Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Forward With Leafy Greens

It’s the time of year where the trees are budding, leafy greens such as spinach and chard are sprouting up and many people are feeling the urge to clean up and get organized.   Boosting vegetables that are abundant during the spring time can naturally help clean out the body after the long, dark winter months.  Awaken your body from its winter slumber while you enjoy these tips for getting more green leafy vegetables into the diet.

By Nutritionist Siona Sammartino, MS, CN

Go Go Greens!
Green leafy vegetables nourish the liver, a major organ that is important for the body’s natural detoxification abilities, which keeps us healthy and feeling energized.  Research is uncovering the powerful effects of the plant pigments known as phytochemicals or bioactive compounds.  Chlorophyll is the plant pigment that lends its green color to plants, and According to the Linus Pauling Institute out of Oregon State University it may keep the liver strong by blocking a toxin and liver carcinogen found in moldy foods known as aflatoxin. Other bioactive compounds found in green leafy vegetables also provide support for the body’s natural detoxification systems, meaning more energy and a cleaner system for you!  Try collards, kale, chard, spinach, dandelion greens and other varieties.  

Boosting Flavor and Intake
Unfortunately green leafy vegetables bitter nature doesn’t make it easy getting them on the table.  But with a few secrets, you’ll be eating greens in no time!

Don’t Eat them Alone!
v Pair them with yummy dressings such as homemade sweet balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below) or your favorite dressing. 
v    Braise dark sturdy greens with flavorful liquids such as wine and caramelized onions to add depth of flavor and sweetness.  
v   Wilt kale with a little sea salt and massage them for a minute or two until they shrink by half the volume, this will remove much of the bitter flavor.  Then dress them up or add them to your favorite salads, sandwiches and more.
v  Stock up on pre-washed spinach and tender baby kale and add to fruit smoothies, salads and soups. 
v    Purchase frozen broccoli and sauté with strong flavors such as garlic, red pepper flakes and a fresh squeeze of lemon.

Who knew green veggies could taste so good?  Get ready to reap renewed energy in every bite!

Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
Dressings are one of the easiest and fastest ways to dress up salads, veggies, grains, fish, legumes and meat to turn something boring into a flavorful treat.

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup organic extra-virgin olive oil
½-1 teaspoon Dijon or stone ground mustard
1-2 teaspoons raw and local honey
Pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

In a glass measuring cup whisk together the vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Store in a glass mason jar for 1-2 weeks and shake to re-emulsify before dressing foods. 

Variation: Feel free to add herbs and spices such as dried or fresh basil, dried red chili flakes or fresh garlic to enhance the flavor and give this recipe a twist.  (Note: if using fresh garlic, use dressing immediately to prevent harmful bacteria).

Tip: double, triple or quadruple this recipe and make it at the start of the week to have a simple yet tasty way to jazz up salads, grains, beans and veggies.  Store in a mason jar and shake to re-emulsify before serving. 

Copyright 2009, Siona Sammartino, MS, CN, Original recipe,