Eating your greens does not have to be bland or boring. There are many kinds of green “superfoods” which will boost your energy levels every day and help you lose weight. And who does not want to look and feel better? Turns out only thirty percent of Americans eat the required amounts of fruits and veggies every day.
That does not have to be you. You can enjoy these ten green superfoods alongside any healthy meal without feeling like a five-year-old trying to earn dessert. All of them have plenty of vitamins, minerals, protein and other key nutrients that our bodies need in order to stay healthy, lose weight, and feel energized.
The cabbage leaves we enjoy today are descended from wild cabbage that grew in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. Modern cabbage leaves vary in appearance from widespread and waffled looking to smooth and tightly bunched and come in a range of colors: green, red, purple and white. No matter how it looks, cabbage makes for a healthy choice on any dinner table.
Of all the cruciferous vegetables, cabbage has some of the best statistics for anti-oxidant power. Some research has shown that those anti-oxidants have the power to fight cancers such as breast, colon and prostate cancer, as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol which causes heart disease. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, folate and manganese. It also has vitamin K, which strengthens bones and has been shown to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease and vitamin C, which attacks free radicals in the body and fights infection.
Cabbage is the main ingredient in coleslaw, a popular American side dish at family gatherings. If it is served separately it should be kept as close to raw as possible – tender crisp—because cooking cabbage will destroy its nutrients.
Cauliflower is a multicolored crucifer, which has been named after its crosswise flowers. It can come in white, purple, green or pale orange colors and should be chosen at the grocery store or farmer’s market if it has no brown or soft yellow spots.
Its nutritional claim to fame is the 77 percent DV of vitamin C in each serving. It also provides you with an excellent source of protein, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and manganese, which are all very important for a balanced diet. Protein is the body’s go-to nutrient for building muscle tissue, so if you enjoy working out you should eat plenty of protein rich foods.
Cauliflower is a very multi-purpose food. It is often served as part of a raw veggie platter with dip at parties because it is a light finger food that tastes delicious alongside carrots and celery. It can also be cooked and mixed into a variety of dishes such as stir fries, or pressed into a low calorie mashed potato substitute.
“Eat your broccoli!” As kids, we must have heard that command hundreds of times. Broccoli is perhaps the most stereotypical green vegetable that we were told to eat more of as children, but not without good reason. During ancient times, it grew wild along the shores of the Mediterranean, and was a popular dish during the time of the Roman Empire. From there, it spread all over the world.
Many studies have shown a connection between eating broccoli and fighting cancer. That is because each serving of broccoli has a high amount of selenium, which has anti-viral and anti-carcinogenic properties. It also contains more calcium than a glass of whole milk, which helps develop bone tissue, and more vitamin C than an orange.
If you want the full concentration of anti-oxidants, then you should eat your broccoli raw. It can be dipped into dressings or melted cheese to bring out additional flavors if raw, plain broccoli is not your style. When cooked, broccoli is usually steamed and served as a side dish, or chopped and added to casseroles, soups and other hearty meals.
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7. Brussels Sprouts
These tiny cabbages have many superfood qualities in a small package. They originated from Brussels, Belgium and take their name from that city. Like cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, and kale Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable that is best served slightly undercooked.
The top two vitamins in Brussels sprouts are K and C. Vitamin K supports strong bones and vitamin C can boost the immune system and overall health. If you want a superfood to promote weight loss they are very low in saturated fats and high in fiber, which will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. A quarter of the calories from Brussels sprouts comes from protein, so they are a good source of nutritious energy.
Brussel sprouts are known for their earthy flavor. One delicious recipe is lightly roasting them in olive oil. It brings out the flavors and adds a little sizzle to them as a side dish. They can also be steamed and drizzled in a honey mustard or cheese sauce. For a little crunch, you can mix in pecans, pine nuts, and a smattering of parmesan cheese. However, too much cooking will ruin the flavor and destroy the nutrient values.
6. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce, along with other leafy green lettuce varieties, are a heart healthy way to snack and dine. It is almost synonymous with its most famous serving suggestion, salads, and provides a crisp, flavorful meal when mixed with other greens, some dressings, and fruit.
It is as delicious for your heart as it is for your taste buds. The Vitamin C and beta-carotene nutrients work together to prevent cholesterol from oxidizing: the first step before it becomes “sticky” and builds up along your arteries. It also boasts folic acid, a B-vitamin that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. While it is low in calories, and helpful in weight loss, those qualities also will help ensure your heart’s overall health, which is very important if you want to up your exercise routine or burn off extra energy.
Romaine lettuce does not just mean salads, but you can get very creative with those, adding fruits, veggies, and low-fat dressings. Romaine lettuce leaves can be tucked into sandwiches for extra flavor, or used in place of flour tortillas when making a sandwich wrap.
