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Get Your Greens

Low in calories, high in nutrition, they’re a power player in your diet.


Greens are the food of life, associated with renewal, refreshment, and vital energy. They are amazingly nutritious, high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, yet low in calories. Despite all this, they are the foods most missing in modern diets. 

Countless health benefits can be gained by eating five servings, or 2 ½ cups, of green vegetables a day. Their impressive nutrition credentials include the following: 

* High fiber content, which makes you feel less hungry and therefore helps with weight loss. Fiber can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

* Rich in folates, which can reduce your risk of memory loss. Folates also contribute to the production of serotonin, which may help with mood and ease feelings of depression.

* Packed with antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and lutein, all powerful phytochemicals known to reduce the risk of cancer. These also keep your skin healthy as you age and protect your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.     

* Chlorophyll, which gives greens their color, purifies the blood and helps cleanse the liver and the colon. This boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, and promotes healthy intestinal flora for better digestion.    

* Rich in minerals calcium, magnesium and zinc, which are necessary for healthy teeth and bones and essential for proper muscle and neural function. 

Get your greens by adding them to soups, stews, stir fries, omelets, and casseroles. Vary your cooking method to keep things interesting. Boiling relaxes and plumps the greens; boil for under a minute to ensure that the nutrient value is not depleted. If you’re using organic greens, you can drink the cooking water as a healthy tonic or tea. Steaming makes the greens more fibrous and tight and is beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight. Raw greens provide the added benefit of live enzymes for improved digestion and nutrient absorption. Fresh green juice delivers all the benefits in an immediate, concentrated form.      

Be adventurous and try greens that you’ve never considered before. Choose those that are deep in color and mix them with various shades and tastes for a perfect balance of vitamins and minerals. 

Broccoli is one of the most popular with both adults and children. Cabbages include green, bok choy and napa.  Look for kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, and dandelion. Arugula, endive, chicory, lettuce, and mesclun wild greens are usually eaten raw, but can be used creatively in cooked dishes as well. Spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens are best eaten in moderation due to their high oxalic acid content, which depletes calcium from bones and teeth and may lead to osteoporosis. To balance the effects of oxalic acid, cook these greens with something rich like tofu, seeds, nuts, beans, or oil. And don’t forget sea vegetables, known as seaweed – it contains the largest range of minerals of any food.  Whenever possible choose organic; still, conventional greens are better than no greens at all.    

Each time you go to the market, pick up a new green to try. Soon you’ll feel so good that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

Spicy-Sweet Arugula Sauté

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

2 bunches arugula
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pinches hot pepper flakes
3 tablespoons chopped, dried apricots
Sea salt to taste

1. Wash arugula, remove long stems, and slice them into 1-inch-long pieces.

2. Heat oil in a sauté pan.

3. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

4. Add apricots and continue to cook, stirring for 2 more minutes.

5. Add arugula, stir, cover, and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

6. Remove the cover, add sea salt to taste, and serve.

Recipe from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition 

Sue SmithSue Smith is a Certified Health Counselor and owner of Prime Health Style in Westport.  She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.  Sue creates completely personalized, sustainable programs for her clients to help them achieve their wellness goals and lead happier and healthier lives.  She leads workshops on nutrition and offers health counseling to individuals, families, and groups. 


Photo by Cheryl Pollack

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