Five fun ways to get your greens

Keen to up your intake of green veggies? We’ve got some simple – and tasty – ways to do it Ah, greens – there are numerous benefits to eating more vegetables. Apart from the fact that they brighten up any dish, a study published in the journal Neurology in 2017 discovered a diet rich in leafy green vegetables could slow cognitive decline by 11 years.1 Meanwhile, researchers from Augusta University in the US found that vitamin K – found in broccoli and spinach2 – can help keep your heart healthy.3 So how can you sneak more green vegetables into your diet? Here’s five ways to get your greens.

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1. Swap onions for courgettes

Why? Courgettes are a brilliant source of vitamin C4, which is vital for healthy skin and bones, and for wound healing.5 How? Whenever a recipe calls for a chopped onion to be softened in a pan, use a courgette instead; it adds a fresher flavour than onions and packs a nutritious punch. Try softening chopped courgette, then add crushed garlic and chopped tomatoes for an easy pasta sauce.

2. Make lettuce leaf tortillas

Why? According to a 2014 study in the US by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, iceberg lettuce is packed with nutrients such as potassium, folate and zinc.6 Potassium helps your heart function properly*, folate is needed for healthy red blood cells11, while zinc is crucial for cell and enzyme renewal.* How? Ditch your usual lunchtime wrap in favour of nature’s tortilla. Fill a large iceberg lettuce leaf with your favourite fillings such as falafels, add lots of extra veg like sweetcorn or shredded carrot, then sprinkle over a dressing or flavour-boosting herbs, wrap up and enjoy.

3. Bake a spinach cake (yes, really!)

Why? Popeye’s favourite foodstuff is great for your heart health. A 2015 study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research revealed the high-nitrate content of spinach can help keep your arteries flexible, reducing blood pressure.7 How? We know courgettes and carrots work well in cakes, but spinach is also a winner in baking. It’s used in a traditional Turkish sponge cake – just wilt baby spinach and puree with vegetable oil, lemon juice and zest before adding to the ingredients of a regular sponge. The cake is then topped with mascarpone icing and pomegranate seeds. Healthy and delicious!

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Pimp your smoothie with kale

Why? This leafy green vegetable is rich in nutrients such as vitamins K, A and B68. Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting9, vitamin A is essential to a healthy immune system10, while vitamin B6 helps your body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in the food you eat.11 How? For a revitalising morning drink that ups your vitamin intake, blend frozen kale and frozen mango with grated fresh ginger and lemon juice. Vary your smoothie by adding berries for even more nutrients, or a splash of coconut water or almond milk for a different consistency.

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5. Boost your broccoli leftovers

Why? A 2018 study by the University of Western Australia found that eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli is linked to keeping your arteries clear, which in turn protects your heart health.12 Steamed broccoli is best, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Plant Foods For Human Nutrition**, where researchers found that it actually increased its nutritional benefits. How? Got some broccoli leftover from Sunday lunch? Try these tips:
  • whizz it up in a food processor and add to homemade fish cakes
  • chop into small pieces and make broccoli and cheese fritters
  • add to a pasta bake with plenty of other veggies – the Australian study also looked at legumes, leafy veg and coloured peppers

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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources

1. Morris, MC, et al. Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline. Available from: http://n.neurology.org/content/early/2017/12/20/WNL.0000000000004815
2. NHS Choices, Vitamin K. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-k/
3. Douthit, MK, et al. Phylloquinone Intake Is Associated with Cardiac Structure and Function in Adolescents. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article-abstract/147/10/1960/4727995?redirectedFrom=fulltext
4. Martinez-Valdivieso, D, et al. Role of Zucchini and Its Distinctive Components in the Modulation of Degenerative Processes: Genotoxicity, Anti-Genotoxicity, Cytotoxicity and Apoptotic Effects. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537869/
5. NHS Choices, Vitamin C. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-c/
6. Di Noia, J. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm#table2_down
7. Jovanovski, E, et al. Effect of Spinach, a High Dietary Nitrate Source, on Arterial Stiffness and Related Hemodynamic Measures: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525132/
8. Harvard School of Public Health, Kale. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/kale/
9. As Source 2
10. NHS Choices, Vitamin A. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/
11. NHS Choices, B vitamins and folic acid. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/
12. Blekkenhorst, LC, et al. Cruciferous and Total Vegetable Intakes Are Inversely Associated With Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Older Adult Women. Available from: http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/7/8/e008391http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/7/8/e008391

ADDED REFERENCES:
* NHS Choices: Vitamins and Minerals. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/
** Bongoni, R, et al. Evaluation of different cooking conditions on broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) to improve the nutritional value and consumer acceptance. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24853375

Nutrition