The Nutritional Benefits of Leafy Green Vegetables

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It is not your imagination – leafy green vegetables have been getting a lot of press lately – and for good reason. Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables are probably the most nutrient dense foods we can consume. They are bursting with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber. . . you get the picture. By making leafy greens a regular part of your diet you will reap extraordinary health benefits including:

Cancer protection. Due mostly to high concentrations of Vitamin K and the carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants that abound in greens.

Lowered cholesterol and reduced risk of heart disease. The fiber in the greens binds bile acids, removing waste from the cardiovascular system.

Improved overall eye health. Move over carrots, it turns out that greens are even more beneficial for our eyes. Greens contain large amounts of the phytonutrients zeaxanthin and lutein (not found in significant amounts in carrots, pumpkins, bell peppers, etc.) which are particularly beneficial in decreasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Beneficial for people with diabetes. Chard is especially good at regulating the body’s blood sugar levels.

Beneficial for pregnant women. Greens are rich in folic acid which is necessary for healthy fetal development.

Beneficial for people suffering from anemia, fatigue, and mental strain. Greens are loaded with the dark-green plant “blood” chlorophyll which helps to cleanse and build healthy blood in our bodies – essential in maintaining vigor.

To get the most benefit from your greens try to rotate weekly between the crucifers (kale, collards, cabbage and arugula), amaranths (chard, spinach, beet greens), and asteraceaes (romaine lettuce, dandelion greens). Each “family” has its own unique DNA structure and associated phytonutrients. If you need more calcium in your diet, kale is the answer. Looking for a detox? Try dandelion greens. So diversify!

All raw leafy greens carry a small amount of natural toxins that protect the plants from pests. If consumed in very large quantities (we are talking 2-3 bunches daily) the alkaloid toxins can build up in our lymphatic system. Alkaloid buildup is very rare and can be prevented by rotating your greens. People with hypothyroidism should be particularly vigilant about rotating between the different families of greens.
People on anticoagulants such as warfarin should avoid consuming large quantities of foods rich in vitamin K as this vitamin may interfere with the drugs.
People suffering from gout and arthritis or who are prone to kidney stone formation should be cautious about consuming large quantities of spinach due to its high levels of uric acid and oxalic acid.

 

Kale Smoothie
Makes two (2) 12 oz. servings
Ingredients:
2 cups kale leaves – packed (about 1 bunch or 5 oz)
2 cups frozen strawberries (about ½ basket or 8 oz)
1 ripe banana
½ scoop vanilla protein powder (I use MRM veggie protein in the green container – you can find it at New Leaf)
2/3 cup plain yogurt (I use low fat but this is a personal choice)
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
2/3 cup coconut water

Method:
Remove tender kale leaves from stalks, compost stalks. Combine all ingredients except the coconut water in a blender. Blend on high, adding coconut water a little at a time. If I add the coconut water all at once I get big chunks of kale in my smoothie that will not break down. The smoothie needs to be thick enough to force the kale towards the blades. Once the kale is fully incorporated you can add as much liquid as needed to reach the desired consistency for your smoothie.

Variations:
For a sweeter smoothie try using 1 cup peaches and 1 cup strawberries, or replace the plain yogurt with vanilla.
For a tarter smoothie and an added boost of Vitamin C replace the almond milk and coconut water with fresh squeezed orange juice.
For an antioxidant boost add a handful of blueberries – the season just ended so I hope you have your freezer stocked!
Rotate your greens! Try this recipe with chard, spinach, or dandelion greens.

Tips:
Wash (or at the very least soak) your blender and serving glasses right after using – the little bits of kale and protein powder will cement themselves onto the glass and become a very difficult to clean off later.
Get your peaches from Stackhouse or Lone Oak Ranch and your strawberries from Live Earth Farm right here at the SV market! Buy fruit during peak season (like, now) and freeze in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

 

Chard Quifflé (Quiche – Soufflé Hybrid)

Makes 4 – 6 servings
Ingredients:
12 oz. swiss chard leaves (about 3 bunches)
1 medium yellow onion – chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz. chevre (soft goat cheese)
½ cup milk (I use whole but this is a personal choice)
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan + additional for sprinkling on top
8 eggs
½ Tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Remove goat cheese from fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Remove stalks from chard leaves. Stack leaves on top of one another and slice into ½ inch ribbons, then turn the cutting board 90⁰ and slice the other way so you have chopped chard pieces. Finely chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan with tall sides to contain all the chard. Sauté the onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes until just starting to brown. Add the chard and cook about 3 minutes, stirring and turning, until the chard is just wilted and still very green. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl mix the softened goat cheese and milk with a fork until the mixture resembles pudding. In a large bowl beat the eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add red chili flakes (if using). Mix the milk/chevre mixture into the bowl of eggs. Add the shredded cheddar, ¼ cup parmesan, and cooled chard/onion mixture until all of the ingredients are combined. Pour egg/chard mixture into a round buttered casserole dish (8 to 9 inches in diameter). Top with more grated parmesan.

Bake for one hour until the edges are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing into wedges. Serve hot.

Although it sounds like a breakfast offering, my favorite way to enjoy this dish is with a side green salad and a glass of white wine for dinner.

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About beefruitfulfarms

Bee Fruitful Farms is owned and operated by the Draper Family. Sue Draper, children: Kelsey and Matt. Mandy Draper (Matt's wife) their two children: Danica (4) and Caroline (2) Kelsey Draper-Phillips & husband, Jeremy Phillips & their two children: Kadelynn (10) and Jamison (8) **To find out more about these great folks and their beautiful story please read the Sept 12th, 2014 blog post titled "Meet the family behind Bee Fruitful Farms" https://beefruitfulfarms.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/meet-the-family-behind-bee-fruitful-farms/
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