Spring is finally here and our resident Dietetic Assitant, Toni, has put together another fabulous article to feed our brain (and stomach!).
Top o’ the morning to ya! The luck of the Irish should be with us this month, as March is the month of St Patrick. There’s one thing I always associate with this month (and no I don’t mean Guinness!). The colour green! Naturally, that brings me to this month’s topic – leafy greens! There’s so many to choose from with a variety of flavours, different ways to prepare and nutritional benefits – squeezing them into your diet should be easy! As a group, they are rich in iron and folate which contribute to healthy blood cell production; vitamin K to promote wound healing; calcium which is important for healthy bones and teeth; magnesium which supports immune function (among other things!); and vitamin C which plays a variety of roles such as the production of collagen to keep our skin stretchy and supple! Try introducing the following leafy greens…
Kale, like broccoli and cabbage, is a member of the cruciferous family and comes in a variety of forms and colours - from green to purple, flat to curly. It is rich in beta carotene, which our body can use to form vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential to preserving our eye health (although having plenty of it will not make you see in the dark!). The best way to eat kale is to steam it (to preserve nutritional value), however many people like to add a little oil and salt before roasting it to eat it as a faux “crispy seaweed”. The versatility of kale leaves lots of opportunities to try it; add it to a roast dinner, or to a salad! You could even use it to make homemade kale pesto: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/kale-pesto
Cos lettuce, also known as romaine lettuce, is most often found in a Caesar salad – although the possibilities for this leafy green vegetable do not stop there! Due to the soft nature of its leaves, cos lettuce can be used in place of tortilla wraps, take a look at the recipes on this website! https://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/lettuce-wraps
Whilst low in fibre, cos lettuce is rich in the aforementioned vitamins and minerals. It is best eaten raw, so be sure to always wash before eating to remove any bacteria or dirt that may be hidden on the inner leaves!
Spinach, related to quinoa, is a leafy green flowering plant which is native to central and western Asia. This vegetable can be eaten fresh, canned, frozen, steamed... it truly is a versatile food. Raw it is great in salads, sandwiches or wraps, while cooked it is great with pasta or as a breakfast accompaniment. Whilst the cooking process can cause some nutrient losses, many nutrients remain unaffected and cooking spinach drastically reduces its volume, meaning you can eat much more of it! Its milder flavour makes it a great addition to smoothies, such as this one: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/strawberry-green-goddess-smoothie
Cabbage is generally classed as a leafy green although it also comes in red or white varieties, as well was looser leaved or tighter leaved types. It’s a great source of insoluble fibre which promotes healthy bowel health and helps to prevent bowel cancers. As there are so many different types, it can be added to so many different meals! Try adding shredded cabbage to salads using the tighter leaved varieties, or even add it to a stir fry. It’s also great fermented – try Sauerkraut or Kim Chi for all the nutritional benefits of cabbage with the added bonus that it is a probiotic! Probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria which results in a whole host of health benefits. Try making your own sauerkraut following this simple recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/simple-sauerkraut
Aside from the greens, get outside and enjoy the bright, crisp mornings! Take a stroll (whilst being mindful of social distancing guidelines!) and look at the daffodils; feed the ducks; take some pictures – who knows, maybe you’ll find a leprechaun with a pot of gold!