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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Importance of Leafy Greens

When making changes to one's diet, whether it is a major overhaul or a bit of tweaking, there is one thing I consider imperative above anything else you could do. One could exercise, meditate, eat more fruit, go organic, etc. But the benefits of all those things and more are multiplied a thousand fold (in my opinion) by the introduction of leafy greens.

Dark leafy greens are especially important to one's diet partly because they have so much chlorophyll (some people call it "plant blood." I have read it literally helps your body build blood.) Leafy greens are also incredibly alkalizing, which thereby makes your gut a better home for the good bacteria. 

It would be nearly impossible to overdose on leafy greens, they are so fibrous and filling. Many raw vegans juice greens so they can get a large amount of the nutrients available in them without filling up too quickly. I personally juice occasionally, but I stick mostly to smoothies and salads. I aim to have greens at every meal, or at least breakfast and lunch. 

For example, I might have a smoothie of roughly 4 cups spinach, a banana, 2 big spoons of peanut butter, and 2 cups almond milk for breakfast. If I am hungry but not starving for a real lunch yet, I have a second smoothie of maybe half a bunch swiss chard, pineapple, mango, strawberries, apple or whatever fruit I have to use up quickly (fresh or frozen). For lunch I might have a big salad of kale with other vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Sometimes (depending on whether Chris feels like having salad for dinner) I have a second salad at night of romaine and various mix-ins. Between all those meals I snack on fruit, nuts, seeds, almond yogurt, etc. 

Greens are my foundation- everything else I eat, while important, is secondary. Different greens provide different nutrients, so I try to mix it up. Kale, swiss chard, romaine and spinach are in frequent rotation because I like them most. But I also try to regularly eat collard greens, dandelion greens, arugula, butter lettuce, beet greens, turnip greens, and carrot greens for all the numerous benefits they provide. 

My suggestion to successfully eat a large amount of greens is to split it up among your meals throughout the day. Also, vary the delivery method. If you have a good juicer, juicing a bunch of greens first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day, and you can still eat a filling breakfast. With juicing, you can mask the strong bitterness of many greens by combining them with fruits (like apples or citrus) and/or other vegetables that happen to be on the sweet side (like beets or carrots.) Smoothies are another alternative and are great breakfasts for people in a rush and on the go. You can blend up a smoothie in just a few minutes, pour it into a travel cup, and take it on the road. Plus, you keep all that fiber when you opt for smoothies over juicing. 

I save the greens I like the most- kale, romaine, butter lettuce- for salads. That way I can take my time eating them and really enjoy. 

With greens (as with many fruits and vegetables), the nutrients and benefits are at their peak when they are eaten raw. However, there's nothing wrong with gently cooking them up sometimes. For example, I love broccoli rabe, or rappini, but only quickly sauteed in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and they must not be mushy or lose their vibrant green color. Some people may abhor the flavor of raw collard greens, and can detect it even disguised in a smoothie or juice. Wilting them slightly by sauteing is better than not eating them at all.
What greens are you partial to? How do you eat your greens?

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