It’s Not Easy Being A Green

Meredith Miotke for NPR

By Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, PPC, Founder and CCO, HMS

Contributor: Stephanie Wu  

If you visit Blue Earth, Minnesota, you’ll find a very friendly face there. Towering 55.5 feet high, the Jolly Green Giant is covered head-to-toe in veggies and bearing a nice, healthy green grin. The Giant is the creation of Paul Hedberg, the host of a local radio show in 1979 called “Welcome Travelers”.  He began handing out locally canned Green Giant vegetables following interviews with travelers passing through town. Many would ask, “Well, where’s the Green Giant?” Hedberg was inspired, and designed a life-size Green Giant to be constructed and placed right by Interstate 90 to attract visitors.

Clearly, the Green Giant LOVES vegetables, but not only because he thinks they are yummy, but also because they’re good for his brain! In fact, eating leafy greens every day is tied to having a sharper memory over time. A study conducted by the Memory and Aging Project and published by Neurology revealed that people who had a steady diet of leafy greens such as collard greens, kale, and spinach, had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who ate little to none.  During the study, 960 participants with an average age of 81, underwent a series of tests every year that measured their cognitive responses. During the project, their lifestyle and nutrition choices were closely tracked.

The rate of decline for [those] in the top quintile was about half the decline rate of those in the lowest quintile.” as observed by Martha Clare Morris of Rush University over the course of five years of testing. People who ate 1.3 servings of greens a day were in the top quintile and the lowest quintile were people who reported eating little to no greens daily. Please click here for more details.

Now, it’s time to get personal: how many of us actually like to eat our greens? Probably not many! To quote Thumper the rabbit from Disney’s movie Bambi,Eating greens is a special treat, it makes long ears and great big feet. But it sure is awful stuff to eat.” I made that last part up myself.”

So, we can all agree that greens are good for us, whether it’s for our brains or our feet. But how do we learn to enjoy them?  Here are some tips that will get you started:

  • Eat at least a half-cup of cooked greens or a cup of raw greens daily. Have fun with it and mix it up, add some color and remember that you eat with your eyes first.
  • When shopping, fill your cart with dark, leafy greens and have a plan to use these in different ways such as smoothies, juices, pasta, etc. Some options include mustard greens, collard greens, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, parsley and chard. In fact, rainbow chard is great for added color as well.
  • Some cruciferous vegetables to also add include broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bok choy which are all connected to preventing cognitive impairment.

And here are some easy and tasty recipes that could make ‘greens fans’ out of all of us.

Lemony Collard Greens Pasta

Roasted Broccoli Arugula and Lentil Salad

10 Tasty Kale Smoothies

And, if you don’t feel like cooking tonight, try these delicious Healthy Meals Supreme meals.

* Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.