Eat Your Greens
July 27, 2006--Greens are nutritional powerhouses. Vegetable greens include kale, collards, mustards, chards and bok choy as some prime examples.
Most greens belong to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. When these plants bolt, flowers are yellow and the four petals resemble a cross, therefore they're cruciferous. Chards come in a variety of colors and belong to the same family as beets.
In the U.S. lettuce outranks greens by popularity, but greens are more nutrient dense, containing benefits such as calcium, vitamins, antioxidants like beta carotene and lutein, plus more dietary fiber. Lutein is especially good for the eyes.
If you choose lettuce, darker varieties are highest in nutrients. Generally, the more colorful your diet, the better. Color signals more antioxidants.
Some find greens bitter. Stir-frying with combinations of mustard seed, cumin, fennel, pepper, onion and garlic can be tasty. Or try adding shredded coconut, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, raisins or dried, sweetened cranberries. Greens can be blanched and added to salads, soups, omelets, quiche and lasagna. A small amount of oil in greens preparation helps with nutrient absorption.
Spring and early summer are great times to find fresh greens from local farmers markets. They're also easily grown in backyards or pots. If started in late summer, many grow through fall and can winter well in Western Washington. Winter greens can be slightly sweeter since cruciferous plants produce sugars to keep from freezing.
Writer: Gowsala Sivam, PhD, professor of basic sciences, Bastyr University
Republished with permission from Seattle Post-Intelligencer