Adelle: Since intensely green leaves offer the greatest concentration and the widest variety of vitamins and minerals of all the vegetables, they should be eaten daily… Although the daily quota of greens may be eaten in tossed salads, cooking condenses them so that a small serving equals an amount impossible to eat raw; hence the quantity of nutrients obtained from cooked leaves may be many times greater than from raw ones.
Stephanie: Hip hip horay! Down with the salad-obsession of “healthy eating.”
Inner nutritionist: Now, variety is important. Raw vegetables do contain higher concentrations of certain nutrients. Eating both raw and cooked foods help broaden the diet.
Adelle: If handled properly before cooking, heated rapidly to destroy enzymes, and quick-cooked in their own juices, green leaves lose little nutritive value in cooking.
I like my greens cooked, generally, and Adelle and I both think that cooked has many advantages over raw. Obviously, you eat a lot more in terms of weight and total nutrients when they are cooked. Would you eat 3 oz raw spinach? Not likely. 3 oz cooked spinach? Quite easily. Certain compounds are also more bio-available (digestible) when cooked, especially if there is a little fat around. Not to mention being somewhat warming when it’s rather cold and wet outside.
On the other hand, many compounds do break down or dissolve on exposure to heat, light, and water. Preventing that is fairly simple– as Adele suggests, minimize water use. Rinse and wash your vegetables quickly, then dry immediately. Cook over medium or low heat with little or preferably no added water, stirring if necessary. Need a little extra liquid? Adele recommends using something you will consume, like lemon juice, tomatoes, or a little milk.
Here’s one of her recipes including not one but two dark green leafy vegetables that exemplifies her approach to cooking greens. Rather leave the bacon out? Use 1/2 small onion in 2 T olive oil instead.
Parsley and Spinach with Bacon and Garlic
Pan-broil (saute) in a large utensil (frying pan):
1 or 2 slices bacon
Remove bacon when crisp; keep heat moderate; cook in 2 tablespoons bacon drippings:
1 clove garlic
2 bunches shredded spinach
1 bunch shredded parsley
Stir until wilted; cover pan, reduce heat to simmering, and cook four to six minutes; discard garlic and add:
1/2 teaspoon salt (Wow, I’d use 1/8 teaspoon)
freshly ground black pepper
bacon broken in bits
Stir well and serve.
Feel free to vary the greens– basically anything will work, but tougher greens will need longer cooking times. I’d also keep the garlic– slice it thinly or mince it so everyone eats a little. Good for the blood pressure, and it’ll keep the vampires away!