The secret stirrings of spring have finally brought waves of color to our brown winter world. It is like this for us too. Creatures of midwinter, we have spent our days and nights hunkered down in front of fires and wood stoves, next to radiators and under blankets, eating the comfort foods of winter. But inside us, like the river under ice, runs a deep the craving for chartreuse and green and bright yellow to bring the vital nutrients, enzymes, oxygen and antioxidants of spring into our body!
This is the time of year of the Liver in Chinese medicine, which is associated with the color Green. We are moving from the season of water into the season of wood. And so, we naturally start turning our palates towards green and woody foods. Asparagus and fiddleheads are the most delicate of spring greens, but every green leafy vegetable is beneficial at this time of year.
|Types of dark green leafy vegetables: kale, chard, dandelion, rapini, bok choy, spinach, arugula, watercress, collards, beet greens|
Incorporate these goodies into each meal and snack, and it will be easy to reach the recommended 5 servings a day (7 to 9 servings is top notch!). One serving is equivalent to: 1 cup raw greens, or 1/2 cup cooked.
Plants can’t run or fly like mammals and insects and birds, so their defense systems are built into their bodies. These phytonutrients are fierce plant chemicals that fight off fungi, viruses and bacteria, protect against smog and environmental damage, keep the plant structure strong with minerals and provide radiant color and beauty – to name a few! These are all actions that also benefit our human body!
Tips to remember:
- You’ll absorb more nutrients from your vegetables if they are eaten with a little fat (add flax seed oil or butter to your greens after cooking.)
- Lightly steaming is the best nutritional option for cooking vegetables.
- Sautéing or stir-frying your vegetables is another quick and easy method. When stir-frying, start with 1 tsp oil and 1 tbsp water or broth. Don’t fry with just oil, which causes the oil to burn and oxidize quickly, increasing free radical production and potential damage to your body when you ingest it. Adding water keeps the oil at a lower temperature so oxidation is reduced.
EASY SUGGESTIONS TO GET MORE VEGGIES IN YOUR DIET:
Remember variety is the key – don’t stop at just one vegetable at dinner. Include salad or steamed greens every day, and at lunch and dinner make sure there are several vegetables on your plate at once. I like to eat a small green salad with my eggs and toast instead of potatoes for breakfast.
- Add chopped fresh veggies to pasta sauce
- Baby spinach leaves on sandwiches instead of lettuce
- Red or green chard sautéed in olive oil with onions/garlic
- Mixed kale, chard and dandelion, chopped and sautéed, served with pesto sauce
- Rapine baked with eggplant in rich tomato sauce or in lasagna
- Leafy greens sautéed with leftover rice with a sauce of vegetable stock, white wine and mirin (Japanese sweet brown rice condiment), and a little tamari
- Top steamed vegetables with miso tahini sauce: about 2 tsp miso, 1 tbsp tahini, 2 tsp tamari (or to taste) in a little water to thin
- Mix up your salads: arugula, watercress, radicchio, shredded cabbage… as an addition to lettuce salads. I like the Herb Spring Mix
- Use your favorite salad dressing over sauteed collard greens with sausage or any other hearty vegetable for a lunch option
- Add warm steamed veggies, dried currants and toasted walnuts over any salad
- Stir fry greens with sesame oil, 1/4 cup orange juice mixed with 1 tsp cornstarch, and tamari to taste
- A dash of olive oil, garlic, lots of chopped greens and other veggies, a small can of plum tomatoes, basil and oregano, some crumbled feta cheese, and black olives.
- Diced raw peppers, celery, red onions, and arugula added to a can of chick peas, with your favorite vinaigrette for a lunch or side dish
- Add chopped tomato, a dark green leafy veggie like spinach, and asparagus to your scrambled eggs or omelet at breakfast
- Veggie pizza – top a wheat free crust with tomato sauce, and add a thick layer of kale, drizzle olive oil, and top with mozzarella and goat cheese
- Top brown rice with any chopped veggies and add basil-arugula pesto and parmesan cheese.
- Add watercress to crackers and cheese, maybe with some smoked salmon too!
Dark Leafy Greens are high in fiber, which improves bowel health. The greens are rich in chlorophyll, which detoxifies your intestines. And, the spicy and bitter greens also improve digestive function by increasing the flow of digestive juices improving heartburn, constipation, gas and bloating. Kale and bok choy upregulate the livers detoxification enzymes gently, which creates a better hormonal balance, can ease PMS, and also regulates digestive function. During these next 3 months, consciously increase your leafy greens to get your own juices flowing, and feel your energy levels and digestive function spring into health!