Dark leafy greens are among the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. Yet extremely few Americans eat a daily serving of them. The vast majority is overlooking a major source of nutrition and health protection.

A one-cup standard serving of raw dark leafy greens or one-half cup cooked contains loads of important minerals, like iron and potassium. These vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins A, B6 and C. Calcium is plentiful in spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard. Folate, which seems to be an important vitamin for cancer prevention, abounds in spinach and chicory.

Greens, like kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens and watercress, all belong to the cruciferous vegetable family. Like broccoli, they possess the phytochemicals sulforaphane, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which scientists believe fight cancer.

Experiment for the Best Taste

Taste is one stumbling block for people who avoid greens. But you can choose mild-tasting greens, like spinach or "baby greens" - a mixture that some stores sell prewashed in bulk. Sharper-tasting greens include beet, mustard, turnip, whitish green or purple endive and peppery watercress.

Savvy preparation can help you turn even strong- or sharp-tasting greens into a favorite food. Cooking greens, like kale, collards, Swiss chard, chicory, mustard and turnip greens, makes them much milder. First remove the stalks from any large, tough leaves. Then you could either braise them for 15-20 minutes or saute. Before sauteing them in a skillet, steam the leaves for 5 minutes.

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You can also work greens gradually into your menus by accenting other cooked vegetables with them like red cabbage, red peppers, corn, tomatoes or carrots. Try a variety of greens. You may find a new delight.

Spinach and Orange Salad

Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. grated orange peel (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and patted dry
  • 2 medium oranges, peeled, sectioned and pith removed
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup very finely sliced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

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  1. For dressing, in small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, orange juice, orange peel, salt and pepper and set aside. In six salad bowls, divide spinach evenly. Arrange orange sections on top. Sprinkle greens with carrot, onion and walnuts. Drizzle salads with dressing; sprinkle feta on top.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
190 calories,
15 g total fat (2 g saturated fat),
12 g carbohydrates,
4 g protein,
2 g fiber,
183 mg sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Vegetable, 1 Low-Fat Milk, 1 Fat


AICR