The Incredible Health Benefits of Collard Greens

Benefits of Collard Greens

Collard greens have long been a staple of Southern cooking. A cruciferous vegetable similar to kale and Brussels sprouts, collard greens are commonly placed on plates next to fried chicken, potatoes, and gravy. While other vegetables like kale and spinach have long held the limelight, new studies are indicating that collard greens are just as healthy.

Collard Greens Lower Cholesterol

Steamed collard greens easily bind to bile acids in the digestive tract, helping to excrete them from the body. Bile acids are formed from cholesterol, so collard greens essentially bind to and remove these acids. This effect was found primarily with steamed collard greens as opposed to raw, and had the greatest cholesterol-lowering benefit of any cruciferous vegetable.

Collard Greens Protect Against Cancer

There are four specific anti-cancer agents found in collard greens: glucosinolates called glucoraphanin, sinigrin, gluconasturtian, and glucotropaeolin. These words may sound like science fiction characters, but they're actually agents that can support our anti-inflammatory systems. This can help prevent cancer through aiding the body in fighting off rogue cells.

Collard Greens Are High in Vitamin K

A cup of cooked, chopped collard greens has almost 400% of your daily recommended Vitamin K. Vitamin K is critical for blood clotting; a deficiency can lead to uncontrolled bleeding. It's also important to prevent osteoporosis and coronary artery disease. Certain populations, such as patients suffering from liver damage, bulimia, cystic fibrosis, or inflammatory bowel disease, can be prone to Vitamin K deficiency.

Collard Greens Contain A Whopping Amount of Vitamin C

Oranges, move over: a cup of cooked collard greens has half your daily recommended amount of Vitamin C. Though Vitamin C is frequently taken to ward off colds, there are additional benefits such as protection against cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and stroke.

Collard Greens Can Protect Your Eyesight

Collard greens are also high in Vitamin A, the same vitamin that's found in carrots. Vitamin A is a retinoid and is critically important in maintaining eye health. Vitamin C also helps protect your eyes as well. For healthy eyesight, eat a cup of steamed collard greens with dinner.

Collard Greens Are High in Fiber

There's a good reason to have a high-fiber diet: it helps excrete damaging LDL cholesterol out of the body and keeps your digestive tract regular. If you've been feeling a little blocked, try some collard greens to get everything going again. Fiber also provides protection against colon cancer and hemorrhoids.

Collard Greens Can Keep Your Immune System Healthy

The greens contain a phyto-nutrient called di-indolyl-methane, which has been found to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. If you're looking to stay healthy through cold and flu season, cook a batch of collard greens and serve them for dinner. Di-indolyl-methane also has anti-cancer properties as well, potentiating Interferon-gamma receptors.

Collard Greens Contain Valuable Minerals

The leaves and stems of this wondrous vegetable contain calcium, iron, zinc, and manganese- all minerals important for the bloodstream and bones. Considering this vegetable only has 30 calories per serving, it's a great side dish for dinner.

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Sweet Potato Side Dishes

Potato Side Dishes

Sweet potato is the reigning vegetable of the season. It's tasty, easy to make, and a versatile ingredient for soups, stews, pies, and casseroles. Plus, it's one of the healthier items of produce you can eat. Deemed a "superfood," it's loaded with vitamins A and C as well as potassium. It makes a great side dish for holiday dinners or even family nights. Here are some healthy, yummy recipes for sweet potato.

Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup

This soup is a perfect appetizer before the main course. It's simple to cook and doesn't take much time at all.

  • Prick two large sweet potatoes with a fork, then microwave on high for 7-10 minutes.
  • Over medium heat, cook a tablespoon of canola oil in a Dutch oven. Add one chopped yellow onion and brown for 2-4 minutes.
  • Add a garlic clove, three cups of tomato juice, two teaspoons of ginger, and a four-ounce can of drained green chiles. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Peel the sweet potato and puree half of it with half a cup of smooth peanut butter and a 15-oz can of vegetable broth. Put the other half in the pot.
  • When the puree is done, add it to the pot and stir occasionally.
  • If the soup is too thick, you can thin it with water.
  • Add pepper and cilantro on top to serve.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

This is a hearty vegetarian chili packed with nutrition. It goes well with slices of fresh French bread for dipping.

  • Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium heat.
  • Add one diced sweet potato and a chopped onion to the oven, then cook for 4 minutes until onion browns.
  • Add four minced garlic cloves, two tablespoons chili powder, four teaspoons of cumin, and a dash of salt to the mixture.
  • Add two and a half cups of water and simmer, then cook for 10-12 minutes.
  • Add a can of chopped tomatoes, two cans of rinsed black beans, and two teaspoons of lime juice. Stir often and simmer for 5 minutes until ready.

Honey-Cinnamon Oven Roasted Sweet Potato

This simple, easy recipe yields delicious cubes of sweet potato that are sure to wind up on every plate.

  • Peel and cube four sweet potatoes, then lay them on a roasting tray.
  • Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, honey, and cinnamon.
  • Roast for 25-30 minutes.
  • When potatoes are done, drizzle with a little extra olive oil and add some sea salt to taste.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This dish is a staple of Thanksgivings everywhere, but also works well for family dinners on weeknights.

  • Cook two sweet potatoes in the microwave, pricking them first, for 7-10 minutes until soft.
  • Mash together in a large bowl with four tablespoons of butter, two eggs, half a teaspoon of vanilla, half a cup of white sugar, a dash of salt, and half a cup of milk.
  • Pour mixture into a baking pan.
  • In a separate bowl, mix three tablespoons of butter with one-third cup of flour and half a cup of brown sugar. Add half a cup of chopped pecans and then sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 325 F.

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Homemade – Low-Fat Salad Dressings

Salad Dressings

You know that salads are good for you, but raw vegetables can just look so. . . boring. A bowl of chopped lettuce, carrots, and onions needs something to spice it up. Worse, if you use a high-fat mayonnaise-based dressing, you're getting additional unhealthy calories that can ruin your diet for the day. So what's a salad eater going to do?

Luckily, when it comes to dressings, you have plenty of terrific healthy options. You can make your own dressings using vegetables, fruits, nuts, and natural oils. Dressing doesn't have to ruin your diet; it can actually enhance it by providing additional health benefits through low-calorie, high-nutrient ingredients.

Olive Oil and Lemon Dressing

Incredibly simple to make, and containing ingredients that are low in fat but high in nutrition, this is a great dressing that should be a salad standby at any time. Mix 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and a little sprinkle of kosher salt and ground pepper. Pour over your salad greens and munch down the benefits of citrus fruit mixed with heart-healthy oils.

Vinaigrette Dressing

You can make your own vinaigrette from scratch- and it's delicious. Mix a teaspoon of herbs (rosemary, thyme, cilantro, or anything else you can think of) with a teaspoon of minced shallots, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Add half a cup of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper in the mix. It doesn't have the preservatives like the store brand and it tastes even better when it's fresh.

Avocado Salad Dressing

Avocado is another healthy fat that satisfies your hunger while providing essential fatty acids needed for building proteins. There are a variety of avocado salad dressings you can make that add even more nutrition to your salad. A simple avocado dressing you can make is to blend 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with one avocado and a little bit of chopped onions. This creates the creamy, smooth texture of a ranch or blue cheese dressing, but without the added fat and calories.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

You don't need to keep fruits and vegetables apart: they go very well together indeed. Blend a cup of strawberries, a quarter cup balsamic vinegar, and a tablespoon of honey. Gently stir in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil. Give the mixture a dash of salt and pepper. You'll have a delicious fruity, honeyed dressing that gives your salad a fresh taste of summer.

Greek Yogurt and Chickpea Dressing

This is a great way to get your protein through creating a nutritious, low-calorie dressing. Drain and blend a can of chickpeas, then add in a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, a quarter cup of plain Greek yogurt, and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as needed. If you want your dressing to taste a little more like hummus, you can add a quarter cup of tahini into the mixture and blend it all together.

