Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dark Leafy Greens

Some say there should be a new food group -- dark leafy greens. They are in a class of their own -- far surpassing any other foods in nutrients we know about and those yet to be discovered.

I'm not the expert on greens, but I've read from several. Victoria Boutenko writes all about how our diet should be FILLED with greens in her book "Green for Life." She didn't start out liking greens. I'm like her. It took some work to get me to eat my greens. I have a hard time making myself fix salads. I'd much rather have a salad that someone else made. If I make my own, I prefer a sweet twist to it -- adding mango slices, strawberries, or raspberries. Making green smoothies, like Victoria talks about in her book is a wonderful solution for a sweet-tooth like me because it gives a sweet base -- so much so that I hardly notice I'm drinking down a few handfuls of greens at the same time.

My favorite nutritional expert, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, talks about the nutritional superiority of greens in all 3 of his books that I've read (or listened to -- I'm have his latest book "Eat for Health" on audio-CD). His other books "Eat to Live" and "Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right" tell the vital importance of eating greens in order to have a strong enough immune system to fight diseases, allergies, and asthma. (I separate those 3 although they could all be considered illnesses).

I'll add some nutritional studies and facts to this post later on (check back early next week), but for now, I just want to give you some tips on getting your greens.

  1. Learn to make (and enjoy) green smoothies. Smoothies have become chic and popular over the past 5 years or so. I started out making them like milkshakes -- using ice cream and yogurt and fruit. I later learned I could make them without dairy (and refined sugar!) and used soy milk or fruit juice as a base. Now I use very little juice, sometimes fresh juiced juice or just water (or a watery-fruit as a base -- like grapes) and always add something frozen to give it that shake sensation. I usually have berries in the freezer and sometimes have chunks of peaches or bananas frozen too. I find if I have a little liquid to get the blender working well, some berries and something sweeter and creamier like bananas, peaches, or mangoes, it's a great tasting smoothie. Next I throw in the greens. My favorite greens for smoothies are kale and spinach. When I use kale, I make sure I tear off the leaves and not put in the stalks. Maybe a Vita-Mix or Blend-tec could handle the stalks, but my blender would probably get jammed. I do use the whole stem for juicing though (see next tip). An internet friend of mine, Robyn Openshaw-Pay has a website called where she talks all about the benefits of green smoothies. She has other interesting information on nutrition there as well (debunking nutrition myths in her newsletter) and plenty of ideas on how to get your family eating healthy foods.
  2. Start juicing! I wrote a post about juicing back in February. Check it out for the finer details -- (I haven't the slightest idea what I wrote about it now :)). I'll just add now that it's a great way to get some amazing phytonutrients absorbed into your body quickly. The freshness of it will make you smile. If it doesn't, keep trying. I used to poo-poo juicing any vegetables (I'm sure the thought of juicing greens would have sent me running to the cookie aisle in the nearby grocery store), but now I just love it. It didn't take me long to become converted to green juice. I think I probably mentioned this in my previous post on juicing, but when you juice greens, very little comes out at first. It's important to juice some more watery produce afterwards (like apples or cucumbers) to get more greens out. My favorite greens to juice are chard and collard greens.
  3. Buy some Superfood product. If it's been processed or pasteurized, it's not going to be as healthy as making it yourself, but if you don't have the time or can't expend the effort right now, start off with Odwalla Superfood. It tastes wonderful and can really give you a boost. You don't have to drink a full glass to get the benefits -- just a bit. I don't know if your grandmother was like mine and had those tiny little glasses for juice in the morning. We were never allowed seconds (or heaven forbid, a big cup). A tiny bit was just enough to get us going for the day. The same is true for drinking Superfood. I've also bought the Naked Juice Superfood before when traveling. It's tasty and enlivening too. It's more of a juice than the thicker smoothie version by Odwalla. But it's still natural and great.
  4. Okay, I'll add making salads. Eventually I'll get good at this and will write a whole post about it. I promise. (Oh dear, what have I said?) But yes, salads are a great source of getting your greens too. Just be careful not to add artificial foods like white flour croutons or sugar-laden Craisins. Yes, sad to know those Craisins aren't the bounty we'd all hoped for. (I used to eat them by the cupful and build my salads around them!) Also beware of the dressings you use. You can make your own dressings or buy some that are natural (and just use a bit). You're thinking now, "No wonder she doesn't like salads much!" :) No, I do, once I start eating them. I'm just stubborn and will break through this just like I have so many other things I've resisted with eating better.
  5. Make soups and sauces. Dr. Furhman lists the most nutrient dense foods in his books as not just the dark leafy greens (those are the very highest though), but also peppers, cabbage, and broccoli. I've found a handy tool for making soups and sauces is the hand blender (like the ones by Braun that used to be so popular). I start with a marinara sauce, add in spinach, then blend away and my kids don't even know it's there. I do this with other vegetables too just to make the recipe thicker. Kale is also good cooked. (I still prefer it in my smoothies though -- that's the best way to get the maximum nutrients from it!)
  6. Dehydrate. I don't know if you have a dehydrator or not. But if you do, you can make savory crackers with greens like parsley, basil, and kale. I've made some that are sooooo tasty. It's just a bonus to know I'm eating some greens while chomping down on a crunchy snack!
  7. Make a wrap w/greens. You know how wraps became the chic way to have a sandwich a few years ago using flour tortillas. Well, you can make wraps with long lettuce leaves like romaine instead of using bread. There are plenty of raw recipes that are tasty and filling. It's been awhile since I've made any. So that will be another goal for me -- to start making them again so I can share recipes and tell you which are my favorites. You may be able to search "wrap" at They have a ton of great recipes. Here's one I just found there just now -- Salad Wrap Recipe. Remember, you don't have to be a raw foodist to enjoy raw food in your current diet!
Okay, I think that's about it. (I was tempted to say "that's a wrap!" but I held my tongue, or my fingers??? Well, almost anyway).

While I've learned to appreciate and enjoy my greens more in the past few years, I still don't eat as many as my body needs.

So I'm going to set a 30 day goal once I get back from traveling this weekend to eat my greens 3x a day. (I apologize to those of you who have already read my reneeonrawfood blog post today and see me repeating myself). I'll let you know how I do. And I'll be sure to share recipes as I discover new ways to enjoy my greens!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I love green smoothies and fresh green juice! They're fun, delicious, soooo nutritious, high energy, filling... I could go on and on :)

    Cheers to green smoothies and green juices!