Last week, a new study blew my mind. I know eating healthier is important, but adding more greens and legumes could add 10 years to my lifespan.
For most of us, momentum implies a shift. The pendulum swings, and the impetus for change must begin again. Spring is coming, a natural season of renewal and the perfect time to renew. Momentum is what I need to catapult me into the glorious farm-stand season of summer.
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I switch direction best when I can step on the gas pedal. So now, spurred on by this new study, I am doing it with greens. From an Asian wok-tossed Chinese broccoli (gai lan) glazed with oyster sauce, to a Piedmontese escarole and spinach soup of symphonic proportions, there are so many ways to incorporate greens.
Greens, usually exiled permanently to the salad bowl, should be emancipated.
We all need the wonderful nutritive benefits of spinach, collards, kale, chards, mustards, lettuces, brassicas, dandelions and other dark greens. For starters, dark greens may lower the risk of hormone-related cancers, help protect DNA, and boost the body's ability to fight off cancer.
We all know about the ‘five a day’ plan, but how we take vegetables is important as well. Studies suggest that dietary fiber plays an important role in our body’s ability to suckle all the healthful benefits from the vegetables we eat. If we want to get the most out of all the greens we consume, it’s best to eat them ‘whole’, not juiced or in supplement form.
Greens are loaded with calcium, iron, phosphates, magnesium, potassium and vitamins like A, C, and E and there’s no better time to eat them than over the next six months, when greens are literally erupting from our local farms beginning in the south.
Eating a diet rich in dark leafy greens has specific nutritional benefits.
Potassium helps in keeping your nervous system working at peak efficiency, prevents strokes and aids in transferring nutrients through cell membranes.
Vitamin A is great for maintaining healthy eye, skin and gastrointestinal function, but since the carotenoids are compounds related to vitamin A and those compounds are known to prevent cancer by neutralizing the free radicals in the cells, these may be A’s biggest contribution to our wellness.
Vitamin C is responsible for over 300 metabolic activities in the human body and vitamin E is an antioxidant that contributes to normal cardiovascular function and prevents cancer.
How to Buy & Use Your Leafy Greens:
When buying greens, fresher is better.
Sounds easy, but you should not purchase any greens that have any yellowing, pocking, slimed stems, browning or wilting.
Wash just before using.
Greens, even heavy duty ones like collards, are very sensitive and should be washed and dried only before using.
Keep them damp, not wet.
When you get your greens home, roll them in lightly damp paper toweling and place the bundle in a zipper bag, pricking a few holes in the bag so that humidity doesn’t build up and promote spoilage.
Interesting ways to use your leafy greens
A blended salad.
For many of us, greens like spinach, cress, arugula, escarole, dandelion, and all the dark baby greens were first introduced via the salad bowl. It’s an easy no brainer way to incorporate more of these greens. I love mixing up a ‘blended salad’ in the food processor or blender as a great afternoon pick me up. In raw form, greens are great detoxifiers and give a big energy boost that lasts.
We’ve all had experience with bitter tasting vegetables. It’s a buzz-kill that we can all relate to. In fact while delicious when properly selected, washed, stored and used in a raw state, it’s really when cooked that these vegetables shine. Try braising collards, kales, cabbage and chards with sliced garlic, olive oil and pancetta for a great side dish.
Try a hard sear.
Sorrel, mustards, pea tips, beet greens, cress, and other tender greens don’t take well to long term cooking and are great candidates for a hard sear. Preheat a large wok or sauté pan over medium heat and add a teaspoon of oil. Follow that with several thick handfuls of tender greens and let them wilt in their own juices, tossing every 30 seconds or so until tender. Try seasoning the greens with dill, lemon, shallots and garlic when they go in the pan or toss with some high quality Chinese oyster sauce at the last second before serving.
Looking for ways to get more greens in?
Use greens like spinach or cress on your sandwiches.
If you use sturdy greens (Brussels sprouts, kale etc) in salads, julienne them very fine. Hand rub them with salt and lemon juice, then toss with a little olive oil and grated fresh aged parmesan.
Braise lettuces and season with a drizzle of soy sauce and lemon, or oyster sauce.
Forget the coffee. Try a blended salad for breakfast or as an afternoon pick me up.
Set yourself up to succeed. Once a week, buy several pounds of tender greens (chards, mustards, cress etc) and flash sauté them in a dry pan until wilted. Store in a zipper bag in your refrigerator and use as a stuffing for omelets, tossed in pastas and risottos, or used in soups as a last minute seasoning. Once you have them cooked and on hand, using them becomes easier.
Try pureeing wilted greens with hot broth and whisk in a little sea salt and crème fraiche (or sour cream) for a great quick hot tonic or restorative.
Try sautéing large volumes of tender greens and layer them into your next lasagna, or stuff them inside ravioli with some ricotta cheese.
Cook fish or chicken in a pound of mixed greens that have been seared, seasoned and pureed. Ever hear of Ghormeh Sabzi? I love this dish and I leave it as is, but add LOADS of mixed greens in recipes for this amazing Persian classic. I do mine without a recipe, but this one is very good. I just add 4 or 5 more cups of cooked and wilted mixed greens along with the spinach, add more spices and drop the beans. And I do mine with fish or chicken.
Hard sear a pound of mixed kales, and spicy brassicas. You may have to do it in batches… add olive oil, garlic, and hot chilies. Cook to combine. Lay in a lasagna pan and place several fish filets on top. Season and broil for a delicious healthy fast dinner.
What’s your favorite way to use greens? Share in the comments!
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