Clean Green | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Clean Green

In one of his books, Dr. Seuss says, "I do not like green eggs and ham." As a child, I often celebrated St. Patrick's Day by having my parents inject green food dye into that morning's protein source: scrambled eggs. While that was fascinating in my childhood, the thought of green eggs now absolutely disgusts me.

Tasty foods that are naturally green and deserve to gain attention for this year's ultra-green holiday include edamame, avocados, kiwi, artichokes and spinach. Edamame (e-de-mä-mã) may be a tongue twister, but it is just the Japanese way of saying "boiled green soybeans."

While that may not first appeal to your senses, these small beans are fun to shell and eat. A half-cup of shelled edamame contains only 120 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. It isn't called a "nutritional powerhouse" for nothing. In the same half-cup serving, you'll find nine fiber grams, 11 grams of protein and 10 percent of your daily needs of key antioxidants.

Avocados give Mexican guacamole dip its lush color. Though I didn't find guacamole's color and texture particularly inviting when I first saw and tried it, it is now one of my favorite foods, thanks to fresh avocados. Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable, and offer nearly 20 essential nutrients including fiber, potassium, vitamins E and B, and folic acid. To determine if an avocado is ripe and ready to use, squeeze the avocado in the palm of your hand. Ripe ones will yield slightly to gentle pressure.

For those looking for a sweet treat, kiwis are perfect. This special green fruit has a unique color and texture, but that's not all. It has substantial health benefits that include high fiber and antioxidants. "What separates this fruit from other tasty and beneficial fruits?" you may ask. Studies have shown that kiwis can prevent asthma, wheezing and coughing, while also protecting our DNA from mutations.

The last two green foods on the list are essential for dip lovers celebrating St. Patrick's Day and other holidays. You'll find spinach and artichoke in some of the best dishes on our tables, but these vegetables are also terrific by themselves. One large artichoke contains only 25 calories and no fat, and is a good source of vitamin C, magnesium and dietary fiber.

Spinach is often found coupled with artichokes, but it can also be enjoyed solo. The leafy vegetable is fresh during March through May and again from September through November. Fiber is one common element in most green foods, but it's especially high in spinach. Dieticians recommend it for individuals working to lower their cholesterol and their weight. Spinach is also rich in iron: 100 grams of spinach contains 25 percent of your daily iron needs. Eating spinach can even help with iron-deficiency anemia, a condition where the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells.

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