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Real Fruit Popsicles

Fruit ice cream isolated on white

Homemade Treats

Instead of serving store-bought Popsicles to your family, make homemade ice pops from nutritious juices and fruit. Summer is a great time to make freezer pops at home because it is easy and inexpensive to find many varieties of fruit at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores. Throughout the summer months, moms can prepare different recipes of ice pops to freeze for use in the autumn. Once you know the basic recipes for the bases of ice pops, it is easy to puree or chop fresh fruit and make a large batch for future use.

Food Processors

Toddlers often prefer eating smoother textures of foods due to having fewer teeth, leading to using pureed fruit to make homemade ice pops. Pureeing blueberries, nectarines and bananas is simple with the right equipment such as a food processor or blender. You can even make natural fruit juices by using a juicing machine. One of the main purposes of making ice pops at home is using organic produce grown without pesticides. Because popsicles bought at a store contain high levels of corn syrup and artificial flavors, moms can control the ingredients in the homemade versions while still providing a delicious treat for their families.

Avoid Sugar

Several cups of fresh fruit such as strawberries or watermelon will reduce in amount as it is pureed and strained. Straining is vital to remove seeks and fibers that many children do not like. Most ripe fruit is naturally sweet, allowing you to avoid adding sugar. Taste the fruit first for tartness to determine if a small amount of sugar is necessary. You can always use alternates such as coconut sugar or honey. Oranges, limes and lemons make delicious ice pops but usually require a sweetener to make the snacks more enjoyable. Older children may want to have more texture in their ice pops, so you can add small chunks of fruit to the ice pops.

Flavor Combinations

To freeze homemade ice pops, you need containers that are easy to fill with juice and fruit. Special containers are available at stores, or you can improvise with small cups (paper Dixie cups are best) and wooden sticks (or even small plastic spoons). You can use one or more types of pureed fruit and juice to make this delicious treat. Great combinations include orange juice mixed with banana chunks or pureed raspberries mixed with lemon juice. If you have a child who is reluctant to try a new fruit, then add it to their favorite flavor of ice pop. Also, try blending in some plain or vanilla yogurt for a more creamy pop without using ice cream.

 

Vegetarian Lasagna

vegetarian lasagna with vegetables and cheese

This vegetarian lasagna is healthy and delicious. The recipe allows you to make ahead an extra one to freeze. Feel free to add any other favorite veggies you like.

Healthy Alfredo Cauliflower Sauce

Ingredients

• 10 large minced garlic cloves
• 2 Tablespoons butter
• 10 cups cauliflower florets
• 13 cups water or vegetable broth
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 cup milk
• Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Directions

Saute garlic and butter on low heat until soft. Boil cauliflower in broth until tender; seven minutes. Do not drain. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and place in a blender. Add one cup broth, garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and milk. Blend until smooth.

Make Ahead Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients

• 2 packages frozen spinach, chopped (20 ounces)
• Alfredo cauliflower sauce (recipe above)
• 1 cup skim milk
• 2 packages of lasagna noodles (16 ounces)
• 2 pints cauliflower puree
• 2 eggs
• 16 ounces shredded carrots
• 16 ounces fresh sliced zucchini
• 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions

1. Spray two 10 x 15 inch pans with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Put spinach in large bowl. Microwave on high for four minutes uncovered. Mix in the cauliflower puree. Beat the eggs with whisk and then add. Stir until well blended.

3. Combine Alfredo Cauliflower Sauce with milk in separate bowl. Mix well.

4. Spread ½ cup of Cauliflower Sauce mixture on the bottom of each pan. Place three uncooked noodles over sauce. Spread ¼ of the spinach mixture over each pan. Sprinkle each with ¼ of the carrots and ¼ of the zucchini. Place three more noodles on top of each. Cover both with more sauce. Divide the remaining spinach mixture between the two pans and spread evenly. Do the same with the remaining carrots and zucchini. Add three more noodles to each. Reserve a small amount of sauce and divide the remaining between the two lasagnas and spread evenly over the top. Sprinkle both dishes with mozzarella cheese. Spray two sheets of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Place one sheet over each pan with the sprayed side down. Tightly cover.

5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Uncover and spread the last of the sauce over exposed top noodles. With the oven off, return the lasagnas to the warm oven uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve one vegetarian lasagna for dinner (allow to set up 30 minutes) and freeze the other for another evening. All left overs can also be frozen for later.