Leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber. The antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin that are contained in leafy greens can help keep you looking and feeling young by helping your body produce more collagen, protecting your joints and by reducing your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Below are a few of the healthiest leafy greens.
Kale. When it comes to greens, kale is considered a ‘superfood’, leading the way in beta-carotene, vitamin C and lutein (a potent antioxidant shown to protect eyesight) content. Kale's ruffle-edged leaves range in color from green to purple to black depending on the variety.
Use kale for: Steaming sautéing or juicing, or snack on baked kale chips instead of potato chips!
Spinach. Packed with vitamins A, C and folate, a B vitamin that helps protect against breast cancer, spinach also delivers more potassium than other greens, helping to keep blood pressure in check. Cooking spinach reduces its oxalate content, making calcium and other minerals more available.
Use spinach for: Spinach can be lightly steamed or eaten raw in salads. Add it to juices, smoothies, soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles.
Arugula. This cruciferous vegetable is a surprisingly good source of calcium, potassium and antioxidants.
Use arugula for: Arugula’s peppery taste makes it a great addition to salads and frittatas or scrambled eggs. Use it in place of basil to make a zesty pesto!
Collard Greens. Nutritionally similar to kale but with more fiber, collard greens have a chewier texture and a stronger cabbage-like taste.
Use collard greens for: In the South, collards are slow cooked with either a ham hock or smoked turkey leg. Boil, steam, or chop collard greens into soups or casseroles. Its wide leaves can be used as a wrapper instead of tortillas or bread.
|Spicy Swiss Chard Chips|
Use Swiss chard for: Sautéeing – its texture is perfect! Add it to stir-fries or soups. Tired of kale chips? Try Swiss chard chips instead.
Cabbage. Available in purple and green varieties, this cruciferous vegetable is a great source of cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C. In fact, purple cabbage is one of the most antioxidant rich vegetables you can eat – and it lasts a long time in the refrigerator. Use cabbage for: Cabbage can be cooked, added raw to salads or stir fries, shredded into a slaw, or made into sauerkraut. Raw cabbage juice (prepared using a juicer) tastes surprisingly good!
Microgreens. Great things come in small packages. Microgreens – the ‘baby’ greens of kale, spinach, arugula, and broccoli that are harvested just 1-2 weeks after planting – are a treasure trove of vital nutrients, providing up to 6 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts.
Use microgreens for: Ranging in flavor from peppery to tangy, use microgreens to punch up salads, soups, and sandwiches.
There are so many leafy greens to choose from and each has its merits (except for iceberg lettuce, the ‘polyester’ of vegetables!).
Add or swap out other greens or vegetables in recipes with arugula, kale, radicchio, spinach, endive, Swiss chard, cabbage, dandelion and bok choy.
The healthiest way to enjoy greens is lightly steamed. Some greens cook instantly (like spinach) while those with thicker stems (like kale and Swiss chard) can take up to 5 minutes.