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Green leaf, benefits and tips

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In the immense set of vegetables we find an interesting group: they are green leafy vegetables

To which we often associate with weight control diets, and rather bland and boring foods, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that these vegetables are very low calorie but they are also very versatile and give a lot of play in the kitchen. And yes, also at Christmas. Well, in addition to helping us offset the calories in other foods and dishes, they will add color, flavor and texture to festive meals, while giving us fiber, minerals and vitamins.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW…
  • Green leafy vegetables, in general, are rich in vitamins A, C and K, which is why, among others, they are attributed antioxidant functions.
  • Swiss chard, lettuce … are foods with a non-negligible content of nitrates that can be transformed into nitrites, so it is advisable to consume them as fresh as possible.
  • Offering these types of vegetables to babies under 12 months should be avoided and their consumption up to three years should be a maximum of one daily serving.
  • For any questions about nitrites, MAPFRE Salud insurances have at their disposal a wide Medical Panel of Nutrition Specialists.

Sensory and nutritional characteristics

These products generally have a more or less similar color and texture. The whiter and crisper the leaves, the higher the water content and therefore the lower the concentration of nutrients. By contrast, darker and thinner vegetables tend to have higher nutritional density. This set of foods is usually rich in vitamins A , C and K. In addition, they contain vitamins of group B, fiber, water, potassium and different bioactive substances, whose presence, together with those of vitamin C, makes them confers antioxidant functions. All of this makes them ideal for complementing more caloric foods or dishes made with a high energy intake such as the ones we usually serve and eat at Christmas, because in this way we complement and compensate the diet.

Lettuce

Lettuces are mainly composed of water (90-95%) so they are very low in calories (16 Kcal per 100 g). They are rich in fiber and antioxidant vitamins as they contain provitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as B9, B1, B2, B3 and vitamin K. As for minerals, they have phosphorus, iron , calcium, potassium and magnesium in smaller quantities. The outer leaves, of a more intense green color, contain a greater amount of vitamin C and iron. There are many types of lettuce: marigold, romaine, oak leaf …, which can offer us other colors and textures to give an imaginative touch to our dishes.
Recipe: Buds from Tudela with anchovies, pomegranate and almond vinaigrette with a hint of honey.

SPINACH

They provide about 18 Kcal per 100 g, 90% of which are water. In addition, they provide about 3 g of protein and 2.5 g of fiber per 100 g, and they have hardly any fat or carbohydrates. With regard to mineral micronutrients, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and sodium stand out, and in terms of vitamins, vitamin A and carotenes, C, E, B2, B6 and folic acid.
Spinach is used to make stews, creams and purees, they can be eaten boiled, steamed … and can accompany potatoes, pasta, rice, meat or fish … They are also used to brighten up pizzas, cocas and empanadas, as they have a characteristic flavor that goes well with almost everything.

Recipe: Catalan spinach: sautéed with garlic, raisins and pine nuts.

CABBAGE

Cabbages are a large family of foods; There are different types and each one has its peculiarities. If it is not specified what type it is, we usually refer to cabbage, which is what we will focus on. Although it is low in calories, the energy intake is the highest of the vegetables selected as an example. It provides about 25 Kcal per 100 g and this is because in addition to about 2 g of protein it contains about 4 g of carbohydrates. If we talk about micronutrients, the content is similar to the previous ones but somewhat lower in most cases, except for vitamin C, whose content stands out above the others. Now, we must remember that subjecting it to high temperatures deteriorates this vitamin, so if we take it cooked it will lose content.
Recipe: Cabbage rolls stuffed with rice, minced meat and almonds, and spices to taste.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE NITRATES
  • Lettuces, chard, spinach … are especially rich in nitrates. These are not a problem in themselves as they do not have toxic effects, however, in the withering process of vegetables, these nitrates can give rise to nitrites that are toxic and can cause methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder related to lack of transport of oxygen. This is especially relevant in babies and young children, so those under 12 months of age should avoid its consumption and limit children up to 3 years of age to a maximum of one daily serving. In addition, it is always advisable to consume these products well fresh and kept in refrigeration if they are not consumed the same day.

CHARD

Similar to spinach, both in appearance (once cooked) and in nutritional content, its flavor is very different. Their versatility means that we include them in stews with legumes, accompanying meats or fish, in vegetable creams, etc. They provide about 20 Kcal per 100 g and we can highlight their content in sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, also that of carotenes although spinach offer us greater amounts.
Recipe: Swiss chard stew with potatoes, chickpeas and minced hazelnuts.

ENDIVES

Endives (with 9.5 Kcal per 100 g) are the least caloric example of green leafy vegetables. They contain 94% water, 1.2 g of protein, about 2 g of fiber, and negligible amounts of fat and carbohydrates. If we talk about micronutrients, the amounts it offers are also lower as a general rule, however, we can highlight its folic acid content.
Their peculiar bitter taste means that we almost always complement them with foods with a powerful flavor, whether they are sauces or vinaigrettes, anchovies, cured cheeses, etc. Now, they can also be cooked on the grill and their bitterness will practically disappear.
Recipe: Endives with fresh cheese spread, bell peppers, olives and capers.

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