By Betsy Bruns
In the United States, the month of March brings the promise of Spring and all things green. March usually has us thinking of St. Patrick’s Day. It sure does for me. I grew up hearing tales of our Irish ancestors fleeing the Emerald Isle for greener pastures during the potato famine of the 1840s.
My mother and her father, Poppy Joe, would put on an impressive Irish brogue as they told tales of Irish immigrant life in New York City towards the end of the 19th century. Back then, the Irish were considered dirty. There were even signs hanging in windows that said, “Irish need not apply.” This was all fascinating and baffling to me. Why such discrimination? Who were these people that were my relatives? What was this faraway land?
Growing up, I had the most amazing time taking Irish dancing lessons in the basement of a neighboring family’s house. The parents of this large brood of six kids were Irish, and they had real brogues—not the made-up kind of my mother and Poppy. I learned the jig. It was great fun!
Later, I married an Irish lad (the American kind) with red hair. I leaned into this heritage of mine. We even honeymooned in Ireland. It was my idea!
All this said you would think I’d be going on and on about St. Paddy’s Day. (I’m now typing in an Irish accent if that’s possible.) But no, I want to talk to you about a different kind of green inspiration. Not the dyed liquid green stuff people consume in all too great quantities this time of year but the vegetable kind—the kind of which 90% or more of Americans don’t get enough. Green vegetables. Green vegetables have magical powers, and that’s not blarney.
Greens fight disease. Greens give you energy. Greens are associated with a reduction in food cravings and enhanced mood. Not bad.
Green veggies offer an abundance of fiber, vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants and phytochemicals that have been associated with lower cholesterol, heart disease prevention and reduced cancer risk.
Greens also provide nitric oxide, which is vital in making sure our blood vessels are wide and dilated. They also help to reduce inflammation, the root of much of our dis-ease. At 100% of nitric oxide, our vessels are flowing. At 80%, the thickening of the arteries begins. At 50%, inflammation increases and plaque builds up, at 35% the stiffening of walls and calcium buildup and at 15% you get increased ruptures and heart attacks.
See how important this is? Are you now a little keener on eating greener? Did you know that there is a vast array of green vegetables and some aren’t even green?
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, mint, thyme, etc.)
- Leaf lettuce
- Mustard greens
- Pea shoots
How to eat more greens? Dip them in hummus. Whip them into smoothies. Try adding more of them to soup, stir fry, pasta, pizza, sandwiches and grain bowls. Bake spinach into your brownies or breads. Throw more herbs on your salads. Stuff them into potatoes, and in or around wraps. If you manage to ingest six handfuls a day, you are veggie-mite!
If you are cringing at the thought of eating more greens, you are not alone. Keep trying different ways to incorporate them. Brussels sprouts were once my nemesis and now they are my friend. You might discover that some of the foods you used to find unpalatable are now tolerable—or even good.
Need a little more “greenspiration?” Give these recipes a try.
Makes 4 Servings
2 Broccoli stalks
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (or 1½ cups)
½ cup roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 flour tortillas
6 tablespoons salsa (or more to taste)
Cut or break broccoli into florets. Peel stalks and cut into 1/2-inch rounds. Steam over boiling water until just barely tender, about five minutes. Drain garbanzo beans and place in a food processor with peppers, tahini and lemon juice. Process until completely smooth, about two minutes.
Spread about one-quarter of the garbanzo mixture on a tortilla and place in a large heated skillet. Heat until tortilla is warm and soft, about two minutes. Arrange a line of cooked broccoli down the center, then sprinkle with salsa. Roll tortilla around filling. Repeat. Serve warm.
Green Nice Cream**
Makes 2 Servings
4 bananas, ripe to overripe, peeled, sliced and frozen
1 large handful fresh spinach
2 to 4 mint leaves
½ teaspoon vanilla
Plant-based milk-substitute of choice to achieve desired creaminess
Place ingredients in a food processor. Add splashes of plant-based milk-substitute and process until smooth and creamy with a consistency resembling soft-serve ice cream.
* Broccoli Burritos – Recipe and photo credit Physicians Committee – PCRM.org
** Green Nice Cream – Photo and recipe by Betsy Bruns
Betsy Bruns is a plant-based health coach, “Food for Life” instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), and an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner. When she isn’t making healing food taste like comfort food or helping clients tap away stress and cravings with EFT, she’s soaking up nature and dreaming of ways to make life more delicious for all beings. Visit Vegsetter.com.