These Healthy Greens are NOT found in the produce section.
When you think about eating more greens, you may not consider teas, seaweeds, and sprouts, but these foods can be a powerful addition to a healthier lifestyle, bathing your cells in antioxidants, trace minerals, and nutrients.
I believe you can learn to enjoy healthy foods simply by exposing yourself to them every once in a while. People often need to try a new food 7-15 times before they’ll develop a taste for it, so be patient with yourself (and your kids). I have taught myself to savor olives, to love mangos, to appreciate corn tortillas, to tolerate blue cheese, to drink black coffee (sometimes), and to sip on green tea. I felt like I was missing out on something great simply because I thought I didn’t like these foods, and I was, so I just kept trying them.
1. Green Tea
Green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants! It’s hailed as having countless health benefits, including reducing the risk for several types of cancers and inflammatory diseases. If you’re struggling to overcome cravings for sweets, you should definitely consider drinking green tea. There are endless brands and blends to try: smooth, spicy, flowery, nutty, fruity, etc… The first green tea I tasted that I actually liked was a Jasmine Green Tea, served to me in a restaurant. It was perfectly steeped and perfectly warm and perfectly comforting. Now, my favorite green tea to make at home is Numi Organic Green Tea with Toasted Rice. If you’re trying green tea for the first time, I recommend making it weak to begin with and going from there.
Matcha is powdered green tea leaf and full of all the same antioxidant power as steeped green tea. I’ve choked down a few matcha tea lattes and tried the tea at home, but it tastes a bit like grass (even in a cup of sweetened coconut milk). A few weeks ago, I tried these Matcha Green Granola Bars, and I love them. Today, I’m enjoying a matcha-mango smoothie, so there are lots of way to incorporate this green powder into your diet, and the flavor is certainly growing on me.
The ocean is full of green plants too, and some of them are really good for us. Seaweeds are a rich source of B vitamins and trace minerals (including iodine), and may reduce the risk for several types of cancers. Seaweed is also an acquired taste, but the health benefits seem to be worth it.
Recommended seaweeds include: dulse, wakame, and nori.
There are also a few varieties you should AVOID, including: hijiki/hiziki (high in arsenic), and algae (like spirulina and blue-green algae, both containing dangerous neurotoxins). I just learned that you may want to limit or avoid kelp/kombu too since it’s very high in iodine.
I can’t offer you much advice on learning to like seaweed, since my experience is limited to sushi (nori), a couple of nasty dulse samples, a little seaweed salad (wakame) which is kind of fishy and tasty, and the occasional piece of kombu thrown in when cooking dried beans on the stove (it’s supposed to break down some of those indigestible fibers and make them less gas-producing). Seaweed Snacks seem like the ideal, low-calorie travel snack, and you can buy dried seaweed seasoning that you sprinkle on your food (a wonderful salt substitute). I’m still developing a taste for seaweed, but if you’ve already mastered this one, let us know in the comments, and please share your tips for eating more of it.
3. Sprouts and Microgreens
Sprouts are easy to like. There is a whole variety of flavors, all cheap and packed with nutrition! Radish, onion, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, kale, mung bean. Some of them are intense and delicious; some are mild and crunchy. Sprouts are easy to grow at home, and it’s actually safer to grow your own. After searching local health food stores and the internet for sprouting seeds, I was finally able to find a large variety of cheap sprouting seeds at a plant nursery! Regardless of what climate you live in, you can grow sprouts in a mason jar on your counter any time of year. Just be sure to use clean water, rinse them a few times per day, and once they’ve sprouted, let them dry out slightly before storing them in the fridge. There are tonnes of resources on the internet for how to grow your own fresh and nutritious sprouts at home. It’s a great project for kids; the sprouts will grow in just a few days and you can watch through a glass jar! Once you’ve got them, you can add them to anything: salads, sandwiches, stir fries, pizza, pasta, hummus, you name it.
Microgreens (like sunflower and beet) are grown in a thin layer of soil. You can also grow these on your counter, but they need to be near a window (unlike sprouts which do better in the dark). Once the first leaves appear, you trim the greens with a pair of scissors, wash them off, and add them to your meals. They’re really fresh and delicious.
Give yourself a healthy boost by trying something new this week, and share your experience with us in the comments below.