Flourish with Food introduced the MIND approach last month, noting its components complement the Mediterranean dietary pattern. MIND-emphasized foods have been associated with slowing the cognitive changes people often experience as they get older.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-eating/in-depth/improve-brain-health-with-the-mind-diet/art-20454746

This month’s focus is leafy greens - an essential MIND food. Think green and red leaf lettuce, romaine, kale, arugula, spinach, escarole, Swiss chard, watercress, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, rapini/broccoli rabe. 

Leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, while being low in sodium. In general, the deeper the green color the greater the nutrient density. Iceberg lettuce, mostly water, pales in comparison to darker greens when considering nutrients.

MIND guidance encourages a leafy green vegetable every day. Both raw and cooked count.  A serving size is generally ½ cup cooked and 2 cups for salad greens.

For green salad enthusiasts, a salad most days at either lunch or dinner makes this easy. Consider at least 2 different greens for taste, texture and nutrition variety. Unusual leafy greens to add to green salads for a unique flavor: cilantro, basil and microgreens (underdeveloped greens of vegetables such as broccoli, arugula and cabbage).

Some leafy greens are strongly flavored, actually bitter, which can be intimidating and a barrier to eating.  Ways to tame this bitterness are: (1) massaging the leaves until they look a little wilted, (2) pairing greens with spicy or sweet ingredients, (3) simply cooking with minced garlic, salt and olive oil, and/or (4) including an acid (vinegar, OJ, lemon juice).

My favorite no-recipe way to cook bitter greens:  

  • Rinse leaves with water and pat dry
  • Remove and chop stems (ribs)
  • Slice leaves into ribbons or bite size pieces
  • Toast 2 T. pine nuts or chopped walnuts in heated deep skillet or pot; then remove
  • Add light coating of olive oil 
  • Add chopped stems; cook a few minutes (lovely crunch)
  • Add greens and toss to coat with oil; lower heat
  • Toss in 2 T. dried cranberries (sweetness) and toasted nuts
  • Cover and keep warm until wilted; salt & pepper to taste

For ideas: https://www.thekitchn.com/5-ways-to-tame-bitter-greens-214850

For selection, storage and cooking guidance: https://fruitsandveggies.org

Tip: Refer to April’s Flourish with Food feature on bagged salads

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.