Deep in your heart, you know you should be eating more vegetables. But how to get the recommended number of veggie servings each day? If you are an active adult and you try to follow the U.S. government’s food pyramid guidelines, you’ll end up eating kale for breakfast and even the most dedicated health food fan might balk at that concept. Still, we all know that leafy green vegetables provide big bank for the buck when it comes to vitamins and minerals and that all-important dietary bonus of fiber.
Kale is King
Yes, of course, this nutritional powerhouse heads up the list of best greens for your body. Despite its pretty ruffled exterior, this green plays hard and delivers vitamins A, C and K as well as a surprising amount of calcium. If green smoothies turn you off, know that kale comes in other colors that might look good on a car: Creamy white, deep purple and even black. Baby kale is bound to be more tender but all varieties will be slightly bitter, so throw in your favorite naturally sweet fruits like mango and banana to mask that taste. Just think, if you use white kale with yellow fruits you might even be able to slip this tasty shake past a picky pre-teen with an aversion to anything that resembles a vegetable. One thing to note: do not eat any parts of the kale that have yellowed, no matter what color it was originally.
Popeye Was Right
Yes, boys and girls, men and women, that spinach-swilling cartoon sailor had it right. Spinach has powers that seem to border upon the magical, including the ability to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, improve vision, hike up heart health and even act as an anti-inflammatory. If that sounds too good to be true, add in potassium, calcium, iron, niacin and protein as well as vitamins A, B, C and B-12. Best of all, it’s a tender green–especially if you choose baby leaves–with a mild flavor that lends itself to pretty much any blend you can dream up. For a treat low in sugar but naturally high in protein, try strawberries or blueberries.
Just Beet It
Loaded with vitamins A, C and K, dark green beet leaves also contain calcium, iron, copper, manganese and magnesium. Cut off the red stems (you can sauté them later like green beans) and toss them in the blender with peaches or apples and the rest of your favorite ingredients. The flavor is mild and the leaves are tender, so you will barely notice the presence of this often overlooked but powerful green.
Lettuce Try Romaine
Lettuce in a shake? The light flavor of Romaine lettuce is a perfect green shake introduction for a nervous newbie. Surprisingly, this common salad staple contains a pretty healthy jolt of calcium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, iron magnesium, potassium and zinc along with vitamins A, B and K. Its delicate texture makes it easy to puree even if you only have an ordinary blender rather than a fancy bullet type “as seen on TV.”
A good rule of thumb with leafy greens is that the darker the leaf, the more nutrients it contains. As you grow bolder in your quest for greens, do consider the more aggressive flavors of dandelion, collard and turnip greens or even those bitter carrot tops. We’re sure that Bugs Bunny didn’t throw away the greens after eating the carrots, and just look how long he remained young and healthy!
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