Michelle Obama wants us to make half of our plate fruits or vegetables, it is World Vegetarian Awareness Month, and we all know how over and over vegetables are proven nutrition superheroes. But before the complaints start coming about how our green leafy friends just don’t taste good, try out some lesser known veggies and discover exactly how delicious they can be. If that’s not enough, a new study out this month says that eating green vegetables at least once a week cut participants’ risk of oral cancer by twenty percent. So eat up!
Leeks: In the same family as onions and garlic, leeks, the national vegetable of Wales, are at their peak during fall and winter. They are found primarily in soups, like our Potato Leek Soup, but can also be eaten raw in salads or sautéed. They contain flavonoids, folate, and antioxidant polyphenols, all important for cardiovascular health. Leeks are low in calories, yet one cup provides many vitamins and minerals including half the daily recommended amount of vitamin K and thirty percent of the daily value of vitamin A. Although less researched for health benefits than garlic and onions, leeks are just as beneficial and their milder taste may appeal to those who dislike garlic and onion’s strong flavor. Be sure to wash these well to remove dirt and grit hiding between the leaves.
Endive: Although iceberg lettuce is often thought to be the ultimate low calorie food, endive actually has less – only one calorie per leaf, or 17 calories per head! It can be used in salads, like this Curly Endive and Pear Salad, but an even more creative and attractive use is as a replacement for crackers and hors d’oeuvre bases because its leaves are naturally scoop-shaped. Another plus: it doesn’t have to be washed, as its leaves, available all year round, have never touched soil. It also keeps longer than most lettuces, up to two weeks in the fridge. Endive is high in fiber, folates, vitamins A and K, and beta-carotene.
Parsley: Although considered bad etiquette, eating the parsley on your plate provided as garnish is actually a very beneficial thing to do. Its unique nutritional properties include being a good source of volatile oils, which in animal studies have helped prevent tumor formation and protect against carcinogens, folic acid (a B vitamin), and vitamins A, K, and C, which reduces risk for many diseases. If you do not prefer the flavor, try a different variety of parsley (there are several), or combine it with other herbs in rubs and sauces. It is delicious in the wholesome Middle Eastern classic tabouli, and in pesto.
Mustard Greens: These leafy greens, which originated in India but are now common in Japanese, Chinese, and Southern American cooking, are similar to kale and collard greens, but have a less bitter and distinct Dijon mustard taste. They can be eaten raw, like in a sandwich for a little extra flavor, or sautéed for Mustard Greens and Yellow Squash Saute, but are most often steamed or boiled. Clean them easily by swishing the greens around in a bowl of water to remove the dirt. Cook up a cup of mustard greens with olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper and you’ll help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of cancer, and flush out toxins from the body.
Fava Beans: These beans, the ones Jack grew in to a beanstalk, are underappreciated in the United States, although popular elsewhere. They require quite a bit of preparation, including shelling, parboiling, and another shelling, but the creamy, buttery bean that awaits is worth the effort. Fava beans can be eaten by themselves, but are also featured in Italian, English, Mexican, Chinese, and Middle Eastern recipes, making them a terrifically diverse ingredient in pastas, soups, and salads like this Herbed Bean Salad. They are very high in protein, a powerhouse source of fiber, and a good source of healthy omega fatty acids and other vitamins.
By Sarah Shultz for DietsInReview.com