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Mom always said to “eat your greens”

Another Meaning to Going GreenFor generations we have heard that we need to eat our green vegetables.  Most people who told you to eat your green vegetables growing up probably didn’t even know why they are so important to eat.  We are continually learning more and more benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and that includes the many benefits of green vegetables.  Most people know that vegetables contain vitamins and minerals but what a lot of people don’t know is that vegetables, including green vegetables, are chalked full of phytonutrients (plant nutrients).  Phytonutrients help plants fight off disease; mold, bacteria, fungus, bugs, etc.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to keeping you alive.  Phytonutrients, however, are not essential to keeping you alive but what they do is very extraordinary.  They help your body function at its best and can help prevent many diseases including cancer.  Thousands of phytonutrients have been discovered but only hundreds have been studied in depth.  Research supports that phytonutrients work best when combined with other phytonutrients.  Some fruits and vegetables have a hundred or more phytonutrients.  What this means is that it is best to eat phytonutrients and not seek them from a pill, powder, liquid or other type of supplement.  Since most supplements don’t contain hundreds of types of phytonutrients they aren’t going to be as effective as eating the whole plant.  Plus, the processing that plants undergo as they are put into supplement form may make their phytonutrients less effective.

If that hasn’t convinced you to eat your greens, how about the fact that they are low in calories and high in fiber.  Making them a great way to fill up and not out.  In other words, they are a great food to help you lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Here are some suggestions on ways to get in some dark green vegetables everyday:

  1. Pack a vegetable in your lunch every day.  Even if you are having a carry-in or a catered lunch at work add your vegetable to whatever is being provided.
  2. Dark leafy greens piled high on a sandwich or in a wrap are a great way to get at least 1/2 a cup in.  Because leafy greens are so light and fluffy 1 cup of greens actually only counts as 1/2 cup toward your vegetable intake.
  3. Buy a bag of broccoli that is already cut up.  It doesn’t get much easier than opening a bag and munching away.  You can also add the pre-cut broccoli to a stir-fry, steam it, or add it to your spaghetti sauce.
  4. Use dark leafy greens, such as spinach, arugula, romaine, or field greens, instead of iceberg lettuce when you make a salad.
  5. Dice up some green peppers and load them on your pizza or stuff your omelet with them.  You can also cut them into strips and crunch away!
  6. If you don’t like cutting vegetable try asparagus.  After washing it, hold a stalk with both hands about a quarter to a third of the way up from the bottom and bend it in half.  It will snap in 2, discard the fibrous bottom portion and steam the rest.  Kids love to help with this too.

So I challenge you to eat 1 cup of green vegetables everyday.  While 1 cup of vegetables per day is well below the recommended amount for most people this should leave plenty of room for all the other colors of vegetables in your daily diet.

Dina Garcia, RD, LDN
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