“It makes long ears, and great big feet (but it sure is awful stuff to eat)…”
– Thumper, Bambi (1942)
That rabbit and I would get along just fine. Like Thumper, I used to consider eating greens a tremendous chore, and went straight for that tasty clover. Salads are all well and good, but who has the time to prepare a fresh salad every day? (They get soggy…) My own childish dietary habits aside, leafy green vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet, and if you truly want to be on top of your game you are going to have to make friends with them sooner or later. Let me lecture you for a bit about how good greens are, then I’ll fill you in on how a clover-lover (like me) manages to sneak them into their diet.
Just a heads-up: people on vitamin K antagonist medications (warfarin, for example): this article is not for you, as I hope you are already aware. Please consult your physician for recommendations that won’t jack you up.
Leafy vegetables are extremely potent sources of nutrition, and are packed to bursting with important things like fiber, iron, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and a host of phytochemicals. Dairy-dodgers, you’ll be pleased to know, they are also high in calcium. Leafy greens are also very high in vitamin K, which is essential to bone health and proper blood clotting among other things. If that wasn’t enough, a diet rich in awesome vegetables like greens can help balance out excessive acidity in your body, which may have positive effects on bone health and lean muscle.
Canada’s food guide recommends eating at least one serving of leafy green vegetables each day (roughly one cup of raw greens or half a cup of cooked greens), which I can only interpret as a desperate plea for some sort of action on the part of the consumer (please, just take one little bite!) It does not specify how tightly packed said cup is; with raw greens you may find that a few carefully placed leaves can meet that standard if you squint. I recommend throwing a little muscle behind your efforts and challenging the capacity of your measuring cup.
I want to give a quick shout-out to salads (woo!) despite my earlier complaint about their time-consuming preparation. If you’re into salads, enough so that you don’t mind whipping them together on a daily basis, then power to you. They are a great way to get a rockin’ medley of vegetables down the hatch all at once, and can do wonders for your dietary variety. If you find yourself eating the same three vegetables every day, maybe it’s time to try tossing it up once in a while (side-splitting pun shamelessly intended).
But if you’re not so keen on salads, what then? This is how it used to go for me: “Oh no! It’s the end of the day and I haven’t eaten any greens! Better try and force down a huge plate of spinach. Mmm, that’s excruciatingly boring!” If you have the discipline to eat greens by the fistful on a whim, then you’ll be just fine. In fact, you should probably share your secret in the comments below (don’t hold out on us!) For the rest of us (and those with limited jaw endurance), the answer is quite simple: blend it.
Making green-heavy smoothies more or less saved me nutritionally. I was enlightened to this strategy by former coworkers of mine who were bodybuilders and figure models, and were therefore meticulous when it came to nutrition. Those guys and gals are way too busy tracking their protein intake to the gram to spend twenty minutes chewing through the copious amounts of greens that their diets demand, so they let the blender do the work for them. I also have to admit that Joe Rogan’s podcast (powerful kale shakes) may have inspired me to go ahead and try this method for myself (interested parties who don’t mind a little not-so-PG language are encouraged to search for The Joe Rogan Experience on iTunes).
I don’t recommend the smoothie option just as a matter of convenience, however, but also to get the most out of the greens you eat. Think about it: do you really chew your food down to the same homogenous pulp that a blender does? I personally catch myself wolfing down salads with hardly a nibble if I’m distracted. When your greens are blended, you can take in a couple cups of leaf in just a few minutes with full confidence that, from a mechanical standpoint at least, those greens have the best chance of getting digested you could possibly give them.
Some greens make better smoothies than others. My number one choice, on a basis of overall blend-ability and flavour, is baby spinach. If you start with a small amount of liquid, you can blend the stuff practically into foam, and the taste is very unimposing. Kale, as powerful a food as it is, has an overwhelming taste, and there is little you will be able to do to mask it. Just throw in a little something to take the edge off if you’re not a huge fan, and SLAM IT! Try some different options, and see which you prefer. There are plenty of greens to choose from. I’m going to encourage you to make your own informed decisions on whether or not to go organic (personally, I choose organic greens whenever possible).
What you put in the smoothie is really up to you. Frozen berries work great, and they’ll get you that desirable icy consistency. If you’re not operating with a high-quality blender, just make sure you don’t burn the motor out! Chopping your ingredients up a bit first will help. Most of the time, if I’m in need of some quick greens, I just throw a couple scoops of frozen orange juice in with my spinach and blend it up. Not a killer smoothie, really, but it gets the job done and it’s relatively budget-friendly.
Now for the fine print: you might get a little… gassy. Unless you’re eating an exorbitant amount of greens or you have a digestion issue, it probably won’t be that big of a concern, but if you find that gas is an issue, it might not hurt to inquire with your physician, pharmacist, or a dietician. These professionals may be able to guide your nutrition in a more individualized manner, or recommend an enzyme supplement to help ease the situation.
So, no more excuses! Get some leafy green vegetables in your diet and reap the physiological benefits. They have the potential to improve your health and vitality in many ways.
Please feel free to share awesome green veggie recipes in the comments below (smoothies or otherwise)!