With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, there is no better time to start adding some green to our plates! Plant-based foods get their natural, vibrant colors from compounds called phytochemicals or phytonutrients. These substances help to protect the plant from diseases, and when we eat them, we too reap that benefit. Green plant-based foods are packed with fiber, minerals and vitamins all of which boost the immune system and contribute to one’s overall health and well being. However, many people find it hard to know how to incorporate them into their diets.
It is not necessary to restrict your intake of green foods to boring salads and steamed vegetables. There are many easy ways to integrate green foods into many dishes that you already enjoy. So, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, here are some festive ideas to incorporate green foods into your diet that will hopefully last the whole year round.
Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, chard and arugula are packed with fiber, vitamins A, K and C, calcium, B vitamins and magnesium. While many people find these greens can be quite bitter, there are ways to surreptitiously add them to meals to pump up their nutrient content. Try adding pureed leafy greens to white and cheese sauces such as Alfredo or macaroni, not only will you get the nutrient benefits, but you sauce will become a beautiful, bright green! You can also simply add sautéed greens to things like egg scrambles, rice dishes, soup or on top of homemade pizza. Finally, to really get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, try out the traditional Irish dish Colcannon; creamy mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage and kale.
Fresh Green Herbs
Not only do many herbs such as mint, cilantro and basil contain vitamins and minerals including A, K & C, iron, B vitamins, calcium, essential oils and antioxidants, but they pack a huge amount of flavor and can be included in many dishes when trying to cut back on sodium. Try creating a basil, cilantro, mint or parsley pesto to put over pastas, rice, quinoa or fish (these can also include leafy greens such as arugula or kale). Herbs such as thyme, rosemary and mint also add great, earthy flavors to desert dishes, think bright, green mint ice cream, or lemon bars with sprinkled thyme.
Perhaps the easiest green food for many people to get on board with is avocado. It’s rich, creamy texture and mild flavor lends itself well to many palates, however this doesn’t mean that it is not teaming with health benefits. Avocado is packed with healthy, monounsaturated fats, not to mention 20 other essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, B vitamins, and folic acid. Besides its obvious uses such as guacamole or to dress up salads or sandwiches, avocado is great for baking. It replaces some of the fat required in many recipes, adds additional flavor and texture and creates a light green hue perfect for St Patrick’s Day.
Around here our favorite way to pack extra greens into our day is by starting it off with nourishing smoothie! Spinach is great for a milder flavor and smoother texture, but with a high-powered blender kale is a great option, too. Combine with a little frozen fruit for sweetness and nut butter or coconut oil for fat and protein powder for strength and staying power. There are many ways to make a green smoothie, but here’s a simple base recipe to get you started.
Green Protein Smoothie
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1 scoop protein powder, can be chocolate, vanilla or plain (15-25 grams depending on your size)
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 2 handfuls spinach
- ¾ cup almond milk
- ¼ cup coconut water
- Optional: 1 teaspoon flaxseed
Blend all ingredients until smooth. You may need to add more of either the almond milk or coconut water depending on the size of your banana and how thick you like your smoothies.
By Emily K, Bastyr Intern
Edited (and recipe) by Flannery, Bastyr Intern