Forget four-leaf clovers, lucky charms and finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

The best way to get the luck o’ the Irish is to eat a well-balanced diet, with plenty of green fruits and vegetables, according to nutrition experts at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.  

While Popeye’s love of spinach catapulted that vegetable to stardom, there’s a veritable cornucopia of green fruits and vegetables that pack many nutrients but hardly fly out of the produce section.  

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, here’s a sampling of some green foods UT Southwestern dietitians recommend. All should be available at your local natural and organic food store.

Avocado   

Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol, says Vickie Vaclavik, PhD, RD, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition. They’re also a great source of vitamin E and lutein, a natural antioxidant that may help maintain eye health. 

Broccolini

A cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, broccolini is sometimes sold under the name “asparation.” It’s packed with the cancer-fighting nutrients isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indoles, all linked with reducing the risk of breast, prostate, cervical, lung and other cancers. Broccolini also offers as much vitamin C as orange juice, says Jo Ann Carson, PhD, RD, a professor of clinical nutrition.  

 Kale  

 A good source of vitamins K, C and beta carotene, kale is a form of cabbage whose central leaves do not form a head. One-half cup of cooked kale packs 1.3 grams of fiber but just 20 calories, says Cindy Cunningham, MS, RD, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition.  

Tune in tomorrow for more info on veggie superstars.  

Photo courtesy of the California Avocado Commission, © 2008