To maintain a healthy body and immune system, it is essential to incorporate leafy green vegetables into our diet. Regular intake of leafy green may reduce consumption of foods that make us sick. The high-alkaline content in greens is beneficial to people exposed to higher rates of pollution. Alkaline minerals present in leafy greens can neutralize acidic conditions in our bodies caused due to environmental pollution.
Leafy greens are nutritious powerhouses with high content of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Leafy greens contain fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, micronutrients, and phytochemicals.
Spinach is the most popular leafy green known for its high nutritional value. In recent years, many other greens have become popular. If you have not tried some of these greens, explore new varieties of greens available in the market. Some of the dark leafy green vegetables are Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory, beet greens, broccoli rabe, and dandelion, which are rich in fiber, folate, carotenoids, and flavonoids. Iceberg lettuce does not contain most nutrients that are present in dark leafy green vegetables.
Nutritious Leafy Dark Green Vegetables
Cruciferous Leafy Greens:
Cruciferous leafy greens include kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, watercress, and broccoli. The cruciferous greens and vegetables are rich in glucosinolates and inhibit growth of some types of cancer. The presence of magnesium and tryptophan enhance heart health and improve brain function. The greens are an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K. Kale contains eye health promoting compounds called lutein and zeaxanthin. Collard greens are beneficial for bone health and function as an antioxidant to detoxify the body. Turnip greens are rich in vitamin A and calcium. Mustard greens contain loads of fiber, folate, and antioxidants. Broccoli is rich in folate and vitamin A and B6. Cabbage has cancer-fighting properties and is a good source of vitamin C and potassium.
Romaine, green leaf, red leaf, and arugula are dark lettuces. Most lettuces are crisp, although slightly bitter. Dark lettuces are rich sources of vitamins A, C, and K that help maintain healthy bones, and good eyesight.
Spinach and Swiss Chard:
Spinach and Swiss chard belong to the Amaranthaceae family and are similar in nutritional value. Spinach is available in different varieties including baby spinach, red spinach, savoy spinach, semi-savoy spinach, and smooth leaf spinach. Low in calories yet high in nutrients make spinach one of the most nutritious foods. Vitamins, folate, and calcium make it extremely nutritious. Cooked spinach is more nutritious than raw spinach because heat reduces the oxalate content and frees up dietary calcium.
Swiss chard has soft leaves with a sturdy stalk, and comes in different colors. It is a rich source of vitamins A and C, and like spinach, raw leaves are better than cooked.
How to Cook Leafy Greens
Most greens can be eaten raw except collard greens, which require longer cooking time. Wash greens well in cold water and discard the stems. Cut the greens coarsely or tear into pieces. Boil a large pot of water and add salt. Add the greens, cover, and cook until tender. Drain in a colander and remove excess liquid. In a hot skillet, cook slice or crushed garlic cloves and add a pinch of red pepper flakes and the cooked greens. Toss well and serve. Alternatively, add onions and balsamic vinegar.
Greens can be roasted, added to soups and stews, and blended into yogurt sauces. Spinach is added to curries in many Asian countries. Greens are also used in pasta and rice dishes.
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