Sunday, October 2, 2011

Greens and the ANDI Index

Not too long ago I watched a PBS special on Dr. Joel Fuhrman. When I later googled the man to learn more about him I discovered that not only is he a former figure skater, but he is also the same Dr. Fuhrman who developed the ANDI scale, which measures the nutrient density of foods. This index was devised to help us identify which foods offer the biggest bang for our buck, so to speak, in terms of nutrient density. If you’ve been to a Whole Foods Market you’ve probably seen the “Health Starts Here” posters around the store, which feature this same ANDI index (see end of post for the list of foods on this index). At the top of this list are greens of all sorts, as in green leafy vegetables. Things like meat and cheese rank lowest.

The show was informative. The take-away for me was something I find easy to remember: GOMBS, which stands for Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Beans & Berries, and Seeds. These foods, he says, are perhaps the most important for our health and focusing on getting these in to our daily diet would go a long way to prevent many diseases.

Motivated to eat some, I promptly went out and bought a bag of mixed greens at Trader Joe’s, as in collard and mustard greens (not lettuce greens) and made a sauté of them, adding onions and garlic,  some white wine or chicken stock and bacon for flavor. I used the recipe on the back of the bag as a guide, using little pieces of bacon instead of sausages the recipe calls for because that's what I had in the fridge. In fact, here’s a little side note: I recently discovered “bacon pieces” at Trader Joe’s which I find much more convenient than long slices when all I want are just a few pieces to flavor something like this. I crisped the bacon first, of course, then removed it and most of the grease from the pan and continued on with the recipe.

Sauteed Greens

2 sausages or a few strips of bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil, if needed, or not using fat from meat
1 bag Trader Joe's Greens
chicken or vegetable stock or white wine or a combination of both
salt and pepper

Slice meat and brown in saute pan. When finished, remove both meat and most of the fat from the pan. Keep saute pan on medium high heat and add onion, cooking until translucent. Add garlic, saute for 1-2 minutes. Do not burn garlic. Add greens and just enough stock/wine to add moisture but not make a soup out of it. Cook until greens are wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

An alternative to the greens is Swiss chard, which I really like, especially because of all the vibrant colors it comes in (see photo, right. It also comes in neon yellow!). I saute it like spinach, with  garlic and onion as well, but I sprinkle a little lemon on top at the end right before serving. Chard stalks are a bit thicker and tougher than spinach so I usually cook those first, then add the leaves about 5-6 minutes later.

If you have any flavorful recipes for greens, I’d love to hear from you because I need more inspiration on cooking these things. Shoot me an email at and let me know how you like to prepare them. Meanwhile, I will keep searching for more recipes. Maybe my vegetarian cookbooks have some unique ways of adding flavor to them, or online I might find some southern way of preparing them, as they seem to eat them quite frequently in the South.

ANDI Scale - Aggregate Nutrient Density Index

Of the top 10 items on the list greens comprise 9 of the top 10 foods! A rating of 1000 is the highest score a food can get.

1. Collard greens, mustard greens, & turnip greens 1000
2. Kale 1000
3. Watercress 1000
4. Bok choy 824
5. Spinach 739
6. Brussels sprouts 672
7. Swiss chard 670
8. Arugula 559
9. Radish 554
10. Cabbage 481
11. Bean sprouts 444 
12. Red peppers 420
13. Romaine lettuce 389
14. Broccoli 376
15. Carrot juice 344
16. Tomatoes & tomato products 190-300
17. Cauliflower 295
18. Strawberries 212
19. Pomegranate juice 193
20. Blackberries 178
21. Plums 157 
22. Raspberries 145
23. Blueberries 130
24. Papaya 118
25. Brazil nuts 116
26. Oranges 109
27. Tofu 86
28. Beans (all varieties) 55-70
29. Seeds: flaxseed, sunflower, sesame 45
30. Walnuts 29

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