A plate brimming with leafy greens would not be everyone’s ideal choice for nourishment, but they are packed with fibre as well as vitamins and minerals. ‘Eat your greens’ is a frequent phrase used by parents to children who have no desire to consume any vegetables on their plates when they are young. But are you following this principle yourself?
We need greens, lots of them and they need not be bland, with so many creative ways to use them in your diet. They are not a punishment for previous bad dietary habits!
Medical professionals and scientists frequently review food items that should be included in our weekly diets. Chefs are constantly looking for ways to make greens ‘more palatable’, but the buzz for the last few years has been microgreens and their role in your health. With increased mortality reported due to strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and other irregularities connected to heart disease, the cardiovascular system is being monitored more than ever.
Varieties of leafy greens
All greens contain vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fibre, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium, and the darker the greens, the more intense the nutrient intake becomes. Folate and iron are essential ingredients particularly for the blood to fulfil its main function – that of delivering oxygen throughout the body via your organs and cells. Without these essentials, you are susceptible to conditions such as anaemia.
Most leafy greens are grown here in the UK, although supermarkets do not always have a vast selection. Markets and specialist greengrocers are your best bet, or even grow your own!
Types of greens include:
- Beet Greens Microgreens
- Bok choy Rocket
- Cabbage Romaine Lettuce
- Collard Spinach
- Endive Swiss Chard
- Kale Turnip Greens
There are plenty of other varieties, but let us highlight microgreens, as many people would not know what they are. Essentially, they are the seedlings of immature plants, and would also include herbs such as parsley, mustard and cress or basil.
The difference between microgreens and say ‘baby’ greens as they are advertised, is purely the size. Baby greens will continue to grow even after cutting from the plant roots, but microgreens will not. Remember though, they are worth every bit of their 2-inch nutritional life!
There are plenty of other green vegetables that are nutrient dense, such as green peppers, brussels sprouts, fennel, celery and green beans, which whilst not particularly leafy, definitely need to be included in the list of heart and blood rich nutrients, for both circulation, transportation of oxygen through the blood and also for your immune system.
Do leafy greens lose nutritional value when cooked?
Yes, some do, but most will retain enough of the essential vitamins. Overcooking (i.e boiling to death!) will also degrade the vitamin content, particularly in spinach and kale.
If you are going to cook these, you are better to do so in only a little water, by steaming, stir frying and even microwaving. Fortunately, many green vegetables taste better and are more nutritious when eaten raw, such as lettuce, spinach and watercress. This way you will not lose out on vitamins such as B and C.
If you are not interested in the flavour, then you are unlikely to want to eat it. Put plenty of colour on your plate, after all, we eat with our eyes at first.