The Virtual Potluck team is kicking off a project today called Build a Better Me. The idea is that we’re all going to try to make ourselves healthier in 2012, but we aren’t going to focus exclusively on losing weight. Once a month, we’ll each be posting what we are doing to improve our health and well-being. You’ll be seeing nutrition tips, exercise ideas and other things we’re doing to build better Virtual Potluckers. Thanks to Foodhunter’s Guide to Cuisine for coordinating this project.
The first thing I’m trying to do this year to get healthier is to eat more dark leafy greens. Green leafy vegetables are loaded with beta carotene, vitamin C and and polyphenols. They also have magnesium and omega-3 fatty acid.
Why you should care about this:
- Beta Carotene boosts your immune system and may decrease your risk of developing cancer.
- Your body needs Vitamin C to form collagen, which supports your bones, blood vessels and muscles. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron.
- Polyphenols are thought to be able to prevent or lessen the severity of many conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, cancer, liver problems, mood disorders, cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Magnesium assists with carbohydrate metabolism and helps the body regulate insulin activity. It also controls high blood pressure, helps prevent heart disease and may lessen the severity of migraines, depression, insomnia and osteoporosis.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, but they cannot be manufactured by your body. They must be obtained from your diet. There are three types: ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), EPA (EicosoPentaenoic Acid) and DHA (DocosaHexaenoic Acid). Dark leafy greens, walnuts and flax seeds contain a lot of ALA. Your body can make EPA and DHA from ALA, so if you’re eating enough of these foods you’ll reap benefits such as a healthy heart and blood vessels, less pain and inflammation and a reduced risk of breast and colon cancer.
Please note I am NOT recommending that you obtain these nutrients from supplements. I am merely suggesting that you include foods in your diet that contain them. Supplements taken in high doses could have negative effects on your overall health. Please consult your health care provider before you begin taking any supplements.
In the spirit of including more leafy greens in my diet, I tried this recipe for Collard Greens with Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes. I’ve recently joined a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) and I now get 8-10 lbs of fresh, local vegetables and eggs delivered every two weeks. My first box included collard greens, I had some black-eyed peas that were leftover after making Black-Eyed Pea Polenta Casserole on New Year’s and I had half a can of diced tomatoes in the refrigerator. This seemed like the thing to make. I added a small slice of cornbread and it was the perfect lunch.
I’d love to hear what you are doing in 2012 to Build a Better You!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 1 large bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1½ cup cooked black-eyed peas
- dash of your favorite vinegar (I used honey ginger balsamic from Fiore, but straight up apple cider vinegar will do just fine)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and sauté until soft. Add collard greens, stirring until they wilt and turn bright green. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to keep the collards from burning.
- Add tomatoes and black-eyed peas and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.