The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
Did you know that the most powerful immune-strengthening medicine can be found in your very own refrigerator? That’s right! Filling your fridge with a variety of fresh produce is like building a personal army to help you prevent and fight viral infections.
Greens are at the top of this list. Think of them as your frontline soldiers.
Simply put, pound-for-pound and calorie-for-calorie, greens are the most nutrient-dense foods in existence. The nutrient density of food is the amount of nutrients you get for the calories it provides. Greens have very few calories, yet offer an abundance of key nutrients including:
- Phytonutrients: Natural chemicals produced by plants with potent disease-fighting properties.
- Chlorophyll: The pigment that gives plants their green color and also supports detoxification in the body.
- Bioavailable vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, potassium and zinc.
Zinc, a nutrient naturally found in leafy greens, is one of the key elements for building a healthy immune system, and it’s important to understand why.
You’ve probably been given the age-old advice to take zinc during cold and flu season. This is because it plays a major role in protecting against viral infections. When a virus enters your body, it tries to use your cellular machinery to copy itself, but zinc directly conquers this viral replication. Now that’s what I call a bodyguard!
In addition to immune health, zinc also promotes healthy skin, hormone balance, normal DNA production, cell division and cell communication.
To add more zinc to your diet, follow Club Fx Pillar #1: eat your greens, as many as you can every day.
Spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens and kale are the four greens that carry the most zinc, so next time you visit Heinen’s Produce Department, add them to your shopping list.
Here are my favorite meals that make eating these greens a delicious experience:
- Spinach: Blend into homemade hummus. Check out this recipe for five-minute Cool Green Hummus.
- Beet Greens: Trim into two-inch pieces and sauté in extra virgin olive oil with minced garlic, lemon and fresh ground pepper. Serve as a dinner side dish!
- Dandelion Greens: Stir into soups and sauces before serving. I love them in lentil soup!
- Kale: Remove the rib and chop into bite-size pieces, then massage with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Top with fresh berries, walnuts and hemp seeds for a fantastically filling lunch. Check out this Kale Blueberry Salad with Pecan Cheese.
A deficiency in zinc can impact your health and wellbeing on many levels. Be proactive and find a way to incorporate a serving or two of fresh greens into one of your meals each day. The easiest way to achieve this goal is to eat a side salad with your dinner every night!