With so much advice around about the best foods for maintaining good health for young and old alike, it’s always reassuring to find a united front on one topic at least. Eating more leafy green vegetables is a win-win situation. Numerous studies have confirmed that they are rich in Vitamins A, C, K and E, minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium, and fibre for the digestive tract.
The American Institute of Cancer Research reports that regular consumption of greens may limit cancer cell growth, while other studies suggest that the incidence of age-related diabetes could be reduced if people who tend to avoid leafy green vegetables would include them in their healthy nutrition programme. Concerned governments in many countries always mention green leafy vegetables when encouraging their citizens towards eating healthy food.
Leafy greens are natural tool boxes of good things that can also lower ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and boost the immune system.. They are also particularly rich in lutein (pronounced loot-in), a powerful antioxidant associated with healthy eyesight. Lutein keeps the retina (the lining inside the back of the eye) in good shape to ward off macular degeneration and cataract formation, both of which can lead to blindness.
Why Leafy Green Vegetables Went Out of Style for Good Nutrition
Dietary studies show that in today’s busy world traditional greens are being side-lined, with possible long-term consequences for health. Reasons for this include:
- Resistance to the strong taste/cooking smell of some of the Brassica family to which many leafy greens belong, such as cabbages, kales, brussels sprouts, spring greens and collard greens.
- Preference for frozen vegetables over fresh leafy green vegetables which have to be used quickly.
- Except for spinach and Brussels sprouts, green leafy vegetable generally do not freeze well
- Loss of traditional skills for making fresh green vegetables tasty.
- Association of some leafy green vegetables with rural poverty or old-style school or other institutional cooking.
- A reputation for causing flatulence..
Overcoming Family Resistance to Eating Green Leafy Vegetables
It has to be said that just the mention of broccoli, boiled cabbage or a whiff of Brussels sprouts can send kids into tantrums, grown men running for the door and grandparents reminiscing about wartime (World War II) spinach-eating campaigns and the smell of school cabbage.
Most complaints about the taste and smell of leafy green vegetables are caused by the presence of sulphur compounds, while others relate to texture – too stringy or too chewy.
Tips for Turning Leafy Green Vegetables Into Good Eating
Remove as much stump/stalk material as possible (you can blend them later) as these have the strongest taste and smell. Strip out large leaf veins thicker than a pencil, since these are responsible for that unloved ‘stringy’ texture. The veins (but not the stump) can be frozen for making soup or stock.
- Roughly chop or tear, but do not finely shred the green leafy parts as this can destroy the vitamin content.
- Rather than boiling in salted water, sauté (low to moderate heat only) in a good vegetable oil, preferable olive oil. This reduces cooking smells while retaining green vitamins lost by boiling in water.
- Stir repeatedly, remembering that overcooking of anything destroys vitamins, and making sure neither the oil nor the leaves brown or burn.
Experiment with seasoning, spices and herbs to disguise the flavour slightly. A pinch of nutmeg or mace in particular complements the earthy flavour of spinach, cabbage and collard greens.
Ginger, freshly grated or in power form, can be added to cabbage because it helps prevent flatulence.
Easy Cabbage Recipes for Green Vitamins and Good Eating
Ingredients, for a side dish for 4-6 people:
- Medium-sized cabbage, any kind.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, or any vegetable oil.
- Salt and black pepper to taste.
- 1 level teaspoon of ground nutmeg or mace powder.
- 1 level tablespoon of finely sliced/mashed fresh ginger or 2 teaspoons of ginger powder.
- Prepare cabbage as above, as near to meal time as possible, allowing for 5-6 minutes cooking time.
- Preheat oil on medium heat in wide-based pan (wok, large saucepan).
- Add chopped cabbage and seasoning as above, stirring well.
- Warm a serving dishing while cabbage is cooking.
- Serve as a side dish to meat or fish as soon as possible to preserve vitamin content.
Variations on Easy Cabbage Recipe and Serving Suggestions
There are many ways to vary an easy cabbage recipe, depending on family likes and dislikes, and what is being served as a main dish. For example:
- If serving with lamb, replace ginger and nutmeg with 2 tablespoons of chopped mint and 2 tablespoons of balsamic or wine vinegar.
- Add texture, nutrition and improve the appearance of the finished dish by sprinkling the top with sunflower seeds, pine nuts, crushed roasted peanuts or soup croutons.
Plenty of other foods contain similar ingredients, but not many come in the same handy all-in-one package as a good helping of green vegetables..