Greens are essential for healthy living. They help with purifying the blood, strengthening the immune system, and promoting healthy gut, liver and kidney function.
Dark leafy green vegetables in particular — like rocket (arugula), kale, silverbeet (Swiss chard) and spinach — are full of many nutrients. Think calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins A, C and K, chlorophyll and folic acid. (Tip: adding a source of vitamin C, such as squeezing some lemon juice over your raw greens or at the end of cooking helps to absorb iron — so important for vegetarians).
While many greens can be eaten raw, some are better eaten in moderation or, at least, cooked because they contain a phytochemical called oxalic acid. Oxalic acid (oxalate) binds to calcium — making it hard for calcium to get absorbed. In fact, the levels are so high in rhubarb leaves (not the stalk), that it’s not safe for eating. (A list of some vegetables with their oxalic acid levels here.)
Greens with high amounts of oxalic acid (but that are safe to eat) include beetroot greens, silverbeet and spinach. These vegetables are best eaten cooked with dairy or other rich foods like meat, tempeh, legumes or oil, because it reduces the oxalic acid levels. For this reason, I prefer using kale to spinach in juices and smoothies.
So now it makes sense why the French cook spinach with cream, Greeks, silverbeet with feta, and Indians, spinach (palak) with paneer — it wasn’t just for the delicious taste! (It always amazes me how traditional ways of preparing foods — like soaking, sprouting and fermenting — nourishes and protects the human body. Somehow, the people of the past just knew what to do.)
It’s best to rotate and try different greens, as they have various levels of different nutrients (you’ll see a lot of variety if you venture out to farmers’ markets). Learn how to prepare them and include some in your diet every day — your health will thank you for it.
With a potato peeler, thinly shave 2 young, small zucchinis into a salad bowl. Wash and dry a large handful of rocket (arugula) and add to the zucchini. Gently combine the two ingredients with your (clean) hands. Dress with extra virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon, and some sea salt. Add some freshly cracked pepper if you wish.