There are two types of people in the world…those who eat greens and those who should.
You can laugh, but it’s true.
In my book, leafy greens are the first line of defense when it comes to improving or maintaining your health and wellness. Leafy vegetables are brimming with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant-based compounds that help protect you from heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Here’s the thing. If you are looking for a reliable source of Vitamins A, C and K, calcium, potassium, folate, antioxidants, some B vitamins as well as help for our livers in their job of discharging toxins and metabolizing our macro-nutrients, look no further than green leafy vegetables.
I always say that we need leafy greens twice daily and when you think you have eaten enough of them, eat more. We can never get enough. And before you even think it, no, they’re not boring. From juicing to smoothies, salads to sautés, boiling, blanching and steaming, with dressing or without, there are so many ways to cook greens…and so many varieties of them, you are limited only by what you can imagine. (Okay, maybe the time I juiced collard greens to color Christmas tree shaped cookies was disastrous, but other than that…)
Here’s my top ten list of the greatest leafy greens available to us.
I love arugula, which you may also know as ‘rucola’ or ‘rocket’ of the famous cancer-fighting cruciferous family. This delicate leafy green vegetable with a spicy, peppery taste is often used in salads and pesto. It’s a great source of potassium, a mineral involved in managing blood pressure. Low in calories and rich in antioxidants, arugula is a great tool in any heart healthy weight-loss plan.
These Southern beauties are also from the cruciferous family and are leafy green vegetables nutritionally similar to kale. Their big leaves are a good source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that can help prevent and manage arthritis, prevent heart disease and help to create healthy hair and skin. A very good source of vitamin K, collards can help prevent bone fractures and aid in reversing blood clotting. A final plus, collard greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that may prevent macular degeneration and other eye disorders.
The pesky weed that takes over our lawns, gardens and meadows, popping up in cracked sidewalks, dandelion is really a powerhouse of nutrition. A very rich source of beta-carotene which we convert into vitamin A, dandelion is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. And it’s a great way to get B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and even vitamin D. Dandelion is rich in protein too, even more than spinach. Eaten for thousands of years and used to treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression, this powerful plant is great for aiding the liver in detoxing and creating cardiovascular health.
Endive is a deliciously bitter leafy vegetable that is eaten raw in salads or lightly cooked. The most common varieties of endive are Belgian endive, escarole, and frisée. Like other leafy greens, endive is very low in calories, but more important it’s a good source of potassium, a mineral involved in managing blood pressure. It is also a potent source of vitamin K, which may prevent bone fractures and aid in reversing blood clotting.
Escarole is a leafy green vegetable in the same family as endive and is classified as a ‘bitter green.’ Like other members of the endive family, escarole is very low in calories, is a good source of potassium and a very good source of vitamin K. As a bitter green escarole plays a big role in aiding the liver in cleansing toxins from the body, creating strong red blood and in regulating metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates so we manage our weight, all essential to creating cardiovascular health.
Ah, kale, leafy green royalty these days. A cruciferous and leafy green vegetable from the cabbage family, kale contains high-quality carbohydrates and is very low in calories. It's packed with antioxidants, like vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The calcium and potassium in kale help regulate blood pressure. Kale is also rich in the anti-inflammatory antioxidant quercetin, which protects against arthritis and memory loss, as well as riboflavin, a B vitamin that protects our hearts. In addition, it is a very good source of vitamin K, which may prevent bone fractures and aid in reversing blood clotting.
I know what you’re thinking. Lettuce has value besides its refreshing crispness? All lettuces are leafy green vegetables and are low in calories. Some types of lettuce offer even more like romaine, green leaf, red leaf, Bibb, and butterhead, which are good sources of antioxidants, including beta-carotene. Lettuce is also a surprisingly good source of potassium, a mineral involved in managing blood pressure.
Mustard greens are a peppery leafy green vegetable with a pungent, spicy flavor. They are a good source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which help prevent arthritis and maintain heart health. Mustard greens also contain folate, a B vitamin that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, enhance memory, and improve mood.
Radicchio is a red-colored leafy vegetable with a delicate bitter taste sort of like endive. It is often added to salads or braised like cabbage for a side dish. A good source of potassium, a mineral involved in managing blood pressure, radicchio also contains vitamin E and lutein, antioxidants that help maintain healthy eyes and skin along with cardiovascular health.
Popeye was right to call on spinach when he needed strength. This dark leafy green vegetable is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. High in fiber and very low in calories, spinach can help you manage type 2 diabetes, lose weight and create heart health. It's also packed with nutrients, like antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Spinach contains very high amounts of potassium and vitamin K, two nutrients that help manage blood pressure. The iron and B vitamins in spinach help maintain a healthy circulatory system. And protein? Look at it from a caloric perspective: 100 calories of spinach contain a whopping 12 grams of protein while 100 calories of beef contain 10 grams.
Turnip greens are leafy green vegetables sprouting from the turnips themselves. They are delicious sautéed and if they are young and tender make a yummy addition to any salad. A good source of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, turnip greens are also rich in folate, a B vitamin that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, enhance memory, and improve mood.
Watercress is a leafy green vegetable with a delicate leaf structure and a peppery flavor. Because the leaves are so tender, it’s most often added to salads or used in place of lettuce on sandwiches. Watercress is a good source of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that may prevent and a good source of calcium and vitamin K, which may prevent bone fractures and aid in reversing blood clotting .
Mother nature provides even more green leafy lovelies for us to enjoy besides these, like bok choy, broccoli rabe, broccoli and chard so every day can find us feasting on luscious greens, never getting bored…or worrying about eating too much. No one has ever gotten fat from eating too many greens. Loaded with fiber as well as being nutritionally dense and delicious, greens help us feel sated for a longer periods so we eat less overall.
So should we eat greens regularly? Kale, yeah!