Since I became vegan, I noticed that my eyes appear brighter, my nails seem stronger, and my skin looks healthier. I’ve actually been stopped by strangers on the street telling me what great skin I have. Just the other day, one of the stylists in my hair salon asked me what my secret is to my glowing skin. Truth be told, I always had decent skin, but no one ever asked me what made it glow before I became vegan. I was pleasantly surprised by the inquiry, and the only answer I could come up with was “I eat a lot of vegetables.” I went home to search the Internet to see if there were any vegetables, in particular, which are superstars for great skin. Guess what? There are.
Although the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals found in all vegetables contribute towards shinier hair, stronger nails and blemish-free skin, the most concentrated source of nutrition which contributes towards great skin is found in dark leafy greens. Dark leafy greens are rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. They are also rich in vitamins A, K, C, E and some B vitamins, and provide a variety of phytonutrients such as beta-carotene and chlorophyll which protect your skin from free radicals that can cause your skin to age. The vitamin C found in many green leafy vegetables also helps the body produce collagen, which is known to be a key factor in maintaining healthy skin as you age.
Furthermore, dark leafy greens are the richest sources of the powerful antioxidant lutein. According to a recent article by Dr. Oz, there is evidence that lutein decreases the risk of wrinkles by boosting the skin’s hydration levels, helping to improve elasticity and protecting against sun damage. Isn’t this reason enough to get your daily dose of greens?
The richest sources of lutein are found in greens such as kale, collard greens, cooked spinach and swiss chard. However, lutein is also plentiful in parsley, chicory, mustard greens, beet greens, romaine lettuce and endive.
Interestingly, Dr. Joel Fuhrman places the following dark leafy greens at the top of his AND1 chart listing super foods: kale, watercress, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy and spinach.
Although I ate plenty of salads with romaine lettuce before I became vegan, I didn’t eat too many greens such as collards, kale and swiss chard. Now, they are staples in my diet and I’ve grown to love them. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes with greens, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES WITH DARK LEAFY GREENS:
It’s so easy to add some greens into a high-powered blender with your morning fruit smoothie. Kids love this too, because they only taste the fruit, not the greens. This blueberry banana kale smoothie is my favorite.
BLUEBERRY BANANA KALE SMOOTHIE
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 TBSP ground flax seeds
- 1 serving of Stevia Extract (45 mg)
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 banana
- 1 generous handful of raw kale (ripped off the stems)
- 1 cup of ice
- Blend all the ingredients in a blender (I use the Vitamix).
- Divide into 2 glasses.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!!
The next recipe contains collard greens and kale (two nutritional powerhouses). The beta carotene from the kabocha squash gives it an extra nutritional boost.
ROASTED KABOCHA SQUASH WITH KALE AND COLLARD GREENS
- 1 organic kabocha squash
- 2 shallots, minced
- 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar separated as follows: 3 tablespoons to use with the roasting of the squash and 2 tablespoons to use when sauteeing the greens
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tsp salt 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large bunch of kale, chopped (I just rip pieces off of the stem)
- 1 small bunch of collard greens, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Cut the kabocha squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
- Cut the squash into chunks, leaving the skin on.
- Mix the squash with the minced shallots, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil and salt.
- Roast the squash for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When squash is done (it should be tender), remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a large pan, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil for about 1 minute, or until fragrant.
- Add the just washed kale and collard greens in batches (they should still be a little wet) to the pan, stirring constantly until they have just started to wilt.
- Then add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar to the pan and stir with the greens for one minute longer.
- Add the squash to the greens, mix and serve.
I love to make wraps with collard greens, and you can add any of your favorite vegetables to your wrap.
Collard Green Wrap
- Your favorite hummus (I love Whole Foods Original or Good Neighbors’ Zero Calorie Hummus)
- Your favorite pre-chopped vegetables (or chop your own) including red onions, purple cabbage, mixed salad greens and broccoli sprouts
- Sunflower seeds
Using a sharp vegetable knife, cut the collard green off its center stem. You may want to microwave the collard green for a few seconds to make it softer for wrapping, but I don’t. Wrap the hummus, and your favorite vegetables inside the collard green.
The next recipe is my absolute favorite. Since quinoa is a complete protein, this meal is that much more complete when you add the swiss chard and other ingredients!
