Living in Los Angeles for some time with several Hispanic roommates created a love affair for me with tortillas. We ate tortillas with every meal—for breakfast we stuffed them with eggs or tofu and potatoes and for lunch it was usually beans, potatoes, salsa and avocado. Every meal we ate, from salad to stir-fry ended up wrapped in a tortilla. Oh and of course, peanut butter and jelly wrapped in a tortilla, maybe with a banana in it was also common. Everything went in a tortilla—making it the ultimate leftovers game-changer. I was in grad school at the time, and the ease and portability of the tortilla was without competition.
This of course was before I ever tested myself for elevated antibodies to my own thyroid and this was before I discovered that gluten was the cause of my hypnagogic hallucinations. It was before I made any connection at all to how what I chose to eat affected my health.
There is something so primal, so basic to touching our food. It creates a connection with our food that I crave. A wrap is meant to be picked-up. A wrap is meant to be touched, to cradle our food as it cradles our love for our food. Tortillas connect us to our food in a way that eating food off a fork never can. Everything tastes better in a wrap—even or especially leftovers.
We have it easier these days as the gluten-free. Those hard, dense, breakable, inflexible brown rice tortillas I used to pretend I liked have been replaced by more flexible models, more similar in texture to the real thing.
The problem is that as gluten-free products have improved in texture, my relationship to my body and my willingness to just eat anything that “I can” has also changed drastically. I notice now how my energy, my skin, my digestion, my blood sugar and my overall vitality changes based on what I feed myself and gluten-free is no longer good enough. To read the ingredients on the now flexible gluten-free tortilla takes some time, because the list is long and filled with many high glycemic starches, many difficult to digest gums, a number of preservatives that aren’t actually food or pronounceable and usually even corn syrup. No thanks. I’m good. Where is my fork?
But sometimes the answer is so obvious, so simple and so easy that we overlook it.
Of course, there are lettuce wraps, which work, but aren’t usually very portable or easy to work with—they don’t usually provide a full cradle for our food.
Enter the collard greens wrap. They are flexible and portable, and wrap-up just like a burrito, but add a bonus dose of health! They even give you the option of a small wrap, a medium wrap or a large wrap depending on the size of the collards with often all three sizes in one bunch!
Once again, my leftovers have a place to hide and no matter the ingredients, they can easily be cradled in their green bundle of hospitable joy. Once again, grab and go meals can be prepared with ease and all without sleepless nights, brain-fog, thyroid inflammation or insulin surges!
You are the artist of your own wrapping palate, so what you fill your collard green “burritos” with is irrelevant (sunflower seed butter and unsweetened jelly, anyone?), once you learn to soften the greens and wrap them like a pro. Hence the quick video tutorial:
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Cruciferous vegetables (sometimes referred to as the brassica family) are often considered the most essential vegetables for supporting our detoxification processes. You know these vegetables as kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips and collards. Kale tends to steal the limelight most of the time, but collard greens are just as beneficial if not more so than kale!
All of the cruciferous vegetables decrease cholesterol by binding to bile acids (which are made from cholesterol) so they can be removed from the body. When excreted, the body has to make more bile acid, lowering cholesterol by utilizing it. In studies, collard greens outperform all of the other cruciferous vegetables in doing this. And steamed collard greens are more effective in doing this than raw collards.
The cruciferous vegetables are considered protective against development of cancer because of their support of our detoxification system, being anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants. Collards are considered especially beneficial in protection against cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate and ovaries. Collard greens are especially anti-inflammatory because they contain the omega 3 essential fatty acid, ALA (although it does need to be converted to a more useable form which not everyone’s bodies succeed at doing).
Additionally, 1 cup of cooked collards provides 858% (WHAAAT!) of our daily recommended value of vitamin K which is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse! A 2014 study of over 7,000 people at high risk for cardiovascular disease found that people with the highest intake of vitamin K were 36% less likely to die from any cause at all, compared with those having the lowest intake. Additionally, numerous studies have found that vitamin k prevents cancer and increases cancer cell death. In a study of 510 elderly subjects at high risk for cardiovascular disease, increasing vitamin K intake decreased inflammation markers by 30%! An analysis of 1,381 participants in the Framingham Offspring study found that dietary intake of vitamin K1 is associated with lower levels of 14 different inflammation biomarkers.
Too much of a good thing if hypothyroid?
The cruciferous vegetables are goitrogenic (in addition to soy, sweet potatoes, millet, wheat and some other foods) which does not mean they cause goiters, but does mean that they can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. The cruciferous vegetables are incredibly healthy, as indicated above, so to reduce the goitrogens to a safe level, simply make sure to cook these instead of eating them raw and to limit consumption to no more than a few servings a day if you have hypothyroidism. Whereas, if you have hyperthyroidism, increasing your consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables can be beneficial. If you have no thyroid issues, feel free to continue to eat the cruciferous veggies plentifully, raw or cooked.
Other considerations… Sticky and stinky!
The sulphur in the cruciferous vegetables is a sticky substance that attaches to toxins and drags them out of our body kicking and screaming during Phase 2 of detoxification. This is great! However, not only is sulphur sticky, but it’s also stinky. If you cook these veggies too long, a lot of the Sulphur is released and you get that not so lovely sulphur smell. For collards, I would suggest limiting the cooking to at least 1 minute to decrease goitrogens but not longer than 5 minutes if you are worried about the sulphur smell!
The Environmental Working Group has found that conventional collards and other big leafy greens when tested for pesticide levels were high in organophosphate insecticides which are toxic to our nervous system! That means, this is one of those veggies you should buy organic.
Collard greens are high in oxalates, which is normally not an issue, but if you have kidney disease or are prone to kidney stones, you may want to limit those foods that contains high amounts of oxalates.
Now it’s your turn… Please share below in the comments how you like to take your leftovers from boring to renewed. Do you like collard greens? How do you prepare them?