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  • Writer's pictureSophia Kamveris, MS, RDN

Go Green!



So, as I pondered what to do as a blog for this month, I was reminded that the Boston Celtics (Eastern Conference champions) are playing the Dallas Mavericks (Western Conference champions) in the NBA Finals this week to determine the league champion! 


As dietitians, we promote all colors of the rainbow, but in honor of my Green Team, I thought it would be fun to talk about the benefits of green vegetables this month! They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, boost your immune system, and support overall health. 


These green gems include spinach, kale, collard greens, peas, zucchini, bok choy, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, cukes, green beans, and….asparagus, which I discovered has a crayon color named after it!


Green vegetables are packed with Vitamin K* (known for its role in blood clotting and bone health); folate (which plays a key role in red blood cell production);  potassium (a co-regulator of blood pressure); and Vitamin C (which helps to form and maintain bones and cartilage, skin, and blood vessels). And veggies are full of fiber that’s so good for your gut health. 


As I have discussed in previous blogs, antioxidants help to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer that may be caused by oxidative stress. Trust me, there’s a lot of chemistry involved in the process.


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that vegetables may be eaten  in a variety of states—raw or cooked; fresh or frozen; canned, or dried. They can be whole, cut-up, or puréed. The USDA recommends two to three cups of vegetables per day for an adult.


Be aware that vitamins are regarded as fat or water soluble. That means they either mix with water or they don’t, so the way that food is cooked matters when it comes to vitamin retention.  You lose nutrients when you boil your vegetables; they essentially go down the drain. So it’s best to steam, grill, stir fry, sauté, or microwave (if you must!). For the same reason, canned fruits and vegetables are not as nutrient-rich as fresh or frozen ones. 


Here are some ways to add some green power to your meals: 


Breakfast:


  • Add leafy greens to your favorite smoothie recipe. You won’t even notice they are in there!

  • Shredded zucchini can be added to whole-grain muffins and pancakes.

  • Add leftover cooked vegetables or sautéed leafy greens to scrambled eggs or egg-white omelets.

  • Stuff whole wheat tortilla wraps with eggs/sautéed peppers.

  • Spread smashed avocado on whole grain toast. 

  • Roast up a pan of vegetables during the week and use them as a substitute for plain potato hash. It’s ok to use potatoes (sweet or white) in there but now there’s plenty of vegetable friends to keep the potatoes company on the plate!


Lunch and Dinner:


  • Wrap deli meats in romaine lettuce leaves if you are going gluten free. 

  • Stuff a pita bread with (un-dressed) coleslaw or pickles (along with a protein) for some added crunch in your sandwich without the added fat calories of potato chips. Use more cabbage in your meal preparation. Likewise, fermented cabbage (aka sauerkraut) adds even more health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving your digestion, and supporting your immune system.

  • Add sautéed spinach or kale to lentil or white bean soup. Adding leeks or scallions to a variety of soups is a good source of fiber and vitamin C.

  • Pureed veggies can also be added to soups as a thickener without all the high fat dairy. 

  • Gazpacho soups are cooling for summer fare. There’s a ton of recipes online for different flavors and a kick of spice!

  • Dust off the grill and get it firing with an assortment of vegetable kebabs sizzling on skewers.

  • Stir-fry. It’s fun to get a blend of veggies and flavors co-noodling in a pan!


Super Duper Snacks:


  • Celery sticks dipped with tzatziki or hummus

  • Cucumber coins topped with dollop of mango salsa

  • Guacamole with whole-wheat crackers 

  • Avocado slices with string cheese or mozzarella balls 

  • Dry roasted Edamame or Wasabi peas (both can have added oil and seasonings like wasabi soy sauce, sugar, and salt—so read the label if you are on a restricted diet)


There is no single most healthy vegetable, but eating a variety of vegetables can improve health and well-being. By varying your vegetables, you are ensuring you are reaping the health benefits of your diet.  


So, remember to Go Green! 


And……Go Celtics! 


In Good Health, 

Sophie


*If a person is taking blood thinners they should use caution when increasing greens that are high in Vitamin K. It is best to maintain a consistent vitamin K intake while taking these medications.

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