The warmer months in central Ohio usher in more green produce that is just waiting to go from the field to your plate.
When used in reference to food, “green” can refer to the practices with which the food is grown – but it can just as easily refer to the color of many nutritious pieces of produce.
Not only do green foods brighten plates, they also add important nutrients to any diet. When planning a weekly menu, it is important to take a balanced approach to what goes in the shopping cart.
Green foods are packed with antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. They also have important minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc.
A good way to figure out the nutritional value of food is by using the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). This system delivers a score based on the ratio of the nutrient content in comparison to the calories the food provides.
The equation used is H=N/C – the health of the food is equal to the nutrients it delivers per calorie. The score system was devised by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a physician known for his books on healthful eating.
Each food is then assigned a point value that ranges from 1 to 1,000. It should come as no surprise that green vegetables hold the five highest spots on the index, with three of them attaining a perfect score of 1,000.
The 10 highest-scoring green vegetables are:
-Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens: 1,000
-Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy: 824
-Broccoli Rabe: 715
-Chinese/Napa Cabbage: 704
-Brussels Sprouts: 672
-Swiss Chard: 670
While there are lots of nutrients in green fruits, they do not achieve top scores in the index because they have more calories than their vegetable counterparts.
But just because they can’t compare to the scores of their vegetable brethren is no reason to write off green fruits. Many do have good scores – for example, kiwi has a score of 97, and watermelon isn’t far behind at 91.
As nutritious as green foods are, balance is key. All fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients and antioxidants. Restricting a diet to only green-colored foods would mean missing out on many nutritional benefits.
The best thing to do is maintain variety and moderation. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Chefs struggling to find recipes for healthful meals can find ideas on Mount Carmel’s website at www.mountcarmelhealth.com/healthy-recipes.
Stacy Moussa, M.S., R.D. is the system clinical nutrition manager for Mount Carmel Health System.
From Mount Carmel Healthy Recipes
2 ½ lb. kale, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves cut into 1-inch-wide strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, or to taste
¼ tsp. salt
In a large pot of boiling water, cook kale, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add kale.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and salt.
Yields 12 servings of 46 calories each.