Green leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, containing high amounts of essential vitamins, fibre and minerals and depending on the preparation, nearly zero cost to any daily SmartPoints target. Canada’s Food Guide recommends one to two servings of greens daily for optimum health; despite this recommendation the results of a 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey showed that less than 40 per cent of Canadian women are eating enough fruits and vegetables per day. In the past greens have had an unfair reputation, often due to how they’re prepared as well as the types of greens that are available year-round. Long gone are the days when eating greens meant suffering through overcooked spinach and boring iceberg lettuce salads. With the variety of greens available in grocery stores, it’s become incredibly easy to make them a regular addition to any meal plan.
It’s easy being green
Green leafy vegetables include a wide array of flavours and textures, some delicate and sweet when eaten raw and some tough and in need of cooking before being eaten. Spinach, watercress, arugula, cilantro, sorrel, parsley, romaine, and other lettuces are all types of greens that can be eaten without being cooked. Kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, collard greens, beet and turnip greens, and rapini are greens that are usually prepped and cooked before being eaten.
While nutritional values vary for each type of green, the overall beneficial nutritional profile of these plants is remarkable. High in iron, calcium, fibre, magnesium, folic acid, beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and K, the health benefits of eating plenty of leafy greens have been scientifically proven to show that they contribute to lower cancer and heart disease rates as well as having a low glycemic index, especially important for individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Spruce up your salads
Eating a variety of green leafy vegetables opens the door to creativity in the kitchen and salads are a great way to try different types of greens in their most basic element. Take care when preparing them, make sure everything is cleaned in cold water and dried on a clean kitchen towel or in a salad spinner. Cut away any thick stems and tear or cut the greens into small pieces. Raw kale benefits from a massage before being used in a salad; add torn kale pieces to a bowl, add a few drops of olive oil and lemon, and massage the kale for three to five minutes, until the leaves soften and the kale becomes a vivid green colour. Use the kale right away or you can refrigerate it for two to three days.
Rethink fresh leafy herbs and tender greens such as parsley, cilantro, and watercress. Each of these delicate greens offers distinct flavour that can shine alone in a salad or add freshness to more hearty ingredients. Toss with a simple vinaigrette before serving or pair more robust greens with a tahini, yogurt, and lemon juice dressing.
Make greens a part of your day
Greens can be added to many recipes to boost their nutritional value and can be a great way to add bulk to a meal when remaining daily SmartPoints are running low. Green smoothies are highly nutritious and easy to make. Add one handful or more of spinach or other mildly flavoured green to a fruit-based smoothie, boosting the nutritional value of the smoothie, while the fruit masks any verdant tastes. Potatoes and yams are delicious mashed up with some cooked and finely shredded Swiss chard, collard greens, or kale. Cooked greens make an excellent filling for omelettes, paninis, calzones, and burritos as well as making a tasty addition to ground meat used in meatloaf and meatballs. Raw collard greens and cabbage can make excellent wrap substitutes; their leaves are strong enough not to tear and malleable enough to wrap around cold or hot fillings.