Eating a healthier diet almost always includes a plan to enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables, including bunches of leafy greens in the form of salads, smoothies, juices, or home-cooked dishes. You know you need more leafy greens in your life.
Now, a diet of leafy greens can pack a nutritional punch. Read on to learn about some of the best, healthiest leafy green vegetables you can eat – and their incredible nutritional benefits.
Universal Green Awesomeness
When you eat green leafy vegetables, you can be confident you’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals with each meal. You’re also getting a lot of fiber, which will help keep you feeling full. Leafy greens are also rich in antioxidants, which can help your body fend off illness. Green, leafy veggies also contain high levels of lutein. This nutrient helps support eye health, and it may also help minimize your risk of certain eye ailments.1,2
But which leafy greens should you choose, and what can they do for your health? It’s important to focus on the most nutritious greens when shopping. Here’s a list of leafy greens, and their specific benefits, so you can be sure your meal packs the biggest nutritional punch.
The Five Best Greens for Your Health
Spinach is an extremely versatile vegetable that is easy to consume raw or cooked. This leafy green is related to beets and quinoa, as they are all members of the amaranth family of perennial plants. Spinach is high in fiber and water, making it one of the best green leafy vegetables if you are counting calories. Spinach contains:
- Folic Acid – An extremely important nutrient that supports cell growth, spinach is a great source of folic acid for pregnant women.3
- Iron – Just as Popeye promised, iron supports your muscles by keeping blood oxygenated and boosting energy levels.4
- Dietary Nitrate – The nitrate levels in spinach helps support heart health, minimizing stress on your arteries.5
2. Mustard Greens
Peppery in flavor, but with a texture similar to spinach, mustard greens are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. This leafy green is a versatile choice if you’re looking for a green to cook as a side dish, or to combine with other vegetables as a quick saute. Mustard greens are great for your health, as they contain:
- Phytonutrients – These enzymes are major players in the detoxification game, and they can help keep your liver and colon healthy.6
- Isothiocyanates – This agent packs a massive antioxidant punch, which is key for lifelong nutrition and for keeping you healthy.7
If low-calorie count and high nutrition content is your goal, kale is one of the best dark leafy greens to add to your diet. Whether it is curly kale, lacinato kale, or purple kale, these leafy greens are a slightly bitter and wildly beneficial member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Kale is jam-packed with nutrition and considered one of the healthiest greens on earth. Kale is a powerful source of:
- Vitamin K – A single cup of kale has seven times the daily nutritional intake of vitamin K, an important nutrient that helps your blood clot and helps increase bone density.8,9
- Beta Carotene – A powerful antioxidant known to benefit eyesight, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A once consumed to support tissue growth.10
- Cholesterol-fighting properties – Kale (and many cruciferous vegetables) can help lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels.11
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is famous for boosting your immune system, but it also helps prevent the breakdown of collagen in your skin. This makes kale a beauty-booster, too.12
Arugula (sometimes also referred to as salad rocket or roquette) is a delicious addition to any salad bowl, or on your next sandwich. Fast growing by nature and slightly spicy in flavor, arugula is one of the most nutritious greens you can add to your salads because of these minerals:
- Calcium – Arugula has calcium, which helps support bone density and heart health.13
- Magnesium – Arugula is rich in magnesium, which helps to regular your blood pressure.14
5. Collard Greens
These leafy greens are thick and tough when eaten raw, and therefore require the longest cooking time out of the list of leafy greens featured here. They are part of the Brassica group of leafy vegetables, and they are similar to broccoli or cabbage in texture. Collard greens are high in:
- Fiber – All leafy greens have plenty of fiber, but collards are one of the best greens to raise your fiber intake. And upping the amount of fiber you eat can help keep blood sugar and cholesterol levels healthy, as well as boosting your gut health.15
- Alpha-Lipoic acid – This powerful antioxidant that has shown in studies to help promote healthy blood sugar levels.16
Leafy Greens for Growth
These are just a few of the great leafy greens – there are so many more that are great sources of nutrition (hello, cabbage, Swiss chard, and sorrel!). You can’t really go wrong with any green leafy vegetables you choose.
Challenge yourself to try new leafy greens every time you go to the market, and mix up your preparation methods to keep things interesting.
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