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BellaOnline's Healthy Foods Editor

Meal Ideas for Kale, Spinach, and Chard

It is a well-known fact that we should eat a rainbow of vegetables every day. The reasoning behind this is to encourage a variety that contains the numerous vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for proper functioning. Even so, we can sometimes get stuck within certain colors. Let's look beyond the standard iceberg and romaine lettuce and explore more nutritious leafy vegetables to help you get more from your greens.

Spinach, kale, and chard are all great additions to your meals. Spinach, made famous by Popeye, is considered to be a great source of iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folate, Vitamin K, manganese, and magnesium. The iron and Vitamin C are paired quite nicely in this leafy green, making it an iron-rich food great for vegetarians. It is also rich with antioxidants. Baby spinach is tender and mild tasting and is a great substitution for iceberg in your salads. Mature spinach has a stronger taste and is a little hardier and goes well steamed as a side or added to Pastas and soups.

Chard or commonly known as Swiss chard is also a green vegetable but can come in red hues. Swiss chard is also a great source of Vitamin A, C, and K and antioxidants. Similar to spinach, young Swiss chard is perfect for salads while mature chard is a great addition to soups, pastas, and stir fries. If you need to watch your oxalate intake, it is recommended that you boil the chard for a few minutes and drain the water to remove the oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can block the absorption of calcium so be mindful of your calcium intake.

Finally, kale, the superfood of the green vegetables. Kale has become very popular over the last few years and for good reason. Kale is a good source of Vitamins A, C, and K as well as manganese. It is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients and is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. It has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and decrease the absorption of fat in the diet. The stems can be tough so be sure to remove the leaves from the stem prior to cooking. Curly kale is a popular choice and makes a tasty addition to soups, pastas and rice, and stir fries. It tastes great steamed on its own. If you don't care for the taste or texture of greens, sneak them into your diet with smoothies. Reap all the benefits of kale without having to chew a bite. If you like crunch, toss chopped kale in olive oil, spread on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes for a crunchy, healthy snack! Kale chips are just as addictive as regular potato chips but are so much better for you.

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