15 green leafy vegetables that you should eat more of
Green leafy vegetables are very healthy. They are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other substances that provide a myriad of health benefits for the body. Most tend to be very high in vitamins A, C & K.
Because of this, you should try and include as many of the green leafy vegetables mentioned below in your diet as you can.
A dark green leafy vegetable, kale is perhaps the best well known. It has often been considered to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and for good reason. A one cup serving provides you with 206% of your DV (daily value) of vitamin A, 134% DV of vitamin C and a whopping 684% DV of vitamin K. It also contains the powerful antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol. All of that nutrition for a mere 33 calories.
Kale can be enjoyed in lots of different ways. You can use it to prepare green juices (find a good juicer here), include it in smoothies or use it as the base for salads and soups. Depending on where you live, kale may not be available at certain times of the year, so make the most of it when it is and add it to your meals a few times a week.
2. Swiss chard
The stems of the Swiss chard leaf come in a range of vibrant colours, including pink, yellow and green, making it a beautiful addition to any kitchen. Swiss chard is a big part of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered to be a very healthy way of eating.
Nutrition wise, Swiss chard is very similar to kale and is a rich source of vitamins A, C & K. It also has small amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
The consumption of Swiss chard may help to fight cancer, regulate blood sugar levels, improve digestion and maintain healthy brain function.
Another very popular green vegetable is spinach. Eating spinach may bring benefits such as a stronger immune system, enhanced muscle performance, stronger bones and a healthier heart.
Spinach is very low in calories (7 per cup), which makes it an excellent food to eat if you are trying to lose weight.
Steamed spinach can be eaten as a side with a wide variety of dishes. You can also add it to omelettes, curries and pasta dishes.
Also referred to as broccoli rabe, rapini is a cruciferous vegetable with edible leaves, stems and buds. It has a slightly bitter taste and is common in Italian, Portuguese and French cuisine. There are therefore a large number of delicious recipes that it can be enjoyed in.
Rapini is a member of the brassica family of plants. Other foods in this family include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Studies have found an inverse association between the consumption of brassica vegetables and some types of cancer.
5. Collard greens
Though vegetables don’t contain as much protein as other plant based foods, they do help to increase your overall daily intake. All of the vegetables listed above are good sources of protein, and collard greens are no different. A cup of cooked collard greens has 4 – 5 grams of protein, which for a vegetable, is a significant amount!
Collards are a less well known leafy green but can be used in a similar way to others. Steam cooking is a healthy way to prepare them. In fact, this study found that steam cooked collard greens can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Purslane has leaves that are much smaller than those of kale, Swiss chard and collard greens. It is actually a weed and might even be growing in your back yard at this very moment. Despite this, it is very healthy and nutritious.
Purslane is native to India but it can grow just about anywhere, which is why it is eaten all over the world. Studies such as this and this have shown that purslane may be able to protect the liver and heart.
You may not have heard about this vegetable and may not be sure what to do with it. Worry not, there’s lots of recipes with purslane in it that you can try.
7. Mustard greens
Another member of the Brassica family, a cup of cooked mustard greens gives you 10% of your daily value of calcium. It is a common misconception that calcium can only be obtained from dairy, but this is simply not true. Besides nuts & seeds like almonds and chia seeds, many leafy greens are also high in calcium.
Calcium is used by the body to keep your bones & teeth strong and is also beneficial for blood pressure and heart health. If you are not a fan of milk or yogurt, eating lots of leafy green vegetables will help you to prevent deficiencies.
Also known as spring onions, scallions have hollow green leaves that can be eaten both raw and cooked. They produce a delicious aroma when heated in a little oil and are often used as the base ingredient for stir fry’s. You can also use them in soups and salads.
A cup of chopped scallions has 32 calories, 2 g of protein, 3 g of dietary fiber and is a rich source of the B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and potassium.
If you check out our healthy food finder tool, you will notice that weight for weight, watercress has the lowest number of calories when compared to other foods. Indeed, a cup of chopped watercress only has 4 calories. This makes sense because it is made up of 95% water, which as 0 calories.
I was surprised to learn that watercress has quite a few medicinal uses. This includes the treatment of flu, coughs and constipation.
When you think of lettuce, how do you picture it in your mind? For me its inside a burger or sandwich. An interesting fact you may not know is that McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of lettuce in the world. This is probably one of the reasons why it is so popular.
Well known varieties of lettuce include iceberg and Romaine. Like watercress, it contains a lot of water and is very low in calories, but does provide small amounts of nutrients.
11. Dandelion greens
Another type of weed, dandelions have beautiful bright yellow flowers, which is why some gardeners choose to tolerate them. Whilst many people would kill and discard these weeds, their greens are actually edible and are very healthy.
Studies have shown that dandelion may help to fight leukemia cells and promote liver health. So the next time you see a dandelion plant in your garden, don’t just pull it out of the ground and throw it away. Instead, wash the leaves and include them in your meals.
Endive is a vegetable that belongs to the chicory genus, placing it alongside foods such as radicchio, sugarloaf and the Belgian endive. It looks similar to some types of lettuce and has thick crunchy leaves, but tastes different.
Cabbage is used to prepare sauerkraut, which is done by fermenting the leaves in the presence of certain types of healthy bacteria. This makes it a probiotic rich food that improves digestion & immune function and reduces inflammation.
Cabbage comes in a variety of colours, the green ones include savoy and Napa. Another popular type of cabbage that is eaten in Southeast Asia is pak choi (Chinese cabbage).
I would personally recommend that you include a variety of cabbages in your diet, to reap the many health benefits that they have to offer.
14. Beet greens
The purple root of the beet plant is regularly eaten, but the greens are often thrown away. But this shouldn’t be done because the greens are actually very nutritious. A cup of beet greens contains large amounts of vitamin K, vitamin A, copper, manganese, zinc, iron and magnesium.
The next time you go grocery shopping, buy beets together with their greens and be sure to eat them.
Another common name for arugula is rocket. It has a distinct flavour that gives sauces, salads, soups and other dishes a lovely peppery taste.
Arugula contains large amounts of a compound called erucin, which studies have shown can inhibit the rapid proliferation of tumor cells. This makes it a highly beneficial food to include in your diet.