Going green is not just good for the environment. Research tells us that eating more green fruits and vegetables is great for your health! From apples to zucchini, there are loads of nutritious green items to choose from. Lettuce start with breakfast!
Breakfast is a perfectly sane time of day to include some green foods in your diet.
How about a side of grilled asparagus with your poached eggs? Or a spinach frittata? Who can forget avocado toast? Asparagus and spinach are high in folate, a nutrient found to lower homocysteine levels (a compound associated with risk of heart disease and stroke), while avocado will give you a nice dose of super filling, heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.1 You can also add sautéed zucchini in a quiche or green bell peppers to an omelet. Both vegetables provide vitamin C with only 10 calories per half-cup serving. The choices are endless.
Start lunch with a big green leafy salad.
But don’t just stick with iceberg or romaine. Kale adds great texture, color, and nutritional bonus to an otherwise pedestrian salad. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K, needed for bone health and blood clotting as well as potassium to lower blood pressure. If you massage kale in a little olive oil until it turns shiny, you’ve successfully wilted it, which will improve the texture. Kneading the kale this way also reduces the bitterness in this hearty leafy green. Fresh spinach or Swiss chard are other nice additions to your salad. Both contain potassium to lower blood pressure and lutein to help reduce the risk for macular degeneration.
Go green for dinner!
If you’ve never tried fresh or frozen peas in your salad, what are you waiting for? Peas add beautiful color in addition to a decent dose of protein. A half-cup serving of sweet peas provides roughly 60 calories per half cup and 4 grams of protein. Peas are considered a starchy vegetable and give you a little over 10 grams in a half-cup serving. Edamame (green soybeans) are another item to toss in your salad. Green soybeans are an excellent source of plant protein and fiber, 17 grams and 8 grams, respectively, but are lower in carbohydrates than other beans (15 grams in a full cup). They are also great when paired with whole grains for a vegetarian meal. Everyone loves broccoli and you can steam it or put it in a soup or salad!
Make your snacks and desserts green, too!
Green fruit should be included in a healthy diet, too. Honeydew is an oft-forgotten melon but is in season this time of year in the Midwest. Like cantaloupe, honeydew is a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. As part of the musk melon family, it has a sweet, refreshing taste and texture. Try it over cottage cheese for a quick breakfast or toss it with other seasonal fruit in a lemon vinaigrette with fresh mint.
Kiwi is another fruit that is often passed over when it shouldn’t be. Kiwi is full of vitamin C and potassium and part of the DASH diet. Studies show that eating 2 kiwis per day is associated with a 4 point drop in blood pressure.2 A ripe kiwi will yield slightly to pressure from your thumb or finger and will be less tart than more-firm kiwi. Kiwi is delightful on its own (grab a spoon) or try with Greek yogurt.
Green grapes, pears, and Granny Smith apples are also delicious, nutritious fruit to include in a healthy diet. Grapes provide some vitamin C and fiber and 55 calories per half-cup. If you’ve never tried them frozen, you’re missing out! Granny Smith apples are known for their tart flavor and crunchy texture, while varieties of green pears provide a floral aroma and sweet, soft texture when ripe. Research shows that eating an apple or pear per day reduces the risk for stroke by up to 36-45%! 3 Sprinkle cinnamon and a little grated ginger on sliced apples or pears and bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. They make a delightful, guilt-free dessert.
1. Blom HJ1, Smulders Y. Overview of homocysteine and folate metabolism. With special references to cardiovascular disease and neural tube defects. J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Feb;34(1):75-81. doi: 10.1007/s10545-010-9177-4. Epub 2010 Sep 4.
3. Linda M. Oude Griep, MSc; W.M. Monique Verschuren, PhD; Daan Kromhout, MPH, PhD; Marga C. Ocke´, PhD; Johanna M. Geleijnse, PhD. Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke. Stroke. 2011;42:3190-3195.
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
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Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/