Nutritionists love the idea of going green, especially if you start with your diet. They might look as plain as Clark Kent, but green plants are packed with Superman strength that do everything from fight cancer to help maintain healthy blood pressure.
We culled a top-five list after consulting with our experts: Nancy Maslonka, executive chef at Medical City Dallas Hospital and Medical City Children’s Hospital; Tom Shroeder, executive chef at Baylor University Medical Center (working with Stephanie Dean, registered and licensed dietitian at Baylor Outpatient Nutrition Counseling); and Amber Odom, registered and licensed dietitian at Cooper Clinic in Dallas.
These foods are readily available in your local market, and they’re good fresh or frozen. For those who want to grow them, start planting now or try in the fall. (Extreme summer heat is not kind to greens.)
Here’s our list, along with our experts’ tips on easy ways to slip them in your daily diet.
Popeye was wild about spinach for its iron; it turns out that’s the least of what this nutrient-dense green has to offer.
It’s a dizzying blend of:
All that and it has calcium, which contributes to healthy bones and teeth, muscle contraction, heart rhythm, blood coagulation, maintenance of cell membranes and helps protect against high blood pressure; iron, which plays a key role in carrying oxygen to cells; lutein, which helps prevent age-related macular degeneration in the eyes; and magnesium, which promotes healthy brain function and strong bones and muscles.
If you really want to put some greens on your plate, you can’t do better than colcannon, a dish of kale mixed with mashed potatoes.
Kale is also packed with the vitamins A, B9, C and K, and calcium and lutein, plus a few more tasty nutrients including potassium, which is important in brain and nerve function, muscle contraction, protein utilization and water balance. Potassium also helps maintain a normal blood pressure, aids in the healthy functioning of the smooth muscles in your heart and intestines, and helps prevent muscle soreness after a workout.
If we didn’t love collard greens for being a Southern comfort food, we would be sold on this cooking tip — use it as a wrap instead of tortillas.
Collard greens are bursting with vitamins A, B, C and K, plus lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that, like lutein, is believed to slow macular degeneration related to aging. It’s one of the best plant-based sources of calcium and a surprisingly high source of protein, which helps the body burn fat instead of muscle for healthier weight loss. Collards support the natural metabolism; aid in wound healing; help keep hair, skin, bones and nails healthy; and help form hormones, enzymes and immune system antibodies.
Swiss chard is filled with vitamins A, C and K, calcium, iron, lutein, potassium and zeaxanthin.
These cute little miniature trees may not have been a favorite of President George H.W. Bush, but they have inspired many others, including Molly Katzen, who named one of her cookbooks “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” (after her tasty recipe for a casserole in which broccoli stands up just like little trees).
Not only is broccoli full of vitamins A and B and calcium, but one cup contains 100 percent of the daily requirement of vitamins C and K.