Romaine Lettuce – Healthy Alternatives to this Staple Food

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romaine alternatives

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen romaine lettuce pulled from grocery stores and restaurants across Canada and the U.S. due to an E. Coli outbreak that has resulted in serious illness in several people.

  1. Coli is a group of bacteria that live in the intestinal tract of most people and animals. Many strains of E. Coli are completely harmless, but the one being linked to romaine lettuce is not. If contracted, it can lead to fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Severe cases can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and even kidney failure.

The incubation period for E. Coli illness is usually anywhere between 1-10 days, and the symptoms are:

  • Severe abdominal cramping
  • Sudden onset of watery diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to over a week.

In some cases (usually in people with compromised immune systems), the symptoms can become quite severe:

  • Bloody urine and decreased urine output
  • Dehydration
  • Pale skin and bruising

Why is this relevant to discuss here on the blog?

Well, as a plant-based chef with a broad clientele of people eating an anti-inflammatory diet with a focus on fresh food, I know that many individuals look to salad as an important way to get additional fibre, minerals, and vitamins into their diet. In fact, many of the families I work with eat salad at either lunch and/or dinner every day, so this recent restriction can be seen as a bit of a hassle.

“Kiran, what should we eat instead?”

This is a great question! Fortunately, there are SO many wonderful alternatives to ensure we are getting enough of our required dark leafy greens.

Here are some of our favourites at Ki’s Kitchen:

  1. Kale

Full of Vitamins A and C and loaded with fibre and antioxidants, kale aids in digestion and metabolism, and helps fight inflammation. If the taste or texture is too strong for some palates and you want to use it in a salad, gently massage a bit of olive oil and lemon juice into it and let it rest for 10-15 min before serving. Kale can also be added to soups, smoothies, curries, and even baked in the oven to make a delicious chip-like snack.

 

  1. Collard greens 

We associate this nutritious vegetable with Southern cooking, and it does make a powerful flavour combo with stewed legumes (black eyed peas, etc). They are very high in Vitamin K, which strengthens bones, and is even thought to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Collard greens are also high in protein.

 

  1. Spinach

The important vitamins in spinach help our body fight infection, while strengthening our bones, skin, and vision. Spinach is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which work to improve our memory and lower the risk of many diseases. With its mild flavour (especially the “baby” variety), you can literally add handfuls of it to your favourite smoothie, soup, or sauce without noticing – this is helpful for children who may have an aversion to the thought of spinach. Baby spinach also makes a delicious salad, just remember to wait to dress it right before you eat it as the leaves are delicate and the acid in lemon juice or vinegar will cause it to wilt.

 

  1. Bok Choy

This variety of Chinese cabbage is loaded with Vitamin K and boasts a mild flavour. It makes a popular addition to stir fried dishes, and is delicious baked in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Adding garlic and a few chili flakes would kick it up a notch!

 

  1. Chard 

This colourful vegetable is full of wonderful antioxidants that fight eye degeneration and malnutrition, and iron that improves blood flow, making it a good choice for people with diabetes. Also packed with Vitamin K and calcium, chard is a champion of healthy bone development and maintenance. The flavour can be slightly bitter to some, so we like to blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes (this releases some of the enzymes that make it bitter), and then sauté it in a pan with a bit of olive oil, some fresh garlic, salt, and pepper.

 

  1. Arugula 

Delicious added to a salad or as a topping on pizza (have you tried a cauliflower crust yet?), arugula is chock full of essential nutrients that are easily digestible by the body. Arugula has a pleasant pepper-y flavour, making it a great addition to a side or main dish salad – just add in some mesclun mix, red leaf lettuce, or some baby spinach, and you’re golden!

And, we shouldn’t forget to mention that there are so many other amazing and nutritious vegetables that you can increase your intake of during this recent E. Coli outbreak – our family has been eating more cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and cabbage the last couple of weeks.

While scary and a bit confusing, sometimes these outbreaks can actually be helpful (obviously not at all to the people who are ill) in that we are forced outside of our comfort zone and introduce new foods into our diet.

Have fun experimenting!


Lastly, thank you so much for visiting! I hope you have found some valuable information, if so, I’d love to hear about it!

Please feel free to share this post with anyone who might benefit, and comments are always welcome!

I look forward to connecting with you next time!

And be sure to check out why you should order your family’s next meal courtesy of Ki’s Kitchen  
romaine

From our kitchen to yours,

Love + Peace

Kiran 

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