Going green for your health

By Mina Radman • Published: March 16th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

We dress ourselves in shades of green on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the holiday and avoid a painful pinch. But perhaps what your pinch-happy coworkers should really be looking for is whether you have green on your plate at lunch.

Culinary experts have long rated green vegetables as some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. That’s because veggies like spinach, broccoli, collard greens and celery are loaded with fiber, minerals and vitamins that can help protect you from heart disease, diabetes and, potentially, cancer.

Spinach, the vegetable that kids often shy away from, has 20 calories per serving and provides you with vitamins A and C, and folate, a B-vitamin that is important during pregnancy and infancy. Cooked spinach, used in pasta and casseroles, can give you more nutrition, but raw spinach also can be used as the basis for salads.

A serving of broccoli provides you with 133 percent of the vitamin C you need daily. Aside from also providing you with vitamin K and folate, broccoli contains nitrogen compounds that have been shown to help prevent stomach tumors. Pair up broccoli with a cheese dip for a delicious snack or steam it as a side dish.

A staple in Southern cooking, collard greens are from the same species as cabbage and broccoli and are packed with vitamins A, C and K, potassium, folate and calcium. In the South, collard greens are typically slow-cooked with smoked turkey, but the vegetable is also found in Pakistani and Brazilian cooking.

And while celery may not be the most nutritious of the green vegetables, it’s the easiest to eat. Celery, which contains fiber, folate and vitamins A and C, can be cut up and dipped into peanut butter and almond butter for a nutritious snack.

Adding a splash of green to your meal may not only help you feel healthier, it may also make you a little more festive this St. Patrick’s Day.