SICILIAN SWISS CHARD OVER QUINOA
From Vegetarian Times
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 lb. Swiss chard, leaves cut into ribbons, stems finely chopped and set aside
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 16 pitted black olives, such as kalamata, halved
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Salt & pepper, if desired
1. Bring broth to a boil in medium saucepan. Add quinoa, and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, 12 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with fork.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems, onion, olives, and raisins. Sauté 10 minutes, or until onion and chard stems are soft. Stir in chard leaves and red pepper flakes; sauté 6 minutes, or until greens are tender. Stir in garlic, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Divide quinoa among 4 shallow bowls. Spoon chard mixture over top, and sprinkle with pine nuts.
Ellen loves these 3 recipes using dinosaur kale, also known as Lacinto or black kale. Since dinosaur kale is very dark in color, it contains a high amount of chlorophyll which provides extra protection against free radicals.
Braised Black Kale with Lemon
- 1 large bunch Black Kale, rinsed with center rib cut out
- 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tsp minced garlic
- 1/8 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup of vegetable broth
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1) Layer the leaves on top of each other and cut the leaves into 1 inch pieces
2) In a large pot of water, bring to a boil and add kale
3) Cover and cook just until slightly wilted, 5 minutes
4) Remove from heat and drain well
5) In a large fry pan over low heat, heat the olive oil and garlic for 1 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic
6) Add the kale and wine; cover and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed
7) Add the vegetable broth and cook until broth is absorbed and kale if very tender, approximately 30 minutes (but it could be longer)
8) Season to taste with salt and lemon juice, toss and serve
Quinoa, Black Bean and Black Kale Bowl
Adapted from LivefromLaQuinta.com
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tbs nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup black beans (canned, rinsed)
- 1/2 cup zucchini
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 cup Black Kale, torn into medium pieces
1) In large frying pan, preheat olive oil over medium heat
2) Add garlic, cook and stir for a minute
3) Add mushrooms, cook for 2 more minutes
4) Reduce heat if you don’t want to brown the garlic and mushrooms too much
5) Site in nutritional yeast, salt and pepper
6) Add quinoa, stir to toast slightly
7) Add the water and the beans
8) Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil
9) Add the tomatoes, zucchini and kale, then cover and reduce heat to low
10) Simmer on low for about 15 minutes until the quinoa is cooked.
11) Serve and enjoy!
Braised Cavolo Nero Kale
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (1 ⅓ cups)
- 3 small carrots, diced (1 ½ cups)
- 2 bunches cavolo nero kale, tough ribs removed, and leaves coarsely chopped (9 cups)
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1) Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté onion 7 to 9 minutes, or until golden.
2) Add carrots, and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.
3) Add kale and 1/2 cup water, cover, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until kale has wilted.
4) Stir in red pepper flakes and garlic, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more.
5) Add 1 1/4 cups water, and bring to a simmer.
6) Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 40 minutes, or until kale is tender, adding more water if necessary.
7) Uncover pot, increase heat to medium-high, and cook 3 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
8) Serve over pasta
I love to have raw kale salads because they are so easy to make. When you massage the kale, you break down its cell walls so that it doesn’t taste bitter. It’s actually quite delicious and I love Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kale Salad recipe, which contains parsley too.
CRAZY SEXY KALE SALAD
Serves 2 to 3
- 1 bunch kale, any variety, shredded by hand
- 1 cup diced bell peppers, red, yellow, or orange
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 avocados, pit removed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons flax oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Sea salt, to taste
- Pinch of cayenne, to taste
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
- Massage and mix with your hands to “wilt” the kale and cream the avocado (this should only take a minute or two).
- Serve and enjoy!
- There you have just a few of my favorite recipes using dark leafy greens. Of course, there are so many other simple ways to eat greens such as kale chips, adding greens to any soup or sandwich recipe, or making any kind of salad with dark leafy greens. The bottom line is that greens are nutritional powerhouses, and they help your skin fight off wrinkles too! Who doesn’t want that?
Get glowing, get healthy, fight off wrinkles…get your greens!
Click here for recipe for Chef AJ’s Hail To The Kale Salad
Click here to read my post The Green Juice Craze Continues