By KATHY SMITH
Spring and summer are great times of year to explore a wide variety of fresh greens. Salads are popular any time, but how about being adventurous and trying some leafy greens you might not be as familiar with?
Leafy green vegetables are nutrient rich because leaves contain the light-catching, energy-converting machinery of plants. Salad greens contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber and phytonutrients. Leafy vegetables are a good choice for a healthy diet because they do not contain cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium. Many of the health benefits come from phytonutrients, unique compounds that protects the plants. These compounds are recognized as part of a nutritious diet that promotes long-term health. The phytonutrients act as antioxidants, which can help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Iceberg lettuce is still the most widely available and most popular type of lettuce. It tends to last longer in the refrigerator than other types of lettuce and adds a good crunch to your salad bowl. But iceberg has fewer nutrients compared to other types of lettuce and leafy greens, so your body will thank you for adding darker greens to the mix. A darker color indicates a more nutritious choice.
Here are some tasty greens that you might want to try on your next salad or sandwich:
• Watercress has a spicy flavor and is good in salads and on sandwiches. Choose green leaves without any yellow areas or slippery stems.
• Radicchio has maroon or purple leaves with white veins that form into a loosely wrapped cabbage-like head. Its flavor is bittersweet.
• Baby bok choy has a crunchy, celery-like texture and a milk flavor.
• Arugula has a peppery flavor. Choose young, fresh leaves.
• Red leaf lettuce is similar to romaine lettuce, but is higher in antioxidants and offers color and interest to a salad.