Turning Over a New Leaf

Leafy green vegetables, also called greensvegetable greensleafy greens, or salad greens, are plant leaves eaten by humans. Leafy greens the healthiest food you can eat. Anyone who might think that leafy greens are boring should know that there are leaves from nearly 1,000 species of plants that humans eat.

Leafy greens are low in calories and fat, high in protein, fiber, iron, and calcium, and very high in vitamins and phytochemicals such as vitamin Ccarotenoids, lutein, folatemagnesium, and vitamin K. These phytochemicals protect against cancer, stroke, and other diseases.

Look for greens that are organic and fresh. I also prefer to buy my greens, especially those that will be eaten raw, from farms that do not raise animals or use animal manure as fertilizers.

One of the best way to enjoy leafy greens is raw, in salads or wraps. Over-cooking diminishes nutrients by breaking down the cells. When food is fried, barbecued, or baked at high temperatures, toxic compounds such as acrylamides are formed and most important nutrients are lost. Many vitamins are water-soluble, and a significant percent can be lost with cooking, especially overcooking. Boiling makes it easy for nutrients to leach into the water. Many plant enzymes function as phytochemical nutrients in your body and they, too, can be destroyed by overcooking.

Another good way to eat leafy greens is lightly steamed or in soup. Stewed or boiled greens are a traditional dish in the southern United States, and have traveled elsewhere as soul food. They are also common in South Asian dishes such as saag, and in East Asian stir-fries. In Italy and Greece, people gather wild greens to cook. When food is steamed or made into a soup, the temperature is fixed at 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature of boiling water. This moisture-based cooking prevents food from browning and forming toxic compounds. Most essential nutrients in vegetables are made more easily absorbed after being cooked in a soup and water-soluble nutrients are not lost because you eat the liquid portion of the soup, too. Only small amounts of nutrients are lost with making a soup, but many more nutrients are made more easily absorbed. When you heat, soften, and moisturize vegetables and beans, you increase the digestibility and absorption of many nutrients, including protein.

Green smoothies are a great way to consume large quantities of raw leafy greens, even at breakfast, by blending the greens with fruit and liquids. However, I try to limit them to an occasional treat. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a gold medal Olympian, Bronze Star veteran, and Cleveland Clinic surgeon has this to say about green smoothies: “The fiber is so finely pureed that its helpful properties are destroyed. The sugar is stripped from the fruit, bypasses salivary digestion and results in a surge of glucose and the accompanying fructose contributes to inflammation and hypertension.”

Here are some ANDI scores for edible leaves:

  1. Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens; Cooked KaleWatercress 1000+
  2. Chard, 895
  3. Bok Choy 865
  4. Kale, raw 778
  5. Napa Cabbage, 715
  6. Spinach, cooked 707
  7. Spinach, raw 705
  8. Arugula 604
  9. Lettuce, Green Leaf 585
  10. Basil 518
  11. Chicory Greens, raw 516
  12. Romaine 510
  13. Lettuce, Red Leaf 507
  14. Brussels Sprouts 490
  15. Cilantro 481
  16. Spearmint, fresh 457
  17. Cabbage, cooked 434
  18. Oregano, fresh 426
  19. Thyme, fresh 422
  20. Parsley 381
  21. Rapini 366
  22. Boston, Butterhead, or Bibb Lettuce 357
  23. Dandelion Greens, 347
  24. Red Cabbage, raw 352
  25. Cabbage, raw 332
  26. Dill, fresh 326
  27. Escarole 322
  28. Chives 319
  29. Wheatgrass Juice 312
  30. Sorrel, boiled 310
  31. Mixed Baby Greens 300
  32. Peppermint, fresh 293
  33. Curly Endive 284
  34. Bay LeavesRadicchio 271
  35. Belgian Endive 215
  36. Iceberg Lettuce 127
  37. Rosemary 84

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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