Excerpt from my new book, The Light Way: God's tools for a healthy, happy, long life
Each element that God created is important in supporting life on earth. Light, dark, air, water, land, plants and animals all work together to affect and support life. Let’s look at one of the most important elements, light.
Light is an essential element for life. Without light, plants cannot grow, the earth would not be warmed, and we cannot survive. Light separates the day from the night and drives our circadian rhythm. We need sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, an essential vitamin for our immunity, bone health, and overall well being.
Light drives many of the cycles of the earth. Light warms the atmosphere and oceans and creates weather patterns. Light is energy coming into the earth. It is the only resource that comes from outside the planet. All other resources are available in a fixed amount on earth. Light is what makes this planet inhabitable.
Light is essential for the growth of plants. Plants use sunlight to create sugars through photosynthesis. The sugar allows the plants to grow and produce food for us.
We also need light for the health and wellbeing of our bodies. Sunlight enables us to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for the absorption of calcium. Without enough vitamin D you will not be able to absorb the calcium you consume. When your skin receives enough sunlight, it will make vitamin D and will work to keep your bones strong and healthy.
How much sunlight is enough? Well, it depends upon the color of your skin. If your skin is darker, you need more sunlight to make your required amount of vitamin D. If your skin is lighter, you need less. A basic guideline is to get sun exposure for half the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn and expose as much skin as possible.
This sun exposure time should be done without the application of sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks the ultraviolet rays which are the components of sunlight that we need for vitamin D production.
In a world where we are afraid of skin cancer, this advice may seem crazy but let me assure you, these small amounts of sun exposure will not increase your risk of skin cancer; overexposure will do that. After you have done your sunlight exposure, please cover up or put sunscreen on so you don’t overexpose your skin.
You also need to take into consideration the time of year, how far you live from the equator, the time of day, and how much of your skin is exposed. In the winter in the midwest, it takes much more sun exposure to create the vitamin D required versus living in the southwest. Because it is cold in the midwest during the winter, the amount of exposed skin is so little, it is nearly impossible to get enough sunlight exposure to make the required daily amount of vitamin D.
For those of us that live in cold or cloudy places for part of the year, a vitamin D supplement is important. Vitamin D will help keep your immune system healthy and strong to combat any colds or flu you may come into contact with at this time. My recommended daily dose of vitamin D supplements during that cold or cloudy time of the year is 8,000-10,000 IU.
Getting enough sunlight each day is a simple habit you can put into your life that will boost your health, happiness and longevity. If sunlight is unavailable, then a vitamin D supplement is a great and inexpensive substitution.
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Now that you know how to cook your greens well, I want share with you what to do with those wonderful stems you took out of all the leaves. The stems of leafy greens are rich in nutrients (fiber, vitamin C and calcium), and would be a shame to waste such a nutritious part of a vegetable.
I have two recipes that I adore to use up the stems: white bean dip and pesto.
First thing first, chop and steam the stems for 3-5 minutes in boiling water. Strain the stems and let them cool for 5-10 minutes.
If you have an abundance of stems, you can put the extra in a freezer bag and store in the freezer until you are ready to make dip. When you are ready to use them, just let them defrost before continuing with the recipe.
When they are cooled (or defrosted if using frozen) bring out your food processor and collect the other ingredients. Put the kale stems in first with the liquid and blend until fairly smooth. Then add the remaining ingredients and blend until well mixed and to a consistency you like.
Both recipes freeze well so I make a large batch and freeze in jars. Use as sandwich spreads, veggie dip or with crackers. You will never imagine there are kale stems in it!
White Bean Dip
Kale Stem Pesto
An armload of greens, my favorite dinner item! Greens are a prolific garden vegetable and a super healthy addition to any meal. They are full of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. They even have 5 grams of protein per cup of cooked greens. Greens are shown to reduce inflammation, strengthen bones, and prevent a number of chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.
I believe the reason why more people don't take advantage of these wonderful leaves, is they don't know the best way to prepare them.
Today I want to share with you how I prepare greens and give you the only recipe you will ever need, to make more greens a part of your diet.
When I come in from the garden with an armload of greens, the first thing I do is fill the sink with water and give them a soak. It helps any bugs to let go and rinses off any dirt. I give each leaf a little rub and then take out the center stem.
The easiest way to take out the stem is to run your thumb and pointer finger down the stem from the back side, tearing the leaf off as you go. It takes some practice at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is a quick process.
Once you get all the stems removed, pile your greens on the cutting board. (You can save the stems for another recipe, they are full of nutrients too.) I find a bread knife works the best for cutting.
Some people find it helpful to arrange the leaves on top of each other neatly, that takes too much time for me. I just bunch them up as tightly as I can and grab my knife.
The first cut is in the center of my pile to get a nice straight edge. Once you cut through, fold the pile on the right, under the left pile, lining up the cut ends.
Then start making ribbon cuts of greens, as narrow as you can. The smaller the cuts, the faster it will cook and the more tender it will be.
Continue until all the greens are cut.
Now onto cooking.
I always start with an onion, finely chopped. Put it in a large pot to sauté in some coconut or olive oil. Let it cook until it starts to caramelize and turn golden brown.
Then throw in the greens. Stir and press the greens down into the pot, get them all coated with oil and mix the onions into them. Add a dash of salt and any other spices you like. My favorite is garlic and curry powder.
Cook with the lid off so the liquid from the greens evaporates. Cook them about 5-8 minutes depending on how full the pot is. You will know when they are done because they will have greatly reduced in size and turned a darker shade of green.
Serve as a side dish with meat, eggs, beans or alone with rice. You can even incorporate them into another dish. You are only limited by your creativity.
Greens are a favorite part of my family's diet and I hope you find they become a favorite veggie for your family too!