The Goodness of Greens

Updated:Apr 21,2014

Green leafy vegetables, known as ‘greens,’ are getting attention as nutritional super-stars. Most greens contain varied amounts of potassium to help keep a healthy blood pressure, vitamin K and calcium for strong bones, and large amounts of the antioxidant vitamin A. Packed with belly-filling fiber, these leaves are great to heap onto your plate. But if you’ve never cooked them – or if you’ve found them tough to chew, take heart and follow these tips for cooking greens into delicious dishes.

The Goodness of Greens Article Picture
Kale
Appearance – Ruffled, very thick, dark green leaves with very light green stems

Taste
– Bold and almost bitter

Preparation
– Turn leaves into tender, succulent greens by making:
  • Soup – Cut into thin ribbons and add to any soup. Kale & Apple Soup is especially delicious: Sauté sliced kale with a chopped onion and apple; then add 2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth; puree in a blender if desired; top with a spoonful of fat-free plain yogurt.
  • Kale Chips – Wash and dry leaves with a towel; tear into bite-sized pieces; drizzle with a little oil and black pepper. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes until crispy.
Swiss Chard Picture
Swiss Chard

Appearance – Dark green leaves with beautiful bright pink, yellow or white stems

Taste
– Slightly tart and pungent, not as bold as kale

Preparation
– Cut out the stems and cook separately. Slice the leaves into thin ribbons and cook as follows:
  • Pasta – Toss leaf ribbons into the pasta water during the last few minutes that the pasta cooks; then drain along with the pasta and serve according to your pasta recipe or just top with a spoonful of fat-free ricotta cheese.
  • Instead of a bed of rice – Fish or shrimp is delicious on Swiss chard ribbons sautéed in a little oil with garlic, and 2 tablespoons of water; cook until bright green and tender-crisp about 2-3 minutes.

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Arugula
 
Escarole Picture
Escarole 

Arugula and Escarole

Appearance – Arugula has bright green leaves shaped rather like oak leaves; escarole looks like a soft-ball-sized head of curly lettuce.

Taste
– Both taste peppery; escarole has a more bitter bite.

Preparation
  • Salads – Compliment the tanginess of the greens with sweet salad ingredients like orange slices, dried cranberries or raisins. Crunchy nuts add contrast and just 1 teaspoon of a bold blue cheese or aged cheese make the greens taste sweeter.
  • Sandwiches – Add crunch and variety to low fat, low-sodium lunch meat on whole grain bread; top with a sweet component like apple or pear slices.


Article copyright © 2014 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.