HIBBING — As the days lengthen and the trees begin to bud, it’s a good time to turn over a new leaf. And eat a few, too.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), less than 9 percent of Americans eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day as recommended.

Minnesota is one of the states with the least amount of vegetable consumption. Residents eat less than a quarter of vegetables once a day, the CDC report noted.

Yet green leafy vegetables are packed with health boosting nutrients. As Molly Ongaro, a clinical dietitian at Fairview Range pointed out, leafy vegetables are among the most nutrient dense foods available.

“High in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins A, D, E, and K. Not only that but they are low in calories and full of fiber,” Ongaro said. “They are what some like to call a ‘super food.’”

And they have super benefits to the human body.

“Green leafy vegetables can improve circulation, boost immune function, purify the blood and provide steady energy while promoting healthy intestinal flora,” Ongaro explained.

These greens may even provide protection against some of the leading causes of death in Minnesota.

“They are a good source of nutrients that protect us from heart disease, diabetes and possibly cancer,” noted Kim Deihl, a dietitian with Essentia-Health Deer River. “They also provide antioxidants and phytonutrients, add color, flavor and texture to your diet, and — as a bonus — are low calorie.”

With such a wide variety of greens out there, Ongaro provides a baseline for deciding which ones to choose.

“When it comes to types, the darker the better,” she said. “Examples are: spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards, mustard greens, broccoli rabe and dandelion greens — just to name a few.”

For Deihl, these selections can be used in many ways in the kitchen.

“They can be added to salads, smoothies, side dishes, soups, omelets and pasta dishes.” she said. “ Also popular choices since they are well accepted are: spinach, broccoli, cabbage, romaine, leaf or Bibb lettuce, iceberg and arugula lettuce.”

For those who are new to greens, Deihl recommends starting out with a prepackaged container of mixed greens that are available in grocery stores to try a variety of options.

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