Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Spinach and Beyond… Cooking Up Greens


By Mary Kay Holloway RDN, LDN Dietitian at the Community Cancer Center

Going green isn’t just great for the environment; it’s great for your health as well. The going green I’m talking about is eating green leafy vegetables. Cooking and eating leafy green vegetables can be fun and tasty. Greens are packed full of nutrients that will help you meet your health goals and fight many chronic diseases, including certain cancers, all at the same time. With a little practice and experimentation, you may want to have greens at every meal.

According to, a leafy green is “any of the various leafy plants whose leaves and stems are eaten as a vegetable.” Many people generally think of spinach as the main leafy green vegetable. However, there are many other green leafy vegetables to choose from that can be a tasty addition to any meal. Some examples of these are: kale, collard greens, bok choy, fennel, sorrel, brussel sprouts, and the classic broccoli. Adding these green veggies to your plate can positively affect your health. Green leafy vegetables are full of nutrients including: B vitamins, vitamins C, E, K, magnesium, iron, calcium, fiber, more than 6 major phytochemicals or plant chemicals, omega-3 fat acids, and other antioxidants. While they are nutrient dense they are also low in fat, calories, and contain no cholesterol.

When it comes to cancer prevention, recent research suggests the plant nutrients discussed above may help to prevent breast, prostate, colon, kidney, skin, stomach, pancreatic, and lung cancers. These nutrients may also be beneficial in prevention of other chronic health conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and anemia. Green leafy veggies help promote healthy eyes, skin, reduce inflammation in the body, help detoxify the body, and have many other benefits. It is easy to see with all these health benefits why you would want to eat your greens.

There are many ways to prepare green leafy veggies. They can be prepared as part of the main dish such as in a stir-fry meal with bok choy or a side dish paired with chicken or another meat. Greens can also be added to a favorite recipe to add more flavor, color, and nutrients such as adding kale to your favorite soup or spinach to lasagna.  To make them as a side dish, simply cut them into bite size pieces, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil then add the green leafy vegetables and let simmer in a few tablespoons of water or broth until bright green and tender which takes about 6–10 minutes.

Just like going green for the environment helps to keep the earth healthy, eating green vegetables can help keep the body healthy. Exploring new vegetables that you might not be familiar with and new ways of preparing them may take some effort in the beginning. However, with all the health benefits they offer and the taste and satisfaction they can add to your meal, it is an effort worth putting forward.

The Community Cancer Center offers a variety of supportive and educational groups and programs, free of charge, to help patients and families cope with cancer and its effects. For more information go to their website at