What’s the best way to eat your greens?
The Great Green Debate: Raw, Cooked or Powdered? Our nutritionist and GoodnessMe Box Health Editor Melissa Fine shares her tips on getting the most out of your green veg.
Certain nutrients – particularly vitamin C and folate in green leafy veg - can become less concentrated when boiled because they’re water soluble; So if you over-boil your broccoli or Brussels sprouts, a lot of their good stuff leaches into the water, leaving little nutritional value.
I’m not saying to never cook your green veg (raw whole Brussels aren’t very easy to eat or digest – they are delicious shaved in a salad though); Just be mindful of how you cook them. Blanching or steaming are preferable methods to boiling the life out of your veg, and soups are great because you’ll consume the nutrients that have leached into the liquid.
Some other reasons I’m a fan of raw greens:
They add bulk and filling fibre to a meal, without bumping up the kilojoules - A good option if you’re trying to lose some extra kilos but like big portions. Baby spinach leaves and rocket for some bitters are my favourites for a salad base.
They encourage you to chew: Which promotes better digestion and nutrient absorption. Chewing also means you’ll eat more slowly, giving your brain more time to register that you’re full, so you’re less likely to overeat.
On the contrary, other nutrients in green leafy veg are better absorbed when chopped/blended and cooked – particularly the carotenoids (plant pigments) ‘lutein’ and ‘zeaxanthin’, which are integral components of the eye, important for eye health and vision.
Cooked spinach and kale are two of the richest sources of these carotenoids, followed by turnip greens, collard greens and dandelion greens. Fat increases the bioavailability (absorption potential) of lutein and zeaxanthin even further, so sauté or stir-fry your greens in a little olive oil, coconut oil or ghee; I like to add a drizzle of creamy, nutty tahini before serving too. Yum!
Cooked veg also tend to be easier to digest – a big green salad for lunch and dinner everyday may result in bloating, excess wind, a bellyache, or stomach upset, particularly in individuals with sensitive guts (such as those with irritable bowel syndrome). I prefer my kale braised anyway – in its raw state, curly kale is tough and chewy, and requires a lot of massaging to tenderise.
Greens powders are handy when you’re on the go/on a plane/on the road and the only veggies available are in the form of potato chips or mayo-loaded coleslaw. One like Samudra Superfoods Greens Elixir contains a variety of dehydrated, fibre rich veg for gut health and to keep you regular (It can be hard to get enough fibre when you’re travelling) – including alfalfa, spinach and broccoli sprouts, energising wheatgrass and spirulina, alkalising barley grass and chlorophyll - a traditional cleanser.
Digestive herbs and spices are nice additions to a greens powder, making it easier to digest and absorb. Ginger for example aids gastric motility (the movement of food and food matter down the digestive tract), and peppermint leaf has anti-spasmodic potential in the gastrointestinal tract.
“But aren’t green powders gross?” Some aren’t great, but one’s like Samudra’s are surprisingly tasty thanks to ingredients like vanilla, sweet and spicy cinnamon, and mesquite, which has an underlying caramel flavour.
I also like having a greens powder when I’m feeling run-down for a concentrated dose of nutrients on top of the veg I’m eating – With things like cold storage and pesticides these days, it’s hard to know how concentrated the nutrients in our fresh produce really are.