We all know the benefits of being out in the sun. It gives us a high dose of (crucial-to-our-health) vitamin D, which is important for our mood, energy, sleep, bone health, immunity, etc, etc. It’s such a vital vitamin that if we don’t get enough of it, we really feel the consequences. Sadly, these days, it’s known that just about everyone in the UK is vitamin D deficient (or has suboptimal levels), probably a consequence of the amount of time we spend indoors, but also our diet and lifetstyles.
What I didn’t know is, vitamin D status is also related to the balance of the microbiome. Three exposures to outdoor light per week significantly increased serum vitamin D levels, but additionally, microbiome diversity. And in the winter, vitamin D supplementation worked as a good alternative to outdoor exposure.
This is great news, because microbiome diversity, like good vitamin D status, is connected with better health outcomes.
Getting more green leafy vegetables into your diet needn’t be difficult. Personally, I find it’s all in the planning, so that I’m not having to overthink it, or spend all my free time preparing and cooking. (Please see my previous post if you want more information about what exactly a green leafy vegetable is, and what benefits they offer).
Chop up a salad and store it in the fridge for a few days. Use rocket, spinach, watercress, romaine and, if you’re feeling adventurous, even kale! Herbs such as parsley and coriander (if you are a fan) also offer a new flavour dimension. Add salad portions as a side to your meals, or even better, eat it before your meal to kickstart your digestion.
Stir-fry spring greens, broccoli, pak choi, sliced Brussels sprouts or savoy cabbage with onions, garlic and your favourite spices to make a delicious side. It’s also great with added soy sauce or tamari. If you make a large batch you can store it in the fridge and add it to your meals. I really like greens stir-fried this way with added cashews or as a bed for a home-made fat spicy bean burger to sit on.
I find a really quick way to get in the greens is to add them, finely chopped, at the end of cooking. They add texture and colour to soups, stews and casseroles. I particularly like adding a big bunch of spinach to a sweet potato and chickpea curry. Or kale or spring greens are great in a chilli.
Make a green smoothie. Fill up the blender beaker with at least half leafy greens (I like kale and spinach the best for this purpose), then top up the rest with other vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds or anything else you enjoy or will satisfy you.
Finely chopping parsley and/or coriander is a highly effective way to add nutrients, colour and flavour to a pilaf made of brown rice or quinoa. You could also boil up some wholewheat or red lentil pasta, or buckwheat noodles for a change, stir-fry some onions and garlic, then add in a chopped bunch of gorgeous herbs (or other greens, such as spring greens, savoy cabbage, or pak choi) for a really nutritious but simple meal.
Next time I’ll be giving you some more tips on how to up your green leafy intake. See you then.
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