There are five universally accepted tastes that stimulate and are perceived by our taste buds: sweet, salt, sour, umami (savory) and bitter. We have most of the flavors covered nicely, especially sweet and salt. However, the most ignored flavor in our diet and therefore the most missing food in modern diets is bitter leafy green vegetables. Learning to cook and eat greens is essential to creating health and one of my number one recommendations to clients. Most of us go to the regulars like broccoli or spinach, which are fantastic and popular and absolutely count. But there are so many more nutrient-rich vegetables to choose from and try including collard greens, kale, arugula, mustard greens, bok choy, watercress, lettuces, mesclun, wild greens and many others.
When you nourish yourself with greens you will naturally crowd out the foods that are less healthy. In a sense greens help build your ‘natural rain forest’ and strengthen your blood and respiratory systems. Green is also associated with renewal, refreshment and vital energy. If you look at a collard green, it looks very much like the structure of a lung. Although not necessarily scientific, this is called the law of signatures, where the food looks like the organs or structures of the body it nourishes. Think of the four chambers of a tomato and the heart, the various layers of a carrot and an eye, the walnut and the brain, and celery and bones.
Nutritionally, greens are also very high in the very vitamins and minerals we are also missing — especially magnesium and potassium — but are also rich in phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. Greens have lots of fiber, folate, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.
Some of the benefits of eating dark leafy greens include:
- blood purification
- cancer prevention
- improved circulation
- strengthened immune system
- improved gut health
- increased energy
- lifted spirit and decreased depression
- improved liver, gall bladder and kidney function
- cleared congestion, especially in lungs, by reducing mucus
Find greens that you love and eat them often. When you get bored with your favorites, be adventurous and try some that you’ve never heard of before. Try a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, sautéing in oil, water sautéing (water & oil), waterless cooking, or raw. Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. Boil for under a minute so that the nutrients in the greens do not get lost in the water. Get into the habit of adding these dark, leafy green vegetables to your daily diet. Try it out for a month and see how you feel!
Contributed by Jena Savadsky Griffith, RDN, IHC. If you would like to schedule an appointment for nutritional services with Jena, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-445-5387.