Packed with fibre and rich in vitamins, leafy green vegetables can help build your immunity
Tired of falling sick and blaming the pollution every time you or your child miss office or school? The simplest way to improve your immunity is by adding more green leafy vegetables to your diet, says Sherly Ganesh, manager, nutrition and dietetics, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru. “Packed with fibre and water, greens are loaded with micronutrients like vitamin A, C and K, minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium and phytochemicals such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene which can revitalize your health," she says.
Green leafy vegetables include not only the commonly known fenugreek, spinach and lettuce, but also a variety of herbs like parsley and cilantro, and also kale and Swiss chard. “They are stark green in colour due to the abundance of chlorophyll, which is structurally similar to haemoglobin, making them a natural blood-building food," says Luke Coutinho, doctor of alternative medicine and founder of the health start-up Pure Nutrition. The multi-vitamin dose in these vegetables keeps the weight under control, maintains blood pH, improves vision and nervous control, supports heart and liver health, dental and bone health, fights cancer, purifies blood, and increases haemoglobin, thus boosting immunity.
For an adult, the suggested dose of greens is one to two servings a day, says Ritika Samaddar, chief dietitian, Max Healthcare, Delhi. However, people with chronic kidney failure, calcium oxalate kidney stones, high uric acid or gout should avoid taking greens due to their potassium restrictions, she says, adding that if you are taking anti-coagulants like warfarin or acitrom, you should avoid greens for they are a rich source of vitamin K, which causes blood to clot. Here are some of our favourite greens.
Parsley works as a diuretic and heavy metal chelator (aids in removing heavy metals from the body), says Coutinho. “If you are looking to boost kidney health, heal urinary tract infections, fight bloating, then parsley has got you covered," he says, adding that about two tablespoons of parsley contain 153% of the required amount of vitamin K (120mcg for men, 90mcg for women). So, it is definitely recommended for healthy bones and nerves. It contains powerful anti-inflammatory and alkaline minerals too.
Both the florets and the stalks are edible. The vegetable is rich in vitamins A, C and K as well as folate and fibre, says Ganesh. “Eat broccoli raw, steamed, sautéed or added into a casserole or soup," she says.
Available in red and purple colour, these leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, says Shalini Arvind, chief dietitian, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru. Use the tender young leaves in salads or add them in sambhar, dal, soups or stir-fries.
This nutrient-rich lettuce is high in vitamins A, C and K as well as folate, says Ganesh. Throw some into a salad, pack them into a sandwich or a wrap, and you have a healthy meal ready.
A peppery and spicy flavour makes these greens a favourite in winters. They are loaded with vitamins A, C, K, carotenes and flavonoid antioxidants and calcium, says Ganesh. They are rich in indole-3 carbinol that have proven benefits against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers due to their cytotoxic effect on cancer cells which aids in destroying them. “Eat them raw in salads or in stir-fries and soups," she adds.
With a slightly bitter, cabbage-like flavour, this vegetable is loaded with vitamins A, C and K and makes for a tasty addition to soups, stir-fries and sauces, says Ganesh.
The mild-flavoured collard greens are rich in vitamins A, C and K as well as folate, fibre and calcium. The most nutrient-efficient way to consume them is to boil for a few minutes and then add them to a soup or a stir-fry, says Ganesh. “You can also eat them as a side dish by adding in your favourite seasoning," she adds.
The vegetable has a bitter, tangy flavour and is a perfect add-on to dals. “They’re rich in vitamin A and calcium and are best had steamed," says Ganesh.
What to watch for
Avoid leafy greens in the monsoon as the dampness and dirt in the leaves can lead to stomach infections, says Coutinho. Remove the roots, keep the leaves immersed in a mixture of water and vinegar for 10 minutes. Wash in running water and then chop. Don’t chop before you wash, says Arvind.
Certain leafy greens like bok choy, broccoli greens, kale and lettuce are goitrogenic in nature and may interfere with thyroid health, says Coutinho; hence it is best to not eat them raw—have them either steamed or cooked. Both vitamin B and C in leafy greens are destroyed in the process of heating.
“To maximize nutrition, boil water and then put the cut greens in or steam or cook just enough to remove the rawness," says Arvind. This water can be used for cooking as it is rich in vitamins.
Jowar Kale Palak Veg Antioxidant
Chef: Tarla Dalal
Time: 15 minutes
1/3 cup soaked and cooked whole jowar (white millet)
1/2 cup kale leaves
1/2 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup coloured capsicum
1/2 cup blanched broccoli florets
1/2 cup mushroom
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
For the dressing
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 tsp grated garlic
1/3 tsp grated ginger
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the topping
1 tsp roasted pumpkin seeds
Method: Chop the spinach, capsicum, kale, mushroom and broccoli and mix them with the sprouts and millets. In a separate bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing. Now toss everything together, and serve sprinkled with pumpkin seeds.
Parsley and pomegranate salad
Chef: Kunal Kapoor
Time: 10 minutes
2 cups pomegranate seeds
1 big bunch flat parsley leaves
1/3 cup boiled cous cous
1 small bunch mint leaves
A pinch of pepper
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt to taste
Method: Add 1/2 cup of boiled water to cous cous. Cover and leave for 20 minutes. Once it cools down, fluff it up with a fork. Wash the parsley and mint leaves, drain and chop roughly. Combine the leaves, pomegranate seeds, salt, pepper, olive oil and squeeze in the lemon. Toss and serve immediately.