Nutritious, Delicious and Bitter: Five Greens for Health

Why settle for the same bland greens when you can go bitter? Dark, bitter greens are not only big in flavor, but also have unique health benefits. While most greens are high in vitamins, bitter greens are particularly beneficial for digestive function.

"[They] stimulate taste buds sensitive to bitter compounds," explains Keegan Sheridan, ND, of Beverly Hills, California. "In response, salivation [and] gastric acid secretion increase, and pancreatic enzymes are primed to respond when food enters the small intestine, helping to maximize food breakdown and speed waste elimination."

Look for these five when going green this spring:

  • Dandelion greens beat out old standbys broccoli and spinach in overall nutrition. They're high in vitamins A and C as well as iron and calcium. Dandelion leaves are also a natural diuretic, increasing urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidneys.
  • Arugula is a special green. In addition to vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and fiber, arugula also contains isothiocyanates, which are powerful anticarcinogens that have been linked to the prevention of lung and esophagus cancers.
  • Stinging Nettle contains protein and minerals like iron, silica and potassium. These greens are also recommended for pregnant and lactating women, as they provide essential nutrients for healthy fetal development and breast-milk production. [Note: Stinging nettle is aptly named. Wear gloves when handling and cook for a few minutes before eating.]
  • Chickweed is high in protein, fiber and vitamin A, but you don't have to toss it in a salad to reap its benefits. The greens can be applied topically to soothe skin ailments like puffy eyes, cuts and burns.
  • Watercress Just one cup of raw chopped watercress contains 959 mg of vitamin A, more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake. Like it's cousin Arugula, watercress is also rich in isothiocyanates.

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