A SAUCY IDEA
Upgrade your greens with
and I recently became a master’s national
champion in swimming. More and more
of the firefighters in my station began
following my lead, and whenever they
did, they lost weight and saw remarkable
improvements in their health. One guy was
a walking heart attack with a whopping
cholesterol level of 344. After a month of
grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, it
was down to 196.
When it comes to nutrition, vegetables
are the Olympians of food. The best of
them, dark leafy greens, are gold-medal
winners containing ridiculous amounts
of macro- and micronutrients, phyto-chemicals, bioflavonoids, antioxidants,
vitamins, fiber, protein…the list goes on and
on. But you can bring only so many bowls
of steamed broccoli into an environment
like a firehouse, where there’s a cultural
tradition of family-style meals called
“wagons.” So to get the guys onboard my
veggie-heavy wagon, I got creative with
unique recipes and ingredients, and
prepared things like homemade sauces,
which are delicious and much easier to
prepare than you’d think. They’ve proved
to be so good that now firefighters from
other stations stop by regularly to sample
our healthy, life-changing cuisine. Here are
some of my favorite ways to dress up five of
the most nutritious vegetables.
AS TOLD TO MAX ALEXANDER
Like all other dark leafy green vegetables, mustard greens permit the silky lining of your arteries
to produce nitric oxide. This element helps to not only clean the blood but also widen the vessels,
which lets more blood flow to your heart and your brain (not to mention something else that’s pretty
important to men). Mustard greens have a strong, salty flavor. After blanching them for 5 minutes,
I top them with a sauce I make in my blender. Combine ½ cup cashews, 1 Tbsp. tamari (a rich
Japanese soy sauce derived from more soybeans and less wheat than common soy sauce), 2 garlic
cloves, and enough water to give the sauce the consistency of a smoothie.
Brightly colored plants deliver massive doses of vitamins and nutrients. Beets are high in folate
and betaine, which reduce the risk of heart disease by working together to protect blood vessels. I
like to boil beets for 45 minutes and then top them with a sauce made of toasted sesame seeds and
honey. To make the sauce, toast the seeds for 4 minutes at 400°F, grind, and then mix with 1 Tbsp.
honey and 2 tsp. tamari. The same sauce also tastes great with green beans as well as onions.
A single stalk of broccoli packs more than 3 grams of protein. But as much as I love eating vegetables
raw, broccoli is one that I find difficult to eat plain, so I soak it in a marinade. Mix the juice of 2 lemons,
3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. each of freshly grated ginger and molasses, and ½ tsp. minced jalapeño
pepper. The flavors will penetrate deep inside the broccoli if you let it soak for an hour or two, and
you’ll down the bowl in no time. I often use the same marinade for bell peppers.
Iceberg lettuce is a joke. It lacks not only flavor but also nutritional value. For the foundation of your
salads, cut romaine into cubes. Its robust, crunchy leaves are low in calories and high in vitamin C
and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), which together prevent plaque from clogging arteries. My
default dressing combines 2 Tbsp. each of balsamic vinegar and nutritional yeast (which contains
vitamin B , a key nutrient plants can’t provide humans), 1 Tbsp. each of tamari, mustard, and
honey, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and a splash of water. A little of this dressing goes a long way.
Try it on baby spinach too.
Many people discard the spines of Swiss chard, not to mention those of collards and kale. Don’t.
They’re full of fiber, a nutrient most Americans get only 10 to 15 grams of a day. I consume about
four times that much, because plant-based foods are the only ones that contain fiber. Chop the
spines into tiny pieces and sauté them or add them to soups. Sauté chard leaves with ¼ cup orange
juice and 1 tsp. each of finely chopped garlic, pepper, and chili flakes for about 5 minutes. I sauté
broccoli like this too, but I cut the orange juice in half with carrot juice.
Three-time All-American swimmer and former professional triathlete Rip Esselstyn, 45, is a firefighter in
Austin, Texas, and the author of the new book The Engine 2 Diet.