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(post, Janice Collins)
A diet rich in leafy greens is super-healthy and help our body meet and exceed nutritional requirements. Power-packed kale, spinach, and collard greens not only make your body healthy, but is also great for your hair and skin. All leafy greens are healthy, but some are more so. Make greens a regular part of your diet. Do you know that a glass of wholesome green smoothie in the morning may help you meet most of your daily nutritional requirements? Our diets lean towards carbs, fats and sugars considerably. Pre-cooked meals and restaurants take outs not only fall short on the nutrition front, but also pack in more of sodium, fats and other bad stuff that do long-term damage to our body. On the other hand, green leafy veggies are easy to digest, are fiber rich and provide a range of nutrients including Vitamin K, calcium, carotenoids, Vitamin B5 and iron. If you are a non-green person and cannot bear munching on spinach and broccoli every day, it would be helpful for you to know the veggies that pack in the most punch for their bite. Also, fresh veggies are pricey which detracts many buyers. Here are the best green veggies that you must absolutely and positively eat to stay healthy, fit and fine. Also, they are affordable, and can be frozen to preserve freshness and nutrition. 1. Swiss Chard Swiss Chard has wide leaves and come in two varieties – one with red colored stems and veins, and the other with white stems and veins. Both have a slightly bitter, beet-like taste and have a soft texture which makes it great for sautéing. Swiss Chard is a rich source of calcium, and Vitamin K, A and C. High fiber content helps keep cholesterol in check and potassium helps maintain sugar levels. The antioxidants present in the veggie promote heart health and also help fight harmful free radicals that cause ageing and degeneration of cells. The high iron content keeps your hemoglobin levels at a desirable level and the Vitamin A protects your eyes from muscular degeneration. B complex vitamins are necessary for a range of body functions and Swiss chard has them in abundance. Swiss chard can be eaten raw as part of salads or you can sauté them for absolutely delicious results. 2. Collard Greens Collard greens are a typical Southern staple and are part of wholesome, filling and satisfying dishes. They taste great with ham and pork, and traditional Southern dishes are healthy with the right mix of proteins, fiber and green veggies. Collards are rich in Vitamins K, C, A and folate. They are also great detoxifying agents and the natural phytochemicals present in the veggie nourish cleaning systems of our body. Vitamin K present in collard greens ensures strong bones and promotes cell health. It also promotes neural health and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. What sets collards apart from other leafy greens is the exceptionally high content of fiber in them. Dietary fiber is critical for maintaining bowel health and helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. Fibrous diet also fights hemorrhoids and other bowel and colon related problems. In Southern style cooking collard greens are slow cooked with a smoked turkey leg, wings or neck bones, or with ham hocks. Essentially boiled collards are soul-food staple but try to eat them steamed, braised or sautéed as well for maximum health benefits. Remember that if you do not drink the broth you will miss out on many nutrients. 3. Kale Kale is the blue-eyed wonder of the health industry, and there are enough and more reasons why so. Kale is packed with heart-healthy anti-oxidants and is a rich source of Vitamin C and beta-carotene. Kale is also abundant in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found to have marked powers in fighting vision loss due to ageing. Another reason why kale scores with health enthusiasts is its potent cancer-fighting capabilities. It is rich in glucosinolates and kaempherol that fight cancer-causing free radicals. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen bones and promote heart health. Kale has a very high concentration of calcium, folates and potassium that go to make it a super food in all aspects. Kale has firmer leaves and requires more cooking time than other greens. The best way of cooking is sear them with chopped onions and braise in vegetable stock for a few minutes. You can also braise them with tahini and cook in chicken broth along with garlic and seasoning. 4. Mustard Greens Mustard greens spell rustic cooking and homely warmth like no other. They come from the same plants that produce mustards and have a spicy, peppery taste that can be toned down if you add acids like vinegar or lemon juice towards the end of cooking. Mustard greens are a rich source of beta-carotene. These compounds get converted into vitamin A in our body and play a very important role in maintaining the health of our eyes and bones. Bone-building Vitamin K, immunity-boosting Vitamin C and gut-healthy fibers are all present in mustard greens. Magnesium and vitamin C found in mustard greens act together to help lung tissues stay un-constricted and relaxed, and are especially necessary for smokers who have compromised lung health. Regular consumption of mustard greens will help control inflammation and prevent emphysema. Magnesium also helps keep blood pressure under check. Mustard greens are also abundant in glucosinolates that are essential for detoxing and maintaining the overall health of our body. Glucosinolates give the distinctive pungent taste to mustard greens and other veggies like horseradish and cabbage in which they are present. They are responsible for the excellent cancer-fighting abilities of these cruciferous veggies. Mustard greens can be eaten raw, juiced, braised, steamed or blanched. They go well in salads as well as in smoothies. Mustard greens are versatile veggies that can be eaten in a variety of healthy ways. 5. Microgreens Microgreens are fully sprouted and miniature greens of vegetables like kale, mustard greens, arugula, pea shoots and broccoli. They are smaller than ‘baby greens’ but are potent powerhouses, packed with nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. They have a high concentration of nutrients to support their growth. They are mini versions of their grown-up counterparts and taste great in salads, soups and broths, as garnishes and in sandwiches. Another reason to eat them? Studies have found that they are up to six times as nutritious as their mature counterparts! Since they do not sit for long, many stores offer discounts on these healthy veggies before they go bad. So keep your eyes open and grab the freebies as they come along. Conclusion Greens may not match up in taste to fried chicken or mac n cheese, but the benefits are so many that we cannot afford not to eat them. Try out new recipes or pair them with your favorite dishes to make them a part of your regular diet. In no time you will be able to see the benefits of juicy, crunchy and fresh greens in a much healthier and more beautiful you.