Q+A with Alina, Dream Greens by AeroFarms In-House Nutritionist

We sat down with our Dream Greens by AeroFarms Nutritionist, Alina Zolotareva, for a Dream Greens Nutrition FAQ below!

What foods are immune-boosting?

  • A healthy, balanced diet rich in immune-boosting nutrients is the key to a strong immune system. On example is that locally grown food is likely much higher in Vitamin C than anything shipped from across the country or imported. Vitamin C is key for our immune function, and is lost fairly quickly once plants are harvested, so the closer to the source we eat them, the better! Vitamin C is found in significant quantities in almost every kind of produce, especially leafy greens, bell peppers, berries, etc. 
    • Looking for recipe suggestions? Here’s a few of my favorites:
      • Mushroom and Greens Vegan Ramen
      • Mango, Turmeric and Greens Smoothie
      • What is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and where did you go to school?

        • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the specific accreditation criteria to earn the RDN credential:
          1. Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
          2. Completed an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency, or a foodservice corporation or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program will run six to 12 months in length.
          3. Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination, refer to CDR’s website at www.cdrnet.org.
          4. Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration every year
          5. I went to Cornell University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics, where I took a super comprehensive courseload that included all the pre-med science classes (organic chemistry, biology, etc) in addition to in-depth coursework on nutritional biochemistry, food science, microbiology, medical nutrition therapy, statistics, and more.  It wasn’t an easy course load, but deeply interesting and rewarding.  I then completed my supervised year of practice with a focus on Public Health in NYC at the CUNY School of Public Health.
          6. I became a registered dietitian because I deeply care about public health & helping prevent chronic disease the only way that actually works – through a healthy, balanced diet & lifestyle. To be a real nutrition expert requires that an individual at least achieve an RDN credential in addition to a bachelor’s, masters PhD, or other certification programs, which is why I decided to complete the path towards becoming an RDN.

        How do Dream Greens compare to field grown leafy greens?

        • From a nutrition standpoint, it’s best to eat fresh-cut leafy greens as soon as possible after they are harvested to preserve their nutrient density.  Fresh cut produce tends to lose certain key nutrients, such as Vitamin C, post-harvest, which is why choosing Dream Greens, which are locally grown and shipped within 24 hrs from the farm to the store is the best way to maximize your nutrition bang for your buck.  Most leafy greens bought at the supermarket come from California, Arizona or Mexico, travelling thousands of miles to get to your store, and usually sitting for several weeks before they are consumed. This negatively affects the nutrient density, flavor and quality of leafy greens, and also promotes food waste.
        • The special way we grow Dream Greens in AeroFarms’ indoor vertical farm also means that we can optimize the environment of the farm to promote the best flavor and nutrient density for the greens.  Firstly, by growing indoors we can ensure the best environment for our plants to thrive all year round, avoiding the fluctuations that come with weather patterns and seasons, which means the nutrient density, quality and flavor is consistent no matter what.  Secondly, we can go even further – we can provide our plants with the exact environmental conditions to maximize their nutrient density and quality beyond what we can do in the field. This means leafy greens that are much more flavorful and potentially much higher in nutrient density than conventionally grown greens.  We are currently working with the USDA & the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) on a 2 year research study to understand exactly how specific environmental conditions like lighting, temperature and humidity affect the antioxidant levels and flavor of leafy greens grown at our indoor vertical farm – pretty cool!

        What is the difference between regular leafy greens and microgreens?

        • Leafy greens come in many shapes and sizes, and they all have unique nutrition characteristics and benefits! All leafy greens, no matter their age, tend to be great sources of Vitamins C, A, K, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium, and all contain phytonutrients with antioxidant benefits.  While there are differences in nutritional profiles depending on the age/maturity of the green, the major differences are the culinary applications.
        • Mature leafy greens (Heads of Kale, Romaine, Cabbage, Bok Choy, etc) are the oldest in terms of their growing cycle and harvested later than baby leafy greens and microgreens.  They tend to be more fibrous with a hardier texture, so more appropriate for sautéing, adding to soups, or serving raw with dressings.
        • Baby leafy greens (like Dream Greens Baby varieties) are younger and smaller in size than mature greens – they grow over the course of 35-40 days in the field, and just in 12-14 days in our indoor farm.  Our baby leafy greens are packed with more flavor and are more tender than field-grown leafy greens of the same kind (i.e. Baby Kale vs. mature Kale) for example.  Because they are so tender and easy to work with, they are perfect for being eaten raw as a salad, blended in a smoothie, etc. Some studies suggest that baby leafy greens have higher concentrations of flavonoids and certain Vitamins and minerals than mature leafy greens, but differences may be due to growing and storage conditions in addition to age alone.
        • Microgreens are the tiniest and youngest of the bunch, growing in a matter of days in our indoor farm compared to a few weeks out in the field. According to a robust research paper published in 2013, microgreens were shown to have 3-5X higher levels of vitamins C, E and K, beta-carotene and other phytonutrients. Some varieties of microgreens can have up to 40X the nutrient density of their mature counterparts – Red Cabbage microgreens, for example (found in our Micro Super Mix) contain 40X more Vitamin E than mature red cabbage!

        What is the healthiest way to eat leafy greens to maximize their health benefits?

        • The bottom line is to get at least 1-2 servings of dark leafy greens in every day as part of your 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily – that’s about 2/3 of a 4.5 oz package of baby greens or one 2 oz. container of microgreens.  Our baby greens and microgreens are ready to eat out of the container raw as a snack or meal – you don’t even have to wash them, because they are totally pesticide free and clean straight out of the container.  It’s typically good idea to enjoy leafy greens both raw and cooked with a source of fat like a drizzle of olive oil to help absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A & K, and an additional source of Vitamin C (like lemon juice) to promote absorption of iron. When cooking baby leafy greens, it’s best to use minimal heat and simply fold them into a dish (like stir-fry, soup, omelette, etc) to prevent flavor and nutrient loss from overexposure to heat.
        • Get creative in the kitchen and add leafy greens to any meal or snack – not just as a salad base – check out our recipes online here!

        Interested in trying our locally grown and pesticide-free Dream Greens? Here’s where to find them!