Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting; keeping vitamin K levels stable is especially important for people taking blood-thinning medication. And research has revealed that men (but not women) who took 500 micrograms of vitamin K daily over three years were less likely to develop insulin resistance. More research is needed to determine if vitamin K can keep the body sensitive to insulin, fending off diabetes, but it's one more reason to fill up on spinach, kale, and other green winter vegetables.
These leafy green wonders are also an excellent source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The two pigments accumulate in our eyes' retinas, protecting them by absorbing damaging light. Just 1½ servings daily of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by 50 percent. Lutein and zeaxanthin may also help prevent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in men.
While spinach probably already ends up in your grocery cart, now's a great time to branch out and try fresh kale, Swiss chard, collards, and other less-familiar leafy green winter vegetables. They grow well in cooler weather, and many varieties get sweeter as the weather gets colder. The Rodale Recipe Finder is full of great ideas for preparing winter greens. Read on and try some of these recipes now to reap the many benefits of these veggie superstars.
#1: Edamame and Escarole Salad. The broad, crispy, pale-green leaves of escarole are perfect for salads. Or try salads that combine kale with legumes, like Kale and Lentil Salad or Caribe Bean Salad
#2: Lentil and Escarole Soup. Winter greens enrich cold-weather soups, adding flavor and nutrition. Try lentils paired with escarole, Turkey, Barley, and Greens Soup, or a creamy potato soup made with either leeks and kale or chorizo and winter greens.
#3: Stir-Fry of Swiss Chard, Red Peppers, and Broad Noodles. Sturdy greens like Swiss chard and kale stand up well to stir-frying. Other options? How about Stir-Fried Kale with Almonds, Stir-Fried Curly Kale, or Turkey and Kale in Chinese Black Bean Sauce.
#4: Braised Kale or Collard Greens. Braised greens make a tasty, simple winter side dish. Try these spins on the traditional Southern pot of greens with added bacon or smoked turkey.
#5: Chicken Piccata with Escarole. Winter greens round out all kinds of dinnertime dishes. Try them with chicken, tilapia, or halibut. Vegetarians (and comfort-food lovers) can try delicious Barley Risotto with Wilted Greens or hearty, simple Rice and Beans with Greens.