Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Into Action

Green is the color of the month with ‘the wearing of the green’ for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Atlanta lawns sprouting soft new grass and Spring Break signaling the start of bathing suit season which encourages body conscious diners to add more greens to the menu. Famously clad in green, Peter Pan’s in town this month too flying high over the production of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan at Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta. Add to that the focus on adding a variety of colorful foods to your diet for National Nutrition Month this March and I’ve got lots of inspiration to go green in today’s column on healthy eating. Even my kitchen’s painted two kinds of green: Acadia Green and Cedar Green by Benjamin Moore.
Anyone who’s ever flipped through a color wheel when choosing the right shade to paint a wall knows that there’s more than one tint and the same goes for the many shades of green in the food world and the nutrition each hue holds within. From dark green kale to golden green avocado to light green celery, Dr. David Heber, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles reveals a rainbow of health benefits in his book, What Color is Your Diet? He singles out the green family of fruits and vegetables as important in two primary areas; promoting healthy vision and reducing cancer risk. No, this does not include green beer unless you’ve colored it green with wheat grass juice.
How Green is Your Menu?
My pre-show dinner with friends at Glenn’s Kitchen before we dashed across Centennial Olympic Park to see Peter Pan was a study in healthy green choices. You can start with fried green tomatoes, move on to The Kitchen Sink Salad which tosses in chopped greens, celery, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and green peppers or enjoy the Farmer’s Market Pasta with spinach and artichoke hearts. There’s even a green theme on the cocktail menu. The Glenntini is made with cucumber-infused vodka, fresh mint and lime juice.
Your Plate Should Wear More Green
The many shades of green nutrition:
Fruit: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as arugula, water cress, spinach, kale, collards and fresh mint or basil leaves.

Yellowy Green.
These foods are rich sources of plant nutrients called carotenoids including the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to eye health and reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Examples: spinach and other greens, green peas and avocados.
Dark Green.
These foods contain the healthy compounds sulforaphane, isothiocyanate, and indoles, which Heber says break down cancer-causing chemicals. Examples: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Bok Choy and kale.
Light Green.
These foods contain flavonoids that protect cell membranes. Examples: spring onions, celery, pears, endive, and chives.

When green’s not a good thing.
Never eat potatoes that are green below the skin. This green color indicates the presence of a bitter tasting toxin called solanine which is toxic even in small amounts and can cause nausea and headaches. Solanine, which is naturally in potatoes as the plant’s defense against insects, increases in concentration when potatoes are stored in warm temperatures or exposed to light.


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