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Getting Unstuck

Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables

By: Derek Beres

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My favorite food is kale.

That might sound odd, considering most people’s favorites usually lean toward ice cream and chocolate. (For the record, I’m a huge chocolate fan.) I can’t explain why I crave kale, though as a vegetarian, the strong dose of iron might offer a clue -- kale offers more of it than beef. And that’s not the only mineral that green, leafy vegetables give us in abundance. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are all on tap, not to mention vitamins C, E and K, as well as a host of B vitamins.

Truth be told, I grew up a total carnivore. The only way a green entered my body was if a piece of lettuce was thrown atop a cheeseburger, and even then I might have pulled it off. Sometime during college, the Rutgers dining halls turned me off to meat and on to salads, which I’m very thankful for. I guess there are advantages to eating hockey pucks passing for burgers. Today, I eat greens daily.

But walking through the farmers market can be disorienting when walls of greens stand ready for the picking and you have no idea what to do with them. So here’s a little tour and a few of my favorite ways of preparing them deliciously.

1. Kale
Best way to eat it: Sauteed with coconut oil and ginger
Prep time: 4 minutes
Considering it’s my favorite, I had to start with this beautiful vegetable. Kale is a tough leaf, and many people have a hard time digesting it raw. While the greatest health benefits of any green will be had in its raw form, I almost always cook my kale. Besides being packed with iron, it is anti-inflammatory and rich in fiber, plus it gives our immune system a boost. I love it sauteed lightly for four minutes in coconut oil with freshly sliced ginger.

2. Mustard Greens
Best way to eat it: Sauteed with olive oil and garlic
Prep time: 4 minutes

One cup of mustard greens offers 524 percent of the daily required intake of vitamin K, which helps regulate blood clotting, reduces inflammation and helps build strong bones. Mustard greens are used globally in a variety of international dishes. They play a big role in American soul food cuisine, not to mention African, West Indian and Indian dishes. They’re a bit spicy, which may take a little getting used to.

3. Spinach
Best way to eat it: Tossed with beets, feta, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette
Prep Time: 5 minutes

I’ve never been convinced that spinach is what carved Popeye’s superhuman forearms, but it is inarguably nutritious. Rich in vitamins A and C -- and packed with antioxidants -- spinach is tender and mild, making it the ideal salad green. I like combining spinach with arugula, though it’s also delicious on its own when combined with beets, feta cheese or grilled goat cheese, walnuts and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try my favorite Indian dish, saag paneer. If you happen to be a vegan and cannot eat fresh cheese curd, go for saag aloo.

4. Brussels Sprouts
Best way to eat it: Baked with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Prep time: 30 minutes

I have no idea why Brussels sprouts got such a bad rap. Believed to have anticancer properties, this member of the cabbage family has long been used as a threat by parents trying to force their children to eat better. Perhaps part of the problem is that we treat healthy foods as something we need to eat, not want to eat. And I want to eat Brussels sprouts regularly. While my wife has concocted a few inventive dishes, such as one with Brussels sprout leaves, couscous, preserved lemon, feta cheese and a wonderful Tunisian spice mix called tabil, there’s nothing wrong with the simplest preperation possible: Just sprinkle the sprouts with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, wrap them in aluminum foil and bake at 400 F for a half hour or so.

What are your favorite ways to eat vegetables? Comment below or connect with us @Completely_You

Derek Beres

is Completely You’s Getting Unstuck blogger. A journalist, yoga instructor and DJ/music producer, he has written for such publications as Departures and The Huffington Post. He teaches yoga at Equinox Fitness and Yogis Anonymous, and is one-half of the music production team EarthRise SoundSystem. For more info, visit DerekBeres.com.

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