During the month of March we see green everywhere! Green isn't just a fun color to wear on St. Patrick's Day, it is also an important color in our food.
Fruits and vegetables are colorful for different reasons, not only do they make food look more appetizing but each color contains different nutrients called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants and are known as antioxidants, flavonoids and phytonutrients just to name a few. Some researchers believe there to be more than 4,000 different phytochemicals. This article is all about the phytochemicals found in our green and yellow plant foods.
Green foods are packed with phytochemicals. Cruciferous vegetables are a certain group of vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts. They contain a compound called sulforaphane, which was found to detoxify cancer-causing chemicals before they do damage to the body. These vegetables are believed to offer some degree of cancer prevention and have shown to decrease the risk of prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancers.
Green foods have not only been showing signs of anticancer properties but they are also excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. Folic acid helps our bodies to make new cells and to prevent major birth defects of the brain and spine. Potassium is important because it has been associated with lowering blood pressure. Vitamin K is essential for blood clot formation which helps the body stop bleeding when injured.
Carotenoids are another type of phytochemical found in our greens. Carotenoids play a role in protecting our eyes and may reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Macular degeneration causes loss of vision. The macula part of the eye is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail. Two kinds of carotenoids found in yellow and green foods are lutein and zeaxanthin and we actually have lutein receptors in the macular part of our eyes. Plant foods that are rich in lutein are collard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, artichokes, kiwis and pistachios.
Now that we know why eating your greens is so important here are a few recipes to get these good-for-you foods in your diet.
Curried Broccoli Couscous
1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
2. 1/4 bunch broccoli, finely chopped (1 1⁄2 cups)
3. 1 teaspoon curry powder
4. 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
5. 1/3 cup golden raisins
6. kosher salt
7. 3⁄4 cup couscous
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the curry powder and stir to combine. Stir in the chickpeas, raisins, 1 cup water, and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.
3. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let steam 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork
Balsamic Collard Greens
3 bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 (16-ounce) package chop-ped fresh collard greens
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons balsamic vin-egar
1 tablespoon honey
1. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add collard greens, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until greens begin to wilt, stirring occasionally.
2. Place collard green mixture, salt, and next 3 ingredients (through broth) in a 3-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
3. Combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a small bowl. Stir vinegar mixture into collard greens just before serving. Sprinkle with bacon
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