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Fall Fitness: Eat Up Vitamin-Packed Veggies

‘Tis the season for the trees to change their green leaves into an array of colors, but you can still have tons of greens in your kitchen this fall.
Leafy greens have been so trendy for so long, but they are much more than a trend — they should be a staple in your diet. No matter how you prep them – whether you are eating them raw, sautéed, juiced – it’s better than not eating them at all.

Why battle the Farmer’s Markets and grocery store lines to incorporate them into your diet?

Well, it’s simple: they are full of vitamins A, C and K, potassium, and fiber with only 5 to 40 calories per cup. Which means you get a big bang for your buck.

If you are wondering what all those vitamins and nutrients actually do, here are the cliff notes:

Vitamin A – Helps form and maintain healthy skin and teeth. It also promotes good vision.

Vitamin C – An antioxidant, responsible for helping to maintain healthy body tissue and immune system.

Vitamin K – Helps your body by making proteins for healthy bones and tissues.

Potassium – A very important mineral that aids in building proteins, breaking down carbohydrates, and helping you build muscle.

Fiber – Comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables and helps speed the passage of food through your digestive system. Both forms help in controlling weight, aid in digestion, and prevent constipation.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 1½ cups of dark green vegetables per week, which is not a lot at all considering it’s a serving size of about a fist and a half. Imagine making a couple delicious salads in a week, you’d blow that recommendation away!

The top 5 Greens range from options that have a little spice in them to greens that can be included in soups. Don’t be scared; test them out and revel in the awesome feeling you’ll have afterward for being healthier!

Arugula – This peppery salad green can be eaten raw, where it does double duty as a “lettuce” and herb in salads. Add it to your sandwich and pasta dishes for a little spicy kick!

Chard — A Mediterranean native, chard provides vitamins A and K, magnesium, and potassium. It has higher levels of sodium, so steer clear of the saltshaker. Pair this green with lemon juice and olive oil to bring out its true flavor.

Escarole — This slightly bitter green delivers big on potassium and vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw, but cooking escarole can soften its bitter edge. It is the perfect green for sautés, soups or in a warm white bean salad, because it holds its volume and doesn’t shrink as much as the other greens.

Mustards — Don’t be scared of this pungent leafy green! While it has a characteristically spicy, peppery flavor, mustard greens provide a hefty dose of vitamins A, C and K, calcium and fiber. Enjoy mustards braised, steamed, or lightly dressed as a raw salad green.

Watercress — A part of the mustard family, many people adore this green for its sharp bite. Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins C and K. This green is best eaten raw. Add to salads or use as a sandwich green.