Adding leafy greens to your plate is an excellent way to improve your diet and overall health. However, some greens are more nutritious than others. For instance, iceberg lettuce may be popular in salads, but it pales in comparison to kale or spinach. That’s because dark, leafy greens often contain more nutrients, including iron, protein, calcium, and fibre. Get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals by incorporating these healthy greens into your meals.
Spinach is one of the most versatile leafy greens out there. Add it to salads, omelettes, sandwiches, wraps, pasta, and more. Your options are practically endless. The best part is that spinach is chock full of antioxidants like kaempferol, which can reduce your risk of cancer. It also triggers the release of satiety hormones to help you feel more full and satisfied after meals. Enjoy at least three cups a day to support brain and eye health, fend off heart disease, and manage blood pressure.
Popular in Australia and Europe, this salad green isn’t so common in the U.S. Yet, it’s more nutrient-rich than romaine or regular old leaf lettuce. A single serving contains nearly a full day’s value of vitamin K, a nutrient that promotes oral health and increases bone density. Because it’s 95% water, watercress can also promote hydration, which inevitably benefits every cell in your body. Add this green to salads or puree it into a soup for an extra dose of nutrition.
3. Collard Greens
If a dish needs some crunch, reach for collard greens. This nutritious, leafy green makes an excellent addition — in both texture and taste — to stir fries, soups, meaty braises, and casseroles. You can even use the leaves as a wrap instead of tortillas and pita bread. Collard greens have all of your daily vitamin K, plus some vitamin C and E, so they’re sure to boost your health regardless of how you prepare them.
Broccoli, kale, and cabbage all originated from the same species, so they share similar nutritional qualities. That means if you don’t like broccoli or cabbage, you should be adding a bit of kale to your plate. This way, you still get your daily dose of phytonutrients, calcium, and vitamin K. While kale is delicious raw or cooked, it’s easier for your body to digest if you sautee or bake it first. It also pairs well with fall foods like squash, nuts, seeds, and beans.
5. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are peppery and a little bitter, making them an excellent addition to salads with sweet ingredients and dressings. They’re also excellent sauteed with olive oil and herbs or ground into a fresh pesto with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. One cup of this leafy green fulfills almost half your daily vitamin C requirement and all of your vitamin K. Plus, it contains folate, a nutrient that helps form new blood cells to improve overall health.
6. Swiss Chard
Like many other leafy greens on this list, swiss chard has plenty of vitamins C and K. However, this delicious veggie also contains a good amount of vitamin A, which helps maintain eye and skin health and protects you from infection. Swiss chard tastes similar to spinach, so you can use it in many of the same ways. Because its leaves are bigger, however, you may also turn them into wraps or even taco shells in a pinch.
7. Beet Greens
While beet bulbs get most of the attention, their greens are equally delicious, not to mention versatile. Sauteed beet greens are delightful on sandwiches, in slaws, or mixed into grain, egg, and pasta dishes. Because they become more tender when cooked, they make a great alternative to crunchier varieties like kale and chard. Beet greens are packed with nitrates, protein, calcium, zinc, and fiber, so they’re healthy no matter how you eat them.
Getting Creative in the Kitchen
If you’re unfamiliar with pairing and preparing healthy leafy greens, pick up a recipe book, do a bit of research, and experiment in the kitchen. Get creative as you add these nutritious vegetables into breakfasts, snacks, appetizers, and more. There are endless possibilities for cooking and combining ingredients, so think outside the box and let your tastebuds lead the way. The more you do, the more willing you’ll be to add leafy greens to your meals.