You’ve heard it over and over and over again. Eat your veggies. Your mom said it. Your spouse says it. I say it. Five servings of fruits and veggies every day for life.
What’s missing from this equation? Which veggies are best? Are some better than others? You betcha!
From a caloric point of view, it’s obvious that potatoes and corn have more calories than lettuce and celery. But from a vitamin, mineral and antioxidant point of view, it’s not that easy to figure out unless you follow my rule of thumb: the brighter and deeper the veggie color, the greater the nutritional wallop. So with that in mind, mashed sweet potatoes are more nutritious than mashed potatoes. True. Sweet potato chips are better for you than potato chips, although both still have too much oil. True. And dark green leafy veggies like spinach are better than pale iceberg lettuce. True. True. True.
So today’s discussion, kids, starts with spinach and ends with kale. One 4-ounce serving of spinach provides you with more than half the vitamin A, C, K, beta carotene and folate you’ll need for the day. Spinach is loaded with the iron. Popeye used it to make red blood cells so he could defeat the evil Bluto and win the rapturous Olive Oyl (P.S.— One of my favorite cartoons when I was a scrawny kid in Chicago). But Popeye ate his out of a can, which I find as disgusting as canned peas (I know the canned peas lobby will be emailing me on this).
If you’ve never tried raw spinach, give it a second look. There are lots of things I never ate as a kid — raw tomatoes, mushrooms, avocado — that I now love. Sometimes we limit ourselves to kid choices when we have adult brains.
Be adventurous. Try new stuff, you may just like it.
Raw. Raw. Raw. Sure, I love my Aunt Myrtle’s creamed spinach but it was more cream than spinach. And that hot bacon and spinach salad dressing that seems to be at every Wisconsin salad bar, stay away from that. At 300 calories a serving, it’s toxic to your diet.
Improve the salad you’re making by tossing in some raw spinach. When you get a sub next time, load on the spinach and toss the lettuce. Making little changes like that will improve your health.
So your next food adventure might just be kale, the ancient veggie that’s popular in Europe, Asia and Africa. In Wisconsin, we use kale as a decoration next to a steak or chop. It wasn’t until one of my radio listeners told me I could eat it that I realized kale wasn’t just a decoration. Kale is in the same veggie group as broccoli, cauliflower, collards and Brussels sprouts so it makes sense that it’s edible.
I suggest you toss some cut up kale in with a spring mix next time you make a salad. Kale gives it a nice “bite.” I found several recipes for Asian style salad that used kale and cabbage slaw, mixed with an assortment of peanuts, roasted almonds, pecans and raisins.
Recently, a listener of my radio show sent in a kale chip recipe that we’ve printed below. These homemade crunchy kale chips are a low fat, nutritious alternative to potato chips — bring them to your next potluck. You’ll get rave reviews. And if your experience is like mine, you might just hear someone say, “What the *@%X is kale?” Now that will bring on a big Badger smile. Stay Well!
2 bunches kale
1 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste*
What to do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash and dry kale leaves. Cut out the thick center stem. Tear leaves into medium size pieces. Toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread the pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 10 — 15 minutes or until crispy. Enjoy!
*Or any of your favorite seasonings!
Guest Writer, Dr. Zorba Paster, Madison, WI’s 77 Square