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Even though it has a reputation as a garnish for other foods, parsley boasts a strong nutritional resume of its own. It contains high quantities of copper, which allows the body to metabolize its foods properly, vitamin K, which is known to help the brain fight the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and iron for support carrying oxygen through the blood cells.
Compared to other green superfoods, it has a very high fiber content for ensuring proper digestion and easing stomach upset. Parsley is very low in calories, so it can form an important part of any weight loss diet. It also helps with weight loss by easing the digestion of other foods.
Parsley can be brewed into a tea which traditionally has been used to treat colic, indigestion, and other stomach ailments. It can be easily sliced and sprinkled into soups or on top of other dishes to enhance the flavor and add key nutrients.
Spinach famously received one of the best cartoon endorsements ever from Popeye the Sailor Man in the 1960s. Whenever the hero needed an extra boost of strength, he would gulp down his spinach and suddenly he had the bulging muscles to save the day. There is some truth to that fictitious cartoon.
Spinach is a low fat superfood with only seven calories per one cup serving. It is also rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate and other key nutrients for nearly the entire body. The magnesium can help lower high blood pressure, the folate helps regulate a healthy cardiovascular system and some studies have shown that eating spinach boosts mental clarity and memory. So even if it does not automatically create powerful muscles, spinach can give your body the mental and physical nutrition it needs for a heart-healthy, balanced diet.
Unlike some veggies, which are best served raw, spinach’s nutrients are drawn out when it is heated up. While cooking, you should sprinkle it with lemon juice or vinegar to help retain the iron content. It can also be creamed into a tasty side dish, blended into juice and smoothies for a healthy snack, or added into soups and salads. Since DDT is still an issue with many types of spinach imported from other countries, it is best to purchase local or organic labeled spinach.
Beets belong to the revered “dark, leafy green” family of foods, making them a popular superfood treat for many people both in modern times and in the past. They were first grown near the Mediterranean around 2000 BC and spread far and wide, so even ancient Greek and Babylonian children were probably being told to eat their beets by frustrated parents who wanted their kids to grow up healthy and strong.
The beet green are actually more nutritious than the more commonly eaten beet root. They are a tremendous source of fiber, iron, calcium and the vitamins A, C, and K. The vitamins and calcium will boost your bone strength and anti-oxidants in the bloodstream to give your body extra strength and energy during a workout.
Beet greens can be cooked up and served in a variety of dishes. Beet greens or their roots make a popular, colorful addition to any salad dish. They can also be sautéed or salted with vinegar or olive oil and served as a side dish to any meal for an extra serving of vegetables. If your garden produces too many, they can be added en masse to a soup or juiced into a superfood smoothie.
This once obscure green plant has found its fifteen minutes of fame in recent years. Part of that is because it is fairly easy to grow, so many gardeners and window box growers have planted it then discovered its tasty, nutritious value. Of all the leafy greens readily available at the farmers market and the grocery store, it has the most nutritional amounts in each serving.
Many nutritionists still favor beef as a key source of iron, calcium and protein packed into a single meal. Kale can rival those daily values, and its sulforaphane content has been shown to protect against colon cancer. Its vitamin contents are better than you will find in many off the shelf supplements. Kale features 206 percent of the suggested DV of vitamin A, and 134 percent DV of vitamin C and a 67 gram serving has 121 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids. Those omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by our bodies, but they play a key role in building cell membranes in the brain, regulating blood clotting, and protect us against heart attacks and strokes.
Kale is versatile on the dinner plate too. It can be simmered with lentils, herbs and broth for a healthy soup. It also is frequently added to lettuce for a crisp and tasty salad. You can create a kale sauté by heating oil on the frying pan, then tossing in garlic, stock and kale for a delicious dinner delight.
Watercress may not be the first green people think of when they imagine superfoods, but it should be. It has been a strongly approved healing herb for centuries, and packs quite a nutritional punch. Vitamin K is the most prevalent nutrient, at 312 percent daily value, and it also has high concentrations of vitamin C (72 percent DV), vitamin A (64 percent DV), iron and calcium.
For all its nutrients, however, it is very low in calories. A serving size of three cups chopped watercress has only eleven calories, so it is a good green to consider if you are on a diet or cutting calories. Watercress is also a cell-friendly superfood. It contains antioxidants which help fight some diseases and signs of aging. It has B-complex vitamins which keep your cellular metabolism operating at peak efficiency.
Watercress can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Some people will chop it into a salad along with other leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce because it provides a slightly peppery taste to boost the salad’s flavor. In Britain, watercress sandwiches are quite popular and have been served during afternoon tea since the Victorian era.
Several of these foods are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and other healthy nutrients our bodies need in order to perform at our very best. If weight loss is your goal, you should considering foods such as cauliflower and kale which are high in fiber but low in calories so you feel fuller, and more satisfied on fewer calories. By consuming these green super foods from your neighborhood farmer’s market or grocery store, you might not pop your biceps like Popeye, but you will certainly feel healthier and more energized every day.