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.
15 thoughts on “Shaved zucchini & rocket salad”
this is a wonderfully informative post about greens! I have been thinking that maybe i have been eating tooo much of raw- I sometimes do get problems digesting it. great post and recipe!
Hey, Alexia, I thought it was pretty fascinating too – the stuff about greens and oxalic acid. A diet of mostly raw food is not for everyone, for the exact same reasons you describe – digestion. It can be hard on some peoples tummies. That’s why fermenting/pickling some veggies may help (if you’d rather not cook them), or lightly steaming.x
yeah, i have been lightly steaming things, my stomach is just not capable of digestion a HUGE raw salad all at once. although i LOOOOVE huge salads. i have to be more careful nowadays… i also dont sigest SAUERKRAUT very well… although its part of out national cuisine… i can have but can easily overdo it. kimchi and tempeh are my favourite fermented foods!
Some foods when eaten raw tend to be better than others for digesting, like salad greens, cucumber, radishes, avocado. Other vegetables, like those from the cruciferous family, can be difficult to digest when eaten raw. As an aside, raw cruciferous vegetables are not advised for people with has thyroid problems.
I love kimchi and pickles that my mum makes! Fermented foods are so good for our gut bacteria and digestion.
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I’ve have started researching juicing vegetables. I had to find a way to get as many nutrients into my body as possible as I’m pregnant and can’t eat much. I want to continue juicing as I can see the benefits to it, but I’m wondering if the process may break down the bond between the oxalic acid and the other good stuff? I have read that juicing makes things easier to absorb.
Hi Lauren, oxalic acid in food (other than rhubarb leaves!) is generally not a problem. But if you’re juicing a lot or are low in minerals, you may want to try kale instead of spinach leaves.
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I just bougut rainbow silverbeet to eat raw instead of celery. Are the coloured stalks safe to eat or add to my smoothly with my spinach leaves?
Hi Darron, yes, the coloured stalks are safe to eat, but are better and tastier cooked. You can uses the soft stalks of very young leaves in your smoothie if you wish.