I just learned a new word: mangiafoglia. It's Italian and means to eat leaves.
Apparently Venetians were called "mangia foglie" (leaf eaters) due to the large amount of leafy greens they ate.
During the spring and summer months my husband and I become "mangia foglie" due to the abundance of leafy greens our little organic veggie garden produces. And that's not a bad thing!
Leafy greens are:
1. Low in calories, low carb, and have a low Glycemic Index.
You can chow down on leafy greens to your heart's content without worrying about them spiking your blood sugar or insulin levels. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to push yourself into overnutrition and metabolic distress, even if you gorge yourself on them.
2. Rich in fibre.
This will not only, ahem, keep you regular. Fibre also serves as food for your healthy inner bacteria, it is associated with lower risk of bowel cancer, and it can help keep your cholesterol and hormone levels in the healthy range by removing the excess cholesterol and estrogen metabolites excreted by your liver.
3. Rich in Folate, vitamin C, Vitamin K and Beta Carotene (the plant form of vitamin A)
4. Low in sodium and rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron
5. High in healthy phytonutrients including lutein, quercetin, zeaxanthin and beta-crypoocanthin.
I will be writing more about phytonutrients in the coming months. Such a fascinating subject. Science is only just beginning to uncover how powerfully these "plant chemicals" can contribute to health and wellbeing!
6. A good source of Nitric Oxide, a powerful vasodilator.
This means that it can open and relax our arteries, which can reduce our risk of heart attack and stroke.
7. High in antioxidants.
This means that they can guard against inflammation and free-radical damage, and means they are excellent for cancer prevention.
Lots of great reasons to mangiafoglia!
But we can get bored of leafy greens, especially if we limit ourselves to lettuce, spinach and kale...
So I'm issuing a little challenge to you:
Get adventurous with your greens! Try some new ones, like watercress, whitlof, mustard greens - anything you haven't tried before.
You might find a new favourite!
Some greens can be bitter, but don't let that deter you because the bitter ones are often even healthier than their milder counterparts. You can take the edge off bitter greens by lightly cooking them, or if you are making a salad, add some finely sliced fruit like apple, pear or orange.
One of my all-time favourite greens is watercress. It's a micronutrient powerhouse! In 2015 a team of researchers ranked the relative nutrient profile of fruit and vegetables - and watercress came out on top! Watercress is an excellent source of Vitamin K, as well as Vitamins A, C, B6, riboflavin, folate, calcium and manganese. If you eat it on it's own it can be a little too "peppery" for some palates. But having it in a salad with some fruit (like my delicious Watercress & Blood Orange Salad with Almonds and Goat Cheese!) balances out the bitterness to create a delicious meal.
If you need inspiration, check out my Recipes!