Senior Home Care Blog - Western Cook & Eastern DuPage Counties

Fresh Greens: They Aren’t Just For Salads Anymore

By Mary L. Doepke, RN

Before the tomatoes are ripe or the zucchini have reached their peak, the warm days of spring yield bumper crops of healthy fresh greens.

From spinach to kale to good old iceberg lettuce, these leafy vegetables pack a nutritional punch and make for a flavorful addition to any meal.

Here’s a look at four of the more common greens among us, including why they’re good for you and ideas for how to enjoy them and their many healthy benefits.

Rocket fuel

Also known as rocket, this good-for-you green is more closely related to broccoli and brussels sprouts that to lettuce or spinach.

The spicy, tender leaves of arugula are packed with dietary nitrate, which lowers blood pressure and is good for the heart.  

How to Enjoy it: Try arugula in place of, or in addition to, any green, leafy vegetable. Or give this simple, protein-packed salad from Family Circle magazine a try.


All Hail Kale

Kale is much more than trendy. It’s one of the most nutritious choices when deciding which green to put in your salad or smoothie.

Kale supplies the body with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, calcium, fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Keep in mind that some medications, including blood thinners such as Coumadin, require the user to avoid foods high in vitamin K.

Kale can be eaten raw in a salad, added to smoothies, sautéed or added to soups and other dishes. But one of the tastiest ways to enjoy this healthy vegetable is to bake them into chips.

How to Enjoy it: To make kale chips, simply remove the ribs from the leaves, toss them in a little olive oil and salt, and bake them on a cookie sheet until crispy. Kale chips are best enjoyed right out of the oven.


Spinach, the Versatile Veggie

Unlike many vegetables, cooking actually increases the nutritional value of spinach by releasing more of its many nutrients. But that’s not to suggest that a raw spinach salad doesn’t pack its own nutritional punch.

Whether you prefer your spinach sautéed or straight from the ground, a serving of spinach will supply your body with a virtual buffet of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

How to Enjoy it: Try baking spinach into squares for a healthy and delicious appetizer or snack. Betty Crocker offers this simple recipe that is sure to be favorite even among those who thought they didn’t like spinach.  


The Cold, Hard Facts About Iceberg

Iceberg lettuce – the pale green leaves that add crispness to salads, tacos and other foods – gets a bad rap as being nutritionally void. But that’s not exactly true.

While it fails to pack the punch of some other greens, iceberg lettuce has plenty of redeeming qualities, including a healthy dose of vitamins A and K. And because it’s mostly water, it actually can help with proper hydration.

In short, iceberg lettuce isn’t a bad food. Just don’t make it the only green in your diet.

How to Enjoy it: Try substituting large iceberg leaves for bread for a low-carb lunch.