Nutritionists love the idea of going green, especially if you start with your diet. Green plants are packed with Superman strength that do everything from fight cancer to help maintain healthy blood pressure.
We culled a Top Five list after consulting with our experts: Nancy Maslonka, executive chef at Medical City Dallas Hospital and Medical City Children’s Hospital; Tom Shroeder, executive chef at Baylor University Medical Center; and Amber Odom, registered and licensed dietitian at Cooper Clinic in Dallas.
These foods are readily available in your local market, and they’re good fresh or frozen. For those who want to grow them, start planting now or try in the fall. (Extreme summer heat is not kind to greens.)
Popeye was wild about spinach for its iron, but this nutrient-rich stuff is also a dizzying blend of vitamins A, B, C, E and K and has calcium, too.
Tips for using it: Mix it with the lettuce in salad or sub it for lettuce in a sandwich. Puree and use it to replace oil in brownie mixes. Scramble it with eggs or toss it in an omelet. Add it to soup or stew or layer it in lasagna.
If you really want to put greens on your plate, you can’t beat colcannon, or kale mixed with mashed potatoes. Kale also is packed with the vitamins A, B9, C and K and calcium and lutein, plus potassium, which is important in brain and nerve function, muscle contraction and more. Potassium also helps maintain a normal blood pressure.
Tips for using it: Kids love kale chips, made from small pieces baked in the oven — much healthier than potato chips.
Collard greens are bursting with vitamins A, B, C and K, plus lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that, like lutein, is believed to slow macular degeneration. It’s one of the best plant-based sources of calcium and a high source of protein.
Tips for using it: Slow-cook them Southern-style with a turkey leg or ham hock for added flavor. You also can steam them with carrots and zucchini and a little garlic or add them to soups and stews.
Swiss chard is filled with vitamins A, C and K, calcium, iron, lutein, potassium and zeaxanthin.
Tips for using it: Try the baby variety raw in a salad; mature Swiss chard is better suited to sauteeing with onions, garlic and seasonings, braised, or stewed low and slow. It can be slipped into lasagna or served sweet-and-sour with raisins and vinegar.
Not only is broccoli full of vitamins A and B and calcium, but one cup contains 100 percent of the RDA of vitamins C and K.
Tips for using it: This can be a fun snack for kids who enjoy dunking it in cheese, yogurt or other healthy dips. Add it to whatever you may be steaming or stir-frying. You also can toss it in with whatever you’re baking with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese in the final minutes.
Learn how to make sesame-roasted broccoli with this recipe from Nancy Maslonka:
1 pound broccoli florets (or broccolini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoonsesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Toss the broccoli with the olive and sesame oils and season with salt and pepper.
Spread in a single layer on pan and roast for 4 to 5 minutes, until the broccoli starts to turn golden brown on the florets.
Remove from oven and toss with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 4 servings.