Quick food fact: Canada’s Food Guide recommends between 7-10 servings of vegetables a day for adult men and women. Now, absolutely no offense to everyday vegetables who are wonderful, colourful, and nutritious, but there is an extended family of greens beyond the produce section you should get to know! Here are some unusual greens and their powerhouse benefits for people ready for a little variety in their 7-10. Eating your greens has never been more adventurous!
You’ve probably tried barley grains in soup, but did you know the greens are also edible? Well, more than just edible: these greens pack a serious vitamin punch with Vitamin A, C, B1, B2, B6, B12. Plus, they’re a source of beta carotene, calcium, iron, potassium and chlorophyll. You might say there’s barley anything they can’t do...oof, sorry about that.
Not just for cows anymore, everyone favourite Lil’ Rascal is also a delicious, nutritious green. Alfalfa is a real multi-tasker: studies have shown it can be helpful for cholesterol, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, healthy digestion, and diabetes. It’s also a source of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, K and amino acids. See? Multi-tasker!
You inner child makes wishes on their puffball globes, but your outer adult should take a closer look at their dark green leaves. Nutritionally, dandelion leaves are a full house: they contain vitamins A, B, B6, C and D, calcium, and riboflavin. Therapeutically, they’re a source of iron to help develop red blood cells, potassium to help regulate blood pressure, and have a high concentrations of kynurenic acid, which is known to give your digestive system a helping hand.
When we said beyond the produce section, we meant it! Spirulina is a blue-green algae, a superfood, and has been hailed as one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. It’s easy to see why: it’s 60% protein (more than chicken, fish or soy), with 2800% more beta-carotene than carrots and 3900% more iron than spinach! It also contains 8 essential amino acids and 10 non-essential ones, plus it’s a natural detoxifier that’ll help oxygenate your blood.
Continuing our deep dive into greens you’d find on a scuba dive, let’s meet dulse - a red algae that’s turning up in more and more kitchens. Rich in dietary fibre, vitamin A and C, and potassium, dulse has been eaten as a snack for years in certain parts of the world. It’s naturally salty enough to be used as an herb, plus if you fry it it tastes like bacon! It’s also a great source of iodine, which helps your thyroid function properly to keep any potential hormonal imbalances at bay. Tastes like bacon and helps your thyroid function? What’s not to love? (Except maybe the name ‘Dulse’, which just sounds...well, dull.)
Kelp is a ubiquitous seaweed that grows in massive underwater ‘forests’ and has probably freaked you out when it brushed against your leg during an ocean swim. But our final sea vegetable is also a superfood with hugely beneficial nutritional properties! It’s chock full of amino acids, omega-3 fats, fiber and antioxidants. Plus, it contains iron as well as vitamin C which helps your body absorb the iron - that’s a great double act! It also contains high amounts of chlorophyll, which stimulates red blood cell production and helps your organs function at their best.