Go Green, Dietitians Say

Publish date:
Updated on

Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re honoring the festive holiday with a tribute to some of the greenest fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle.


Yesterday, we looked at avocado, broccolini and kale. Today, we’ll explore some staples popular in ethnic cuisine: okra, tomatillo and nopales. You can find them in supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and large natural and organic food stores like Whole Foods Market.


This key ingredient in Southern cooking (right) is naturally low in calories and a good source of soluble fiber. It also provides some vitamin A.

“It can be cooked whole until tender; then marinate it for about three hours in a small amount of vinegar in the refrigerator,” says Joyce Barnett, MS, RD, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Top the drained okra with chopped onions and tomatoes for an out-of-the-ordinary salad.”


A common ingredient in Southwestern or Mexican cooking, the tomatillo looks like an unripe tomato covered in a paper-like leaf. The vegetable, which is a good source of vitamin C and potassium, is used in salsa verde and can be eaten raw, “but cooking brings out its flavor,” says Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern.


Popular in the Mexican diet, nopales—also known as nopalitos or cactus pads—offer numerous nutritional advantages, and they’re a great option for people with diabetes or high blood pressure.

“Not only is it low in calories, at 22 calories per cup, but the vegetable is also low in sodium and high in fiber,” says Jo Ann Carson, PhD, RD, a professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern. “In addition, a cup contains more calcium than an ounce of cheese and about half the potassium of a banana.”

Related Stories