Leafy greens are an essential part of a healthy diet, so find out what are the healthiest leafy greens to consume.

Greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that the body needs to function properly. And while all leafy greens are good, some may have an edge over others.

What are leafy greens?

Leafy greens refer to any plant with leaves and stems that are eaten as vegetables. Some leafy greens can be light, while others are dark green.

Dark greens are always considered the best since dark color indicates high antioxidant levels. The lighter versions still contain some antioxidants but are more of an excellent fiber source.

Health Benefits of Leafy Greens

  • They are rich in cancer-fighting compounds
  • Aid digestion
  • Improves cognitive function
  • May help maintain a healthy weight
  • Regulates glucose levels
  • Protects your eyes and vision
  • Lower blood pressure and promote heart health

Healthiest Leafy Greens to Consume

1.   Kale

kale on white background

Kale is a low-calorie dark green vegetable that’s exceptionally high in nutrients such as vitamin A, C, K, minerals, and antioxidants like beta carotene and lutein.

A cup of raw kale provides about

  • Vitamin A: 206% of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin C: 143% of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin K: 684% of the daily requirement
  • Calcium: 15% of the daily requirement
  • Potassium: 14 percent of the daily requirement
  • Magnesium: 6% of the daily requirement
  • Manganese 26% of the daily requirement

Kale is also rich in fiber and iron and contains some amounts of vitamins B1, B2, and B3.

Kale can be eaten both raw and cooked. However, it’s best consumed raw as cooking may lose some of the nutrients. Thai Kale Salad.

2.   Collard greens

Collard greens are cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens with multiple health benefits. They fight cancer, improve digestive health, offer detox benefits, and are one of the best sources of vitamin A, C, K, and soluble fiber.

 They also contain vitamin B6 and minerals including calcium, magnesium, and choline.

Collard greens are closely related to Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.

A cup of cooked collard greens provides

  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Vitamin A: 308% of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin C: 58% of the daily requirement
  • Folate:44 percent of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin E: 8% of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin K: 1045% of the daily requirement

You can enjoy collard greens in salads, wraps, or sandwiches. They can also be boiled, braised, sautéed, or be included in soups and stews.  Vegan collard greens.

3.   Spinach

Spinach is the most popular leafy green commonly enjoyed in green smoothies but can also be added to salads, sauces, and soups.

It has impressive amounts of folate, vitamin A, K, and manganese, with a cup of raw spinach, provides

  • Vitamin A: 56% of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin K: 181% of the daily requirement
  • Folate: 15% of the daily requirement
  • Vitamin C: 14% of the daily requirement
  • Manganese: 13 % of the daily requirement

Spinach also contains magnesium and iron, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.

However, according to USDA, cooked spinach contains more concentrated nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin K compared to the raw version. Vegan Spinach Soup.

spinach

4.   Cabbage

Cabbage is another leafy green belonging to the same family as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

It’s rich in glucosinate, a compound with anti-cancer properties.

Glucosinates also exhibit characteristics similar to those of an antibiotic and may help fight bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in the body, especially in the intestines.

When fermented, cabbage makes a great addition to your probiotic intake. Jamaican Steamed Cabbage.

5.   Romaine lettuce

Romaine lettuce is popular as a significant ingredient in Caesar salads.

Like other leafy greens, romaine is also high in vitamins A and k, with a cup providing 82 % and 60% of the daily requirements, respectively. Romaine Lettuce Nutrition And Benefits.

6.   Arugula

These tart and slightly peppery leaves are among the best sources of dietary nitrates, which increase nitric oxide in the body.

Nitric oxide is essential for different functions, including dilatation and relaxation of blood vessels, causing blood pressure to drop.

It also offers good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B9, or folate. Arugula Benefits.

7.   Beet greens

Most people are familiar with beets, while beet greens go unnoticed.

This is very unfortunate since these leaves are edible and very beneficial.

They are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, calcium, and fiber.

Beet greens are also rich in lutein, an antioxidant that fights against cataracts and macular degeneration.

Enjoy your beet greens sautéed, in soups, or salads. beet g

8.   Microgreens

microgreens in plastic carton

These are immature greens from seeds of vegetables and herbs harvested just after developing the cotyledon leaves, usually within 7-10 days. They are typically considered baby plants and fall between sprouts and baby greens.

Microgreens are concentrated in nutrients, thus offering more health benefits than mature plants. They are also rich in aromatic flavor and have been used as a garnish and in salads.

Besides, they are easy to grow since they take such a short period before the harvest. This offers almost zero maintenance compared to bigger plants.

You can use almost any vegetable seeds to grow microgreens; however, the most delicious and flavorful microgreens to try include:

  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Radishes
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Peas
  • Mustards

To grow the best microgreens, germinate the seeds in a dark environment with cool temperatures.

After germination, use a growing light to keep the microgreens close-packed.

Final thoughts

Leafy green vegetables are full of essential nutrients needed for different functions in the body.

But not all leafy greens offer the same benefits, at least in terms of nutrient quantity.

The healthiest leafy greens to include in your diet include kale, collard greens, swiss chard, microgreens, spinach, cabbage, arugula, beet greens, and romaine lettuce.

You can still incorporate any leafy greens outside of this list but ensure that you add more of these to your diet to ensure maximum benefits.

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