Popeye was on to something. When the sailor ate spinach, he morphed into a superhero—with strength to fight off his enemies.
Though your biceps won’t explode when you down a can of spinach, dark green leafy vegetables are nearly superheroes.
Their protection becomes our protection
Phytochemicals protect plants from their enemies. When we eat them we absorb the compounds that in turn strengthen our cells to fight off our enemies: heart disease, stroke, brain deterioration, diabetes, and protect against certain types of cancers.
Bam! Reduce inflammation
Boom! Improve blood pressure
Pow! Increase artery flexibility
Vegetables are a gold mine of good
Vegetables (and fruits) supply a number of nutrients that are underconsumed by many of us:
- Vitamins A, C, K
- Magnesium and folate
Potassium is the superhero against sodium. Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure by blunting the effects of sodium on blood pressure, plus it decreases bone loss, and may help reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. Vegetables with more potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (including juice and red pasta sauce), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans. Adequate intake is 4700 mg per day. For reference, a cup of raw spinach has 167 mg of potassium, a cup of sweet potato has 448 and a cup of chopped tomato has 427.
Green, leafy vegetables also supply eye-friendly compounds—vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin—which may reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Americans.
Dark green leafy vegetables are so power-packed that they are specifically called out in nutrition recommendations as foods to eat more often.
How often? 1 1/2 to 2 cups per week.
Which ones? Broccoli, spinach, leafy salad greens (including romaine lettuce), collards, bok choy, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and green herbs such as parsley and cilantro.
Why these? Many of these vegetables tend to be spicy, strong smelling or bitter. Not a great sales sheet. Sulforaphane is responsible for the “rotten egg” smell when you overcook them. Glucosinolates and sinigrin create the bitterness. The more glucosinolates, the more bitter. The more glucosinolates, the better the healthy dividends.
Stir-frying, steaming, or a quick sauté are cooking styles that maximize flavor and minimize odor. Smaller pieces cook faster, so a smaller slice or dice is a good way to go. Because they tend toward the bitter side, adding other ingredients may increase their number of Likes!
- Toss shredded red cabbage with fresh chopped oranges, a little rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil.
- Shred raw Brussels sprouts in the food processor and toss with vinaigrette. Sprinkle toasted walnuts and a bit of Parmesan cheese over top. Or try this pasta recipe.
At the store, choose those that look perky, not wilted or yellow. Store in the crisper drawer with the moisture level slide closed to help retain moisture. And eat as soon as you can to maximize the nutrition.
- Make a salad with raw Brussels sprouts
- Make a wrap with tuna, chicken or turkey and add romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula
- Add collard greens, kale or mustard greens into your favorite soup
- Layer cabbage and broccoli with grains
- Stir-fry broccoli for a noodle bowl
Why I Like Linguini with Swiss Chard
- I don’t just like the flavor, I love this simple dish!
- It comes together in 15 minutes.
- It is filled with super delish foods that deliver all sorts of health benefits.
Linguini with Swiss Chard
I struggled with what to name this recipe because people may be unfamiliar with Swiss Chard. Think of this as pasta with greens. Swiss chard, spinach, kale, mustard or collard greens all work. Some can be tougher than others so may take a little longer to cook.
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 10
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 4
- 1 pound linguini, reserve some pasta water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 2-ounce tin anchovies
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 10-ounce bags mixed greens (kale, chard, spinach)
- 1/2 lemon, zested, juiced
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Cook the pasta according to package directions. When pasta is almost done, still a bit of a bite when you taste one, scoop up a cup of the pasta water, then drain pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. In about 2 minutes add anchovies and capers, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up anchovies. Add garlic and red chile flakes, cook 2 minutes, stirring so that garlic does not burn. Add lemon zest, greens and ½ cup pasta water. As they cook, the greens will shrink. Stir to combine ingredients. Remove garlic cloves. Add cooked pasta. Stir to mix together. Squeeze lemon juice over top. Sprinkle pine nuts over right before serving.