By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
Adding dark leafy greens to your diet is one of the easiest ways to boost your nutrition. They are an excellent source for many of the nutrients that contribute to health, wellness and disease prevention. These include: fibre, folate, carotenoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron and calcium.1
Common dark leafy greens found at your local supermarket include1:
- Swiss Chard
- Mustard Greens
This dark leafy green has stolen the “leaf of choice” spotlight for people wanting to add a punch of nutrition to their diet.2 It is considered one of the best sources of vitamin K which is important for blood clotting and the prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis.3
Best of all, it tastes delicious when added to healthy recipes.
This baked Egg Chicken and Kale recipe is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
A classic leafy green that provides a ton of antioxidants is spinach. It also contains potassium, which is important for heart health and blood pressure regulation.4,5 Spinach contain oxalates, which bind to calcium and reduce absorption.4 So, if you are eating dairy with your spinach, be aware that the some of the calcium absorption will be reduced.5
Spinach is also a source of iron, however – the iron in spinach, called “non-heme iron”, does not get absorbed as well as the iron from meat (like chicken), which contains “heme iron”.6 There are some ways to boost the amount of iron from spinach that gets absorbed into your body, which includes eating it with Vitamin C containing foods like citrus fruits and eating it with meats that contain heme iron.6
This Warm Spinach, Navy Bean and Grilled Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette is a great example of a meal that merges taste with nutrition! You have the chicken and lemon juice from the vinaigrette that will help increase the absorption of iron coming from the nutrient-packed spinach!
Like kale and spinach, Swiss Chard is a winner when it comes to Vitamin A, C and K.1 When added to recipes this green provides flavour, colour and a wonderful texture. Give it a try in the healthy recipe found below!
How to eat your dark leafy greens?
There are so many ways to eat your greens, these include eating them as a:
- side dish
- baked chip
- filling in a wrap
- addition to sauces/stir fries
- topping for a sandwich
Bring Home the Greens!
When purchasing your leafy greens, look for ones with bright and crisp leaves.8 There should be no wilting or brown/yellow leaves on the greens.1,7
Once you get home, store them in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.7 Also, keep your greens stored in a separate area from tomatoes, apples or other fruit gases, which cause spoilage.1
When you’re ready to prepare them for a delicious recipe, handle them gently and make sure you wash them thoroughly.7 Some greens may have sand or dirt left on the stem, so be sure you give them a good wash so it doesn’t get into your food! After you are done washing them, place in a strainer and blot them with a clean towel.1,7
Go for Your Greens!
It is recommended that Canadians eat approximately 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day.8 Consider making some of those servings dark leafy greens! Start exploring your grocery store for different types you can experiment with using in your cooking.
Check out the Chicken.ca Grocery App to help you organize your shopping list and inspire you with healthy chicken recipes:
- Adams, I. (2013). The Healthy Benefits of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/FCS3/FCS3567/FCS3567.pdf
- Zelman, K. (2014). The Truth about Kale. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/kale-nutrition-and-cooking
- Gunnars, K. (2016). 10 proven benefits of kale. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-benefits-of-kale/
- Ware, M. (2015). Spinach: Health Benefits, Uses, Precautions. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270609.php
- EatRightOntario. (2016). What you need to know about calcium. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Calcium/What-you-need-to-know-about-calcium.aspx#.VvwrLmNaHFI
- Dietitians of Canada. (2010). Increasing Your Iron Intake. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Minerals/Increasing-Your-Iron-Intake.aspx
- Government of Canada. (2015). Leafy greens. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating-saine-alimentation/safety-salubrite/fruits-vegetables-legumes-fruits/leafy-feuille-eng.php
- EatRightOntario. (2015). How many Vegetables and Fruit do you need?. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Food-guides/How-many-Vegetables-and-Fruit-do-you-need.aspx