Welcome to week 8 of our Full Year of Resolutions! This week we’re focusing on those leafy greens, and talking specifically about ways to eat more salad.
Last week, David shared about his lack of exposure to fresh vegetables throughout much of his life. If he ate any vegetables, it was peas or corn from a can. Salad definitely wasn’t part of the menu when he was younger. The coleslaw at Kentucky Fried Chicken was the extent of his ‘salad’ experience as a kid. Then, as an adult (before he learned better), he’d have an occasional green salad, but smother it in ranch dressing and handfuls of croutons.
The ‘Veggie Void’
The truth is, David isn’t alone in this void of healthy vegetables. When it comes to leafy greens, most of my clients aren’t eating nearly enough. As I review their meal plans, I’ve realized that most people really struggle to get enough greens in a day.
So far in our tips we’ve talked about simple ways to add green powders and easy ways to add veggies to your meals. This week we’re adding salads, because those leafy greens contain important nutrients you just can’t get any other way.
Leafy Green Medicine
Although it’s an oversimplification, I like this quote from Bill Maher: “Someone has to stand up and say that the answer isn’t another pill. The answer…is spinach.”
I’d add that the answer is spinach and a whole bunch of other leafy green options as well. I’ve seen this over and over – when we use food as medicine, the body is well equipped to heal itself. When you eat more salad – the type with lots of leafy greens and healthy dressings – it’s like natural medicine. And your body will thank you by giving you more energy and allowing you to feel and perform better.
Last week we talked about Dr.Terry Wahls, renowned medical doctor, researcher, and author. Her story is pretty compelling. Once wheelchair-bound due to her MS, she was able to put her debilitating disease into remission through diet and lifestyle changes. Now, she runs marathons.
Part of the Wahls Protocol she developed includes eating nine cups of veggies a day. Three of those cups should be from the ‘leafy greens’ category. That’s because they are brimming with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and the list of health benefits they provide is long.
The Greener, the Better!
Here’s a list of 10 awesome leafy greens and why they’re so good for you:
Kale: One of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet due to its many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Just one cup of raw kale has 684% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin K, 206% DV for vitamin A, and 134% of the DV for vitamin C.
Microgreens: These small leafy greens are full of color, flavor, and nutrients. Microgreens have up to 40 times more nutrients than other greens, including vitamins C, E, and K.
Collard greens: Great source of calcium and vitamins A, B9, and C. One of the best sources of vitamin K. One cup of cooked collard greens has 1,045% of the DV for vitamin K.
Spinach: One cup is packed with 181% of the DV for vitamin K, and it’s also loaded with vitamin A, manganese, and folate, which plays a key role in red blood cell production.
Cabbage: Has cancer-protective properties, especially against lung and esophageal cancer.
Beet greens: The edible green leaves on the tip of beets are nutrient dense and have antioxidants that support eye health.
Watercress: Beneficial in targeting cancer stem cells and containing cancer cell reproduction.
Romaine lettuce: One cup is an excellent source of vitamin A, providing 82% of DV, and vitamin K, with 60% DV.
Swiss chard: Rich in minerals and vitamins like potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and K. Also has a compound that is beneficial for lowering blood sugar levels.
Arugula: Packed with nutrients like pro-vitamin A carotenoids and vitamins B9 and K. Also a great source of nitric oxide which helps blood flow.
And… the list goes on! When it comes to leafy greens, the darker leaves are more nutritious than the lighter varieties. Once they start to turn yellow or brown (if they get too old in your fridge), they start losing nutritional value.
An additional benefit to eating leafy greens is that you actually feel more satisfied when you eat them because your body is getting the essential nutrients each cell requires to function properly.
Avocado Pomegranate Salad
In this week’s video, we make one of our very favorite salads. It’s incredibly easy (it literally only takes minutes), and is a great way to add leafy greens and eat more salad with your meals. This recipe, compliments of my Functional Nutrition teacher Andrea Nakayama, is a healthy and delicious combination of greens, avocado, pomegranate, and a hint of orange in the dressing.
¼ cup avocado oil (this is a heart-healthy fat)
Juice and peel of one orange, separated
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
½ TSP sea salt
Blend all ingredients in a small blender or by putting in a jar and shaking well.
Pour over 4 cups of organic spring mix greens (we get ours from Costco) and toss. Top with 1 diced avocado, 1 cup pomegranate seeds, and 1 cup of toasted pecans. Serve immediately.
That’s it! Simple, oh so healthy, and delicious! You can find more yummy salad recipes here.
Eat More Salad and Eat Like a King
People hear David’s story and they focus on what he’s had to give up to reclaim his health. “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out?” they ask him, wondering how he lives without bread and greatly reduced sugar. But he’s the first to say he thinks he “eats like a king.”
David fills up his plate with beautiful, leafy greens and heart healthy veggies. He’s come a long way since those days of KFC coleslaw! “I am not missing out!” David will say. “I feel so great. I am pain free! And I get to eat all this great food! It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to me.”
Getting in your greens by eating more salads can help protect you from many health problems. It can also help you live longer and look younger! Because they have so many nutrients that are critical for cell function, they help prevent the aging process. And because they’re so low in calories, you can eat as much as you like without putting on any weight.
So, let’s bring on the greens and eat more salad as we continue on this journey to optimal health together.
As always, we welcome your comments, questions, and feedback.