Salads are filling but light at the same time. (Picture created by Rawpixel.com - Freepik.com)

Indra Balaratnam

Fill up with leafy greens

HAPPY New Year, everyone! I’m sure, like me, many of you are recovering from overindulging during the long holidays and the festive season.

To get back to eating light, this is the time I like to fill up on more vegetables. I especially like having salads, as they are filling but light at the same time.

A cupful of leafy greens is very low in calories, ranging anywhere between five and 40 calories. They are superstars when it comes to providing Vitamins A, C, and K to your nutritional intake.

Plus, they contribute an impressive amount of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, folic acid and natural plant antioxidants.

For those of you who are trying to cut down on eating large portions, leafy greens can help you to help you stay satisfyingly full because they also contain fibre. Research shows that eating high fibre foods will help you to stay full for longer.

Many trendy eateries now have all kinds of salads in their menu offering.

If you go to your grocery store, you’ll notice plenty of different types of leafy greens for you to whip up a quick salad. Many of them are grown locally too. It is easier than ever now to add more leafy greens to your wholesome meals. Here are some of the leafy greens at a glance:

Arugula – a common staple in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. Its peppery taste makes it a nice addition to sandwiches, pastas and as a topping on pizzas.

You may notice on the packaging that arugula is sometimes also called “rocket”. It contains a good amount of Vitamin K.

Romaine – a good source of Vitamin K and folic acid. You may be familiar with Romaine if you are a fan of Caesar or Greek salads.

One culinary tip for romaine is to tear the leaves, instead of cutting them. Doing this will help you to avoid ascorbic acid oxidase from being released, which causes the Vitamin C in Romaine to be destroyed.

Kale – This leafy green that has gained popularity with trendy health food fans. Kale contributes an impressive amount of Vitamin K, A, C to your daily diet. It also gives you calcium, copper and manganese.


Kale contributes an impressive amount of Vitamin K, A, C to your daily diet. (Picture created by Rawpixel.com - Freepik.com)

Baby Spinach – 91 per cent of spinach is made up of water, so it is often regarded as a natural hydrator. It’s a fabulous natural source for Vitamin A, C, K, folic acid, potassium and fibre.

Escarole – contributes potassium, Vitamin A and C. It has a slightly bitter flavour that adds a certain taste dimension to your salads.

Watercress – this leafy green is a wonderful source of Vitamin C and K. Chefs like using tossing them into salads because of their natural delicious, peppery flavour.

Cabbage – commonly used in our local dishes but it can also be eaten raw in salads or to make coleslaw.

Cabbage is a good source of Vitamin C and K. It is also rich in fibre and natural plant antioxidants that may help to prevent certain cancers.

Mustard greens –this leafy green has a slight pungent and peppery flavour. Nutritionally, they are packed with Vitamins A, C, K, fiber and calcium.

The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines by the Ministry of Health recommends that we eat at least three servings of vegetables per day. One serving is one cupful of raw chopped vegetables, or half a cup of cooked vegetables.

The benefits of eating a diet rich in vegetables is well-documented. They include better prevention of chronic diseases, reduction of high blood pressure, regular bowel movements and good gut health.

Leafy greens also contain lutein, which is a natural plant antioxidant that helps to reduce the risk of macular degeneration in our eyes, which is caused by ageing.

Clean your salad greens under running tap water to remove any dirt. Lightly pat them dry with a kitchen paper towel before making your salad. Leafy greens keep well in the refrigerator for up to three to four days.

For those of you who are on blood thinners, be mindful that large amounts of Vitamin K in leafy greens can interfere with your medication. Do see your dietitian who can help you plan your vegetable intake better.


A cupful of leafy greens has between five and 40 calories. (Picture created by Topntp26 - Freepik.com)

SALAD AS A MAIN MEAL

* Instead of French fries as a side item to the dish you are planning to order, request to substitute it with a side salad instead.

Most restaurants will be happy to oblige. Think of the calories you save just by making that simple swap.

* Have a large salad as a main meal. This is usually my favourite kind of lunch as it’s light and keeps me energised throughout the afternoon.

Make your salad more substantially complete by adding an assortment of toppings to add protein and carbohydrate for a complete all-in-one meal. Think roasted chicken, sliced roast beef, beans, tempeh, grilled fish, tuna, boiled eggs, millet, quinoa, fresh fruit, cheese, nuts and seeds.

The combinations are endless and I’m sure you’ll find your favourite. Check out recipe websites for salad ideas.

* Add leafy greens to your sandwiches or wraps. You can also sprinkle them on top of your pizza. They add a nice, refreshing bite to them.

* Blend leafy greens together with fresh fruit and juice to make a nutritious, fiber rich smoothie. They are a refreshing pick-me-up, instead of the usual caffeinated beverage.

* A leafy green salad is a light, cooling accompaniment to spicy curries. It’s a nice way to balance out the calories too, so that not all dishes at the meal are heavy.

* Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at indra.balaratnam@gmail.com

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