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The humble spinach is popeye’s power food for a reason. The vegetable is jam packed with nutrients and is a source of iron, which is really useful if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. New research also suggests that particular membranes contained in spinach called thylakoids may help suppress appetite and help you manage your weight. Whilst spinach may not be the top ranking leafy green, many people really enjoy the taste and are happy to consumer this versatile green over other more bitter varieties. Use baby spinach in a light salad, in a smoothie or grilled along with your breakfast. You can also use snap frozen spinach for pies, soups, casseroles and quiches.
Note: Even though leafy greens to do contain iron, which is important for transporting oxygen around your body and giving you energy, the nutrient is poorly absorbed when it comes from a vegetable. To get an equivalent dose of iron that is in a 100g piece of beef, you would need to eat at least 3 cups of spinach.
Chicory is part of the bitter greens family and is very high in many nutrients, most notably polyphenols. Polyphenols are powerful micronutrients that are found in plants and serve an important role in preventing disease. In fact, research shows that people who consumer 650 mg of polyphenols per day have a 30% greater chance of living longer! We love chicory because just one cup provides about 235 mg of polyphenols – which is almost double spinach! Try adding a fresh serve of chopped chicory to your next salad. Simply rinse in water and mix through with a variety of other veggies.
Kale is an excellent source of nutrients like vitamins like A, C, K, and potassium and it also contains a fair amount of calcium. Compared to other mainstream vegetables – Kale is also really low in calories, meaning it doesn’t give you much energy, which can be a good and a bad thing. However, Kale can be really tricky to cook with because of it’s inherently bitter taste. Before cooking for kale, either rinse the green in water a couple of times to remove dirt and hard bits. Then massage kale with your fingers using extra virgin olive oil. This will help soften the texture of Kale and remove some of the bitterness.
Romain lettuce is a cousin of kale and contain high levels of folic acid (folate) which is has been shown to boost fertility in men. Folate also plays an important role for woman during pregnancy and can help manage depression. Romaine lettuce is often used in salad because it has a pleasant taste and is a healthier version of the iceberg lettuce leaf. The red parts of the romaine lettuce are event healthier than the green parts! If you’re trying to conceive, supercharge your partners fertility by pulling together a fresh, healthy cesar salad. Remember: go light on the bacon, cheese and creamy dressing.
Nutritionally, watercress is actually the most nutrient dense of all the green leafy vegetables. Gram for gram, watercress is more nutritious than all the other green vegetables. Watercress is really good for silky, soft skin containing 4x more beta carotene than an apple, and100% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K with just 45g. Often touted as a ‘beauty food’, watercress is rich in a nutrient called phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) which preliminary research suggests may help to fight cancer. The nutrition properties of watercress are best enjoyed raw. Try using the leafy green in raw in salads, cold-pressed juices, and sandwiches.
Often the culprit of dinner-time fights around the family dinner, broccoli gets a lot of attention for being a very healthy vegetables. And the rumours are correct. With very few calories in each serving, broccoli is a good source of vitamin C, A, potassium and folate. This green, leafy veg is particularly versatile as it can be used in stir-fries, salads, soups and much more. Kids can also be swayed to eat if they are allowed to turn broccoli into mini ‘tree’s on their dinner plate. If your kids are fussy eaters, allow them to use their imagination to make meal times more fun. Try eating broccoli raw or steamed and top with a fresh citrus dressing. If you’re making a pasta dish, why not add broccoli for some extra flavour and nutrition.
Whilst green vegetables are seriously healthy, remember that a healthy diet is about eating a variety of colourful foods rather than sticking to a few ‘superfoods’. Use a variety of green leafy vegetables, along with other colourful veggies to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
There is no single food that will do for you what healthy eating does.
Simply by looking at iceberg lettuce, you can tell that the humble household green doesn’t contain much nutrition. The colour of vegetables is usually a good indicator of how healthy they are. The darker the colour, the more nutrients there are. The lighter the colour, the fewer the nutrients. Therefore, we can tell that the bland-tasting iceberg lettuce is mostly water and doesn’t contain much nutrition. Usually, iceberg lettuce is used because is it tolerated by many people because of it’s subtle taste. Use iceberg lettuce when you’re entertaining fussy eaters or when you simply need to bulk out a salad. Chopping iceberg lettuce with a plastic knife, instead of a metal one, will help prevent browning around the edge of the leaf, keeping your salad fresher for longer.