You probably heard the scaremongering headlines this week: “CDC says LEAFY GREENS are the highest source of food borne illness.” But before you remove kale and lettuce from your diet, please consider that the health benefits far outweigh the dangers, and you can easily rid yourself of any bugs added to your greenery by appropriate washing. It seems much of this illness may be caused by food handling by workers infected with norovirus or E coli or listeria bacteria. Given that fact, you may want to avoid raw greens in unknown salad bars and other eateries, but please keep them on your menu at home.
Why you need them with FAT
Did you know that even though leafy greens are full of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and the phytochemicals that keep us healthy—preventing heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses– the amount of these important nutrients your body can absorb is negligible if you do not eat enough fat with them? Try to always eat them daily with some good source of fat: coconut oil if cooked; olive, flax, walnut or pumpkin oil on your salad; some raw butter on top of your cooked greens. Or add some avocado, walnuts, or other source of good fat to your greens. Fats are essential to enabling your body to absorb their wealth of antioxidants, vitamins and phytonutrients. Studies show that students eating salads loaded with carotinoids had insignificant vitamin A levels in their blood after eating unless they ate over 6 grams of fat with their salads. Contrary to the dietary myths I was raised with in the 70s, fats will not make you fat. Actually, I have found the opposite to be true, time and again. In addition, fatty acids are a key factor in healthy brain and neurological development, especially in children. Fully 2/3rds of our brains are fat, and optimal learning ability depends on getting enough of the right kinds. And even us big folks need all the brain power we can get too!
Get them clean
Here’s how to wash your greens (or any fruits and vegetables) easily and economically at home. Do not use bleach or chemicals, please, as they come with their own dangers and toxicity. Mix up a gallon of my recipe for Homemade Produce Wash, and keep it under your sink. I’ve been using this wash daily for years. It will kill the bacteria on produce as well as reduce pesticide residue on any non-organic produce. Soak your vegetables for 5 minutes in this mixture. If you serve salad daily as I do, it’s probably worth your while to invest in a salad spinner, so that you can rapidly dry your greens.
You can also put this mixture in a spray bottle and use it to spray down your kitchen counters, sink and cutting boards each night as a disinfectant.
Balakar, N., Most Food Illnesses Come From Greens, NY Times, 2.4.2013
Brown M, Ferruzzi M, et al. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition August 2004,80: 2 396-403
Ribaya-Mercado J, Maramag C, et al. Carotene-rich plant foods ingested with minimal dietary fat enhance the total-body vitamin A pool size in Filipino schoolchildren as assessed by stable-isotope-dilution methodology, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2007 85: 1041-1049