Welcome to Day 2 of our ‘Kick Start 2022 Plant-Based Challenge’

I hope you’re already beginning to feel the benefits of good hydration starting to kick in. What have you noticed — aside from perhaps more frequent and fervent trips to the bathroom — with one day of proper water intake? Are you experiencing a brighter complexion? Improved clarity and mental focus? How about a little less pain and inflammation? We invite you to check in with yourself to see what you notice, or maybe even keep a journal as these two weeks unfold because you will notice more and more as your hydration improves.

While you keep up the good work by drinking a good amount of water, I want to introduce the next major building block to healthy eating: leafy greens!

In today’s challenge, you’ll learn why greens are the number one most neglected food in our diet, what the benefits and varieties of leafy greens are, and how to wash, store, and eat them in an easy, convenient, and enjoyable way. All we can say is, give leaves a chance.

Leafy greens are high in antioxidants, vitamins such as A, the Bs, C, and K, and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium — and all that is just getting started! They are extremely nutrient-dense and contain disease-fighting compounds that are difficult to get anywhere else.

Did you know? Only 3% of us get the recommended 40 grams of fibre per day.

Most of us, in fact, consume less than half that amount. It’s no wonder so many people are struggling with poor health. While we’re obsessing over protein — which most of us get in excess, we’re not eating enough fibre-rich foods to fuel our microbiomes and keep our digestive tracts clear.

And, what if I told you that one cup of cooked spinach or collard greens provide nearly 20% of your RDI of fibre? With all of these pros and no cons to speak of, it’s easy to understand why we’re making leafy greens today’s goal and the next logical step in this 14-day journey together.

Varieties and Benefits

You may feel a sense of overwhelm when first venturing into the wild world of leafy greens. To help, we can place each of the edible leafy greens into one of six categories: cruciferous greens, taproot greens, lettuce greens, chicory family greens, amaranth family greens, and herbs.

The documented health benefits of leafy greens can include protection from cognitive decline, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and nutrient deficiencies.

Washing and Storing Leafy Greens

To wash or not to wash, that is the question. In our experience, storing greens in the refrigerator, unwashed, keeps them fresher for longer. Store your precious greens in produce bags or in airtight containers in a crisper drawer.

Tip: When you’re ready to use them, the best way to wash your greens (if you want to remove any pesticide residue) is in a baking soda and water solution.

Research has found that the perfect greens-cleaning mixture contains 1 ounce of baking soda per 100 ounces of water, which comes out to 1 tablespoon per 2 cups. You can soak the leaves in this solution for ten minutes, then drain, rinse, and dry the leaves — in a salad spinner, if you like — just before using so they don’t become slimy, wilted, or mouldy.

This wash and dry method is useful for non-organic produce in general, but it’s especially important when you’re dealing with kale and spinach. According to the Environmental Working Group, both of these vegetables are near the top of the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the types of produce most contaminated with pesticide residue.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Eat more leafy greens.

Today’s action step is to increase your intake of dark leafy greens. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to do this. Choose what feels easiest and/or yummiest:

Include them in a sandwich.

 

Add them to stir-fries.

Toss them into pasta.

Stir them into soups.

Use them as a salad base.

Add them to smoothies.

Add them to grain bowls.

Or, simplest of all: steam and eat them by the handful.

You can eat leafy greens raw or fermented, but cooking is often the easiest way to eat them in large quantities. Leafy greens tend to like brief cooking to enhance their texture and flavour, so add your leafy greens at the very end of the cooking process, just before serving, to prevent overcooking. Some of the best cooking methods for greens like spinach, kale, collards, bok choy, and chard include water sauteing, steaming, boiling, and baking.

Marinating greens ahead of time helps add more flavour to existing dishes. Consider adding spices and other seasonings to your greens, or add a splash of citrus right before serving. (The vitamin C in citrus helps absorb the non-heme iron, and helps the greens keep their bright green colour.)

TODAY’S RECIPE: Energizing White Bean and Spinach Winter Warming Stew

Stews and soups are the perfect way to add leafy greens to your diet! If you’re new to greens, then start simply by adding familiar greens like spinach or kale. As you continue this journey, try experimenting with Swiss chard, bok choy, or mustard greens. They all bring their own unique flavours and nutritional values!

Leafy greens are without question the healthiest foods around. They are the one food that all nutrition experts can agree we need more of! And, it is our hope that you have enough inspiration here to expand and explore some new, delicious ways to add leafy greens to your life for good.

 

Ingredients

1 tsp mustard seed

1 tsp fennel seed

1 cup red onion (chopped)

1 chopped leek

3 medium carrots (chopped)

2 stalks organic celery (chopped)

3 medium garlic cloves (minced)

4 cups vegetable stock

28 oz organic diced tomatoes (BPA-free canned)

3 cups organic potatoes (Russet or red, chopped into 1” cubes)

1 ½ tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp ground cumin

3 cups cannellini beans (or other white beans, home-cooked or BPA-free canned, drained. If home-cooked remember to soak them overnight and rinse well, and cook them until soft before adding them)

½ tsp salt (optional)

ground black pepper (optional, to taste)

3 cups organic spinach (tough stems removed, chopped, packed cups, +1 cup as desired)

Tablespoon marmite (optional, to taste)

basil (optional, chopped, to taste)

crushed red pepper (optional, to taste)

Directions

1. Heat a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Add the mustard and fennel seeds and toast until you start to hear the mustard seeds pop (about 2–3 minutes), stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

2. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Stir often to prevent sticking and cook until the onions are translucent (about 3–5 minutes).

3. Add the garlic and cook for 30–60 seconds.

4. Add the vegetable broth, tablespoon of marmite, canned tomatoes, potatoes, oregano, and cumin.

5. Bring to a boil then simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 5–7 minutes.

6. Stir in the beans, salt and pepper, if using, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

7. Stir the spinach into the mixture until slightly wilted. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, or seasonings of your choice.

8. Transfer the stew into bowls and sprinkle with basil, and crushed red pepper for additional yumminess.

 

Chef’s Notes: Substitutions

In place of onion, use shallots.

Instead of canned diced tomatoes, use freshly chopped organic tomatoes, 3–4 cups (you may also need to add an additional cup of vegetable broth).

Use another leafy green of choice in place of kale.

In place of Russet or red potatoes, use purple, fingerling, or another type of potato of your choice.

If you have a slow cooker then simply add all ingredients into the slow cooker and then leave to cook! Add the spinach for the last 10 minutes.