Discover exciting new ways to eat your greens--from land and sea.
Eat your greens! From our moms to the media, we have repeatedly heard—and heeded—this advice. Obligingly, we toss familiar favourites into the grocery cart, including broccoli, spinach, and kale. Healthy greens aren’t limited to terra firma, though, and there are many excellent reasons to regularly consume an assortment of green vegetables—no matter where they come from.
Greens from terra firma
Green vegetables stand out from the crowd due to their impressive nutritional profiles. Many green vegetables, especially leafy greens, are touted for their cancer- and cardiovascular-protective effects, and are known to deliver a powerful antioxidant punch.
From hardy greens such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and bell peppers to leafies such as collards, dandelion greens, and watercress, there’s no shortage of green vegetables to try. Some in-season options include cabbage and Brussels sprouts, as well as kale, leeks, and mustard greens, though this might vary depending on where you live.
Dark green leafy vegetables
Studies have suggested that there is a direct link between the foods we eat—including leafy greens—and the production of critical immune cells that line the gut. And bolstering immunity is essential to fighting off sickness and disease.
Cruciferous kale, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant gem, delivers vitamins A, C, and K, and offers cholesterol-lowering and anticancer properties.
Eat it: Blend kale into smoothies, or chop it up and add it to soups.
Spinach is filled with powerful antioxidants supporting eye and bone health and is rich in vitamins A and K, iron, calcium, magnesium, and folate.
Eat it: Be sure to eat spinach along with foods rich in vitamin C, such as red pepper or strawberries, to help with iron absorption. Add a little healthy fat—from extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, or chopped nuts, for example—to best assimilate vitamin A.
Broccoli, a member of the Brassica family, boasts an array of antioxidants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. This jolly green giant gives us blood-clotting vitamin K, skin- and immune-loving vitamin C, and blood sugar-regulating chromium. It offers abundant fibre, folate, and B-complex vitamins.
Eat it: Lightly steaming broccoli preserves most of its nutrients—try this with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a squirt of fresh lemon juice. Don’t forget to peel and eat the stalks, since these are delicious when sautéed with florets in garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
This overlooked food is actually a rock star! Fibre-filled celery may deliver blood pressure-lowering effects and offers vitamins A, C, and K; calcium; and potassium. The stalks may also provide anti-inflammatory support.
Eat it: Celery can be added to stir-fries or tossed into a smoothie. Stir leaves into soups or enjoy raw stalks smeared with almond butter or tahini.
Typically, we don’t think about adding sea and freshwater vegetables to the supermarket list.
Aquatic vegetables range from freshwater blue-green microalgae to saltwater green, red, and brown seaweeds. These unique foods sport an impressive roster of health benefits, including antitumour, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral qualities.
They also offer a host of hair- and skin-loving minerals, fibre, calcium, B-complex vitamins, iodine, and a surprising supply of protein, making them a great choice for vegans. Plus, they abound with antioxidant and anticancer potential.
Blue-green algae such as spirulina and green algae such as chlorella are exceptionally dense in nutrients. Typically consumed in capsule, tablet, or dried powder form, a small amount goes a long way. See the sidebar (page 169) for ideas on how to incorporate dried marine vegetables into your diet.
Hardy spirulina, found in freshwater lakes and waterways, has been consumed in Mexico and central Africa for centuries. Studies show this plant protein may provide protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. It may improve insulin sensitivity and may also reduce cardiovascular disease risk by preventing high cholesterol.
Chlorella has been shown to effectively lower cholesterol and triglycerides and improve insulin sensitivity. It offers up a major antioxidant—the carotenoid violaxanthin, an anti-inflammatory agent with tremendous therapeutic potential.
Low-calorie, iodine-rich sea vegetables are getting more attention these days as functional foods with major health benefits. There is exciting new research exploring the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral impact of marine algae on human health.
Probably the most widely recognized sea vegetable, nori is the green “paper” that hugs sushi bundles. Nori is technically classified as a red algae and offers an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and E; calcium; potassium; and zinc.
Researchers are now focusing on wakame and other edible brown seaweeds as beneficial food sources for individuals suffering from lifestyle conditions such as insulin resistance and obesity. Wakame’s unique ingredient, fucoxanthin, offers anti-obesity, anticancer, and antidiabetic effects.
Boasting a vibrant green hue when rehydrated, wakame’s robust nutritional profile includes calcium, magnesium, and iron, as well as ample vitamins A and C.
Start your greens odyssey now and make friends with easily accessible green vegetables from both land and sea!
What can I do with dried marine vegetables?
Get ready for a new taste adventure! You may be pleasantly surprised at the unique flavours that microalgae and seaweed bring to your plate.
Spirulina and chlorella
Look for these blue-green and green algae in organic powdered form in your local natural health store. Start slowly by adding 1/2 tsp (2 mL) of powder to smoothies—it’s an acquired taste for some. Once your palate is accustomed, try sprinkling it on salads and adding it to green soups. Don’t heat; just mix into the finished dish.
This sea vegetable is commonly found in the Asian section of your natural health store. Use nori sheets as burrito-style wraps for avocado slices, red pepper, celery, red onion, grape tomatoes, and sprouts. Fold and dip in your favourite sauce. Alternatively, try toasted nori, a delicious ready-to-eat snack found in most grocery stores.
Ready for wakame? Rehydrate it in water, and enjoy it chopped in salads, your favourite rice or quinoa dish, and vegetable soups.