Eat Your Greens

Curly, purple, and Tuscan kale. Photo: Maria Price.

By Maria Price

I grow organic vegetables and participate in a few farmers markets. I’m proud of what we grow and enjoy meeting people throughout Anne Arundel County. We grow a lot of leafy greens because of their healthy attributes, but I find that most people gravitate towards corn, tomatoes and cantaloupe. I love all of those, too, but I want people to eat healthier. Eat all those tasty vegetables, but add greens to your weekly diet.

Cancer continues to be the second most common cause of death in the US, after heart disease. As a people, we are plagued with various types of cancer and now it’s so common that we see commercials on TV for various cancer treatment centers.

Shouldn’t we be the healthiest people in the world? It seems to be the exception, not the norm, to not be taking medications past the age of 50.

All the Blue Zones around the world, where people live into their 90s with reduced rates of dementia, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, all exist on plant-based diets. We need to promote good diets with an increase of cruciferous vegetables and reduce the use of chemicals in our food systems.

I have many reasons to eat dark leafy greens. First, they may help you lose excess weight, since they contain fewer calories. They may help slash the risk of diabetes. Greens can keep your brain young, build better bones and fend off cancer.

The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), recommends the New American Plate: Fill at least 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, and no more than 1/3 of your plate with poultry, fish, lean meat, and dairy foods.

The cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and watercresses all stimulate cancer preventing enzymes, according to AICR. They contain phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, indoles and isothiocyanates, which inhibit enzymes that activate carcinogens and stimulate enzymes that deactivate carcinogens. They even turn on genes that suppress tumors.

I believe you just need some good recipes to make these greens enjoyable. Try fettuccine with kale pesto. Chop eight cups of stemmed kale. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Plunge the kale into boiling water for three minutes. Transfer the kale to the ice water. Drain and squeeze out water. Put the kale in a food processor with one cup parmesan, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup pine nuts, four garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Puree. Pour over 1 pound of cooked fettuccine and mix and sprinkle another cup of parmesan on top.