It’s nearly spring and St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. While the food most commonly associated with the holiday is typically fat-and-calorie-laden “Irish fry” fare such as corn beef and cabbage, Irish stew and black pudding, there is no reason why you can’t celebrate the luck of the Irish by lightening up your day with healthy green foods!
For better health, try adding lots of GREEN (superfoods, that is) into your day. Here is a list of five of the most nutritious green superfoods:
Kale is the new insanely nutritious superfood on the block. At only 36 calories per cup (boiled), kale is a great low-calorie veggie, packed with mega-vitamins such as K, A, and C, plus carotenoids, flavonoids, fiber, calcium, and iron. What’s more, kale is a cruciferous vegetable, or a "crucifer," meaning it belongs to the Crucifae family of vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables have numerous health benefits, most notably their ability to fight cancer. Crucifers contain isothiocyanates, chemical compounds that combat carcinogens by inhibiting their activity, repairing damage made by them, and also speeding up cancer cell death. Try oven-roasting kale with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and just a touch of sea salt for a crispy treat.
Edamame, or immature green soybeans, are a virtual powerhouse of nutrition. A half-cup serving of shelled edamame pods contains just 120 calories and a whopping 9 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein. And soy is a “complete,” high-quality protein meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for growth and development. A few swallows of this little bean will also supply you with a nice amount of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, thiamin, folate and vitamin K.
Both the soy protein and the isoflavones -- powerful plant-based chemicals similar in structure to estrogen and proven to help lower cholesterol -- housed within edamame have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, our nation’s leading cause of death.
Love it or hate it, this green vegetable never fails to garner the coveted superfood title. Another cruciferous cancer-fighting vegetable, broccoli stands out as the most concentrated veggie source of Vitamin C. Plus it contains the flavonoids necessary for Vitamin C to recycle effectively. Also concentrated in broccoli are the disease-fighting carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene.
Broccoli is simply loaded with the medicinal anti-inflammatory isothiocyanate called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has proven cancer-prevention properties and may also help prevent and treat other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. And all this for a mere 50 calories in one cup of steamed broccoli!
4. GREEN TEA
Most people know that green tea is a health food. But do you know why? Tea is a plant food; and plants contain a plethora of phytochemicals that, when stacked together, maximize your body’s defense against chronic disease.
There are three main varieties of tea -- black, oolong, and green -- and all are derived from the tea plant known as Camellia sinensis. Teas are classified based on how the leaves are processed. Green tea, the least processed of the three, is dried but not fermented. Oolong tea has been withered (wilted), fermented, then fired directly to prevent continued fermentation. Black tea goes through the most processing. Here the tea leaves have been fermented for a much longer period, a process that gives black tea its darker color and richer flavor.
The predominant disease-fighting flavonoid in all forms of tea is the catechins. Green and black tea have the most scientific evidence supporting their heath benefits. So let’s all take a tip from the Brits and make time for tea -- green tea, that is.
Who knew? Avocados are nicknamed alligator pears because of their pear shape and alligator-like skin. Avocados are actually considered a fruit and as such are the ultimate health food packed with super-heart-healthy monounsaturated fat in addition to an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients not found in butter or mayo. So replace those artery-clogging fats by going green with a spread of super-buttery, creamy, and delightfully tasty ripe avocado and do your heart a favor!
Think GREEN, not just for the environment and St. Patrick’s Day but also for your body, your health, and your fitness. Aim for at least one cup of dark green veggies such as kale, broccoli, or spinach every day. Everyone surely has a little Irish in them, even if just in spirit. So why not take this opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with some of these healthier green foods? With the support of Fitness Together you’ll surely be giving yourself the gift of better health.