NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Go GREEN for St. Patrick's Day

green, fruits, vegetables,healthy, St. Patrick's Day

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

What if we didn't just pinch someone because they forgot to wear green? Forgetting to eat your green fruits and vegetables is much more worthy of a "friendly" reminder pinch! The special compounds (phytochemicals) found in green fruits and vegetables help protect against certain cancers and help maintain vision health and strong bones and teeth. Eating large amounts of colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in phytochemicals may also decrease the risk of developing diabetes, decrease the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Some green vegetables are classified as cruciferous vegetables. Examples include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, greens like collard and mustard, watercress, and bok choy. Cruciferous vegetables are unique from other vegetables because they have a high amount of glucosinolates which give these vegetables their familiar spicy or bitter taste.

The spicy or bitter taste of cruciferous vegetables can become overwhelming and even unpalatable if the proper cooking technique isn’t used. To be sure you prepare these good-for-you vegetables in a tasty and nutritious way, don’t overcook. Cook tender cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts just until their green color is brightened (before it turns to army green). Good techniques include sautéing, roasting, and steaming.

Consider any of these GREEN foods for healthy and delicious St. Patrick's Day recipes!

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Greens
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • String Beans
  • Spinach

Eating with color also means eating brightly or darkly naturally-colored foods. Look for the brightest and darkest colored varieties. Lettuce with darker green leaves has more nutrients than those with pale or whitish leaves. Green lettuce with red-tinged leaves provide nutrients from both green and red pigments. Bright green celery stalks have more nutrients than pale celery hearts.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we consume 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. We should strive for at least 1 1/2 cups of dark green vegetables per week and 5 1/2 cups of red and orange vegetables per week.

Many dark gold and orange vegetables and fruits get their vibrant colors from natural pigments called carotenoids. Eating certain colorful vegetables containing carotenoids may be particularly good for our eyes by potentially playing a role in preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.

Carrots often come to mind when eye health is discussed. Carrots contain beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid that our body converts to vitamin A. Deficiencies in vitamin A are linked to night blindness.

Two other carotenoid pigments may play an even greater role in preventing potentially blinding eye conditions. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the carotenoid pigments found in dark green vegetables including kale, spinach, broccoli and romaine lettuce. These two pigments help maintain the health of our eyes and may help prevent macular degeneration. 

For more information about food and nutrition, visit the NDSU Extension Service website:


Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist

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