there are plenty of simple ways you can get more of those leafy greens into your belly. Here are some ideas from Happy Family Organics:
- Add a little healthy fat. That could mean adding some avocado to your spinach salad or sautéing your broccoli in a little olive oil. It adds some flavor, and it helps with nutrient absorption!
- Buy some of your greens in frozen form. This makes it easy to add veggies to stir-fries or soups, and it takes off that pressure of having to use them within the week.
- Don’t throw away your vegetable tops! Keep the tops of root vegetables like carrots, radishes and beets and sauté them or add them to salads, green juices or soups.
- Take up gardening. Community Action Services has several community gardens in Provo where you and your family can rent a plot and take home your produce at the end of the season. It’s a great way to get excited about eating vegetables!
Try some new recipes:
- This simple salad with a homemade mustard vinaigrette from Food & Style. Seasonal baby greens, cherry tomatoes, pinenuts and a tangy vinaigrette combine for a mouthwatering salad.
- This green soup from The Full Helping, which has plenty of potatoes to keep it from tasting too “green.” Sauté your onion, garlic and ginger, add your potatoes or broth and then add in your broccoli and other dark green vegetables. Puree in a blender, add some milk, and voila!
- These tasty Asian lettuce wraps from Tastes Better From Scratch. The rice vinegar and green onions really set off this tasty meal. Use Boston Bib or romaine for best results.
- This super-green kale pesto to add on top of pizza, pasta or garlic flatbread, from Minimalist Baker. Blend together basil, parsley, kale, nuts or seeds, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and salt. Add olive oil until you achieve your desired consistency.
Dark, leafy greens really are a superfood, so try to eat about 1.5 to 2 cups each week. There are simple ways to add more leafy greens to your diet, from making a tasty salad to hiding kale in your pesto. As the world turns green this spring, turn your diet green, too, and enjoy how it makes you feel.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.