Many people have said that southerners do not eat a healthy diet because a southern diet consists of mainly fried foods. A southerner will be happy to inform you that as different as they may seem, collard greens are actually considered to be a staple of that part of the nation. Collards are a form of the Brassica family which includes broccoli and cauliflower and they are also related to kale, but their dark blue-green smooth leaves make them quite different and recognizable. They are absolutely scrumptious when served as a “mess o’ greens” with black-eyed peas and cornbread or hush-puppies (little deep fried balls of cornbread with onions in them) and catfish freshly caught. Nothing could be better on a Sunday afternoon when all the family gets together down at the lake for a fish fry. It’s like having a giant family reunion every week. The other meat that is served with either collards, turnip greens, or mustard greens is pork, sometimes in the form of salt pork or a ham hock.
The history of these foods go back to the slave days when the plantation owners threw all the parts of the pig they wouldn’t eat into a large iron pot for the slaves to eat. This is where chittlins came into the pot, which are the innards of a pig. After travelers began showing up with new food items such as corn, rice, squash and tomatoes, the unique Southern cuisine was born. One of the reasons this type of food did not become popular with the general population was the two negative factors produced from eating them was the fact that cooking these foods made the kitchen smell bad and then after eating the food it induced flatulence. The one thing that has stuck with this style of food is the fact that it brings good luck and a year of good fortune if eaten on New Year’s Day. The good luck meal should consist of hog jowl, black-eyed peas, and collards, along with cornbread. Also, hanging a fresh collard leaf over the door assures that evil spirits would not enter.
There are numerous health benefits to having collards as a part of your regular diet. Not to get too technical, but the glucosinolates, although small in number, seem to help with a large variety of female cancers, mainly breast and ovarian. The reason for this has not been established yet, but the detoxifying enzymes in the liver help the detoxification process. Testing done in this area have shown some connection between chemopreventive compounds in some of the foods in our diets such as collards that can influence cancer-related genes.
It has been known for many years that phytonutrients in collard greens work at a very deep level in the process of detoxification which cleans our bodies by eliminating harmful toxins. In articles discussing this process it describes the phytonutrients in collards as “dancing” inside our cells with detoxification partners. It describes each dancer performing its own special role in protecting the balance with the other dancers. The “dance” must work because more recent studies have shown that people that include the most cruciferous vegetables are at a lower risk for cancer of the prostate, colorectal and lungs.
The studies also showed that vegetables like collards won hands down over any other type of vegetables. It doesn’t even take that much of the cruciferous to be effective. Just one small cup a day can help with all degenerative diseases, including colon cancer, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. Also, since collards rid the body of free radicals it helps with asthma attacks which is an inflammatory disease.
Other benefits of a collard green filled diet is that it is loaded with the antioxidant trace mineral manganese. Not only does it help the body absorb vitamin C, but it is also a component of another antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase which also rids the body of free radicals. Collards are also a great source of calcium which is known for decreasing bone loss. It also has been found to help prevent migraines, reduce PMS symptoms, and helps with blood clotting, nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
Collard Greens Nutritional Value
Collards greens are known to have many nutrients in them including:
-A, K, and C.
-Niacin, potassium, and magnesium
-Vitamins B1, B3, B2, B6
It has been stated in the Neurology Journal that eating collard greens 3xday lowers the decline of mental function by as much as 40%. This would be very beneficial to people who feel like they are loosing their mental capacity. This may include most of us sometime during each life. Let’s all put some collards in our diets and improve our health, mentally and physically.