Healthiest Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are some of the most important foods. But the fact is that only few Americans meet the minimum requirement of these nutritional powerhouses. They provide you with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibers that keep you healthy. The best part is that there’s so many of them to choose from. And today I will tell you the healthiest green leafy vegetables that pack the most powerful nutritional punch. From brussel sprouts, micro greens, arugula, collard greens to broccoli and more. Continue till the end to learn about all of them.
1. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are another healthy cruciferous vegetable. They contain certain antioxidants that help counteract cell damage. It’s also an approachable gateway vegetable for skeptics when roasted until crispy. In addition to helping you ward off adverse health conditions, they are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They’re particularly high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium and folate. These make them a great pick for supporting overall immune function, blood and bone health. Not only do their antioxidants play a pivotal role in keeping you healthy. But Brussels sprouts provide 3 grams of fiber per 1 cup, Which can help you feel more satisfied after a meal.
Here’s proof that great things come in small packages. Micro greens are the underdeveloped greens of vegetables such as kale, arugula, and broccoli. They are harvested just one to two weeks after planting. And are a treasure trove of vital nutrients. A study found that several varieties of micro greens including cabbage and cilantro contain nutrient levels up to six times greater than those found in mature plants. During early development, vegetables need a full arsenal of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support their growth. So they’re packed with more of the good stuff. Ranging in flavor from peppery to tangy, use micro greens to punch up salads, soups, and sandwiches.
Probably the most famous green leafy vegetable. Kale has a leg up with its hardy, green leaves. Unlike lettuce and spinach, it’s a cruciferous vegetable. It contains vitamins K, C, A and B6. It is also loaded with minerals like folate, fiber, and manganese. Apart from these, it is also loaded with glucosinolates. Which are sulfur-containing compounds that support immune function and normal inflammatory processes. They also help your body remove toxins through natural detoxification in the liver.
So what’s a delicious way to get all the health benefits of kale? Well, you can eat it raw in a salad of course, but there’s an even better way!
Combine it with a splash of olive oil. And heat in a pan on the stove which complements the slightly bitter flavor. The heat and olive oil help break down fibers and make the nutrients more absorb able. When prepared properly, kale may even help balance LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels.
How can we talk about the healthiest green leafy vegetables and not mention spinach? There are many different kinds. But the most common is flat or smooth-leaf spinach. Which you can easily find at your local store. Other varieties include savoy and semi-savoy spinach. Which have both a more wrinkled, coarser leaf. No matter which variety you choose, they contain ample amounts of nutrients. Including vitamins K, A, C, E, and B2. Also folate, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and fiber. These nutrients are crucial for your body to function smoothly. They support muscle mass, bone density, heart health, kidney function, and your body’s inflammatory response.
Spinach is also known for its high protein content. It contains a whopping 3 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. That might not sound like much. Until you compare it to something like peanut butter. That only has 25 grams per 100-gram serving. But then again, who puts peanut butter in a salad? But when you compare it to romaine lettuces less than half a gram. It stands up as a great choice making it one of the healthiest green leafy vegetables.
Effect of Cooking
Keep in mind that the nutritional value of spinach changes based on how you prepare it. Many vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and folate are lost when it is cooked. On the other hand, cooked spinach provides higher levels of vitamin A and iron than when it’s eaten raw. Additionally, one cup, cooked, contains over 800 milligrams of potassium and 4 grams of fiber.
5. Swiss chard
Swiss chard may be one of the healthiest green leafy vegetables you’re not eating. A relative of the beet family, chard tastes similar to spinach, and it’s growing in popularity. While it does have a higher sodium count than other salad greens, with 77 g per cup. It also has more than double your daily requirement for vitamin K. It contains 12 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A, and C. Consider combining it with a few other greens to make your own mix. Swiss chard has a distinct flavor that not everyone appreciates. It tastes great sautéed with garlic and onions. And mixes into a quiche or frittata well.
This nutritious algae isn’t just for pretty, turquoise smoothies. Spirulina is one of the most impressive greens you can add to your diet. Studies show that it can help support regular immune function. In its powdered form, 100 grams of spirulina contains exceptional values of vitamins, minerals, and protein. It contains 60-70% protein, depending on where it was harvested. It’s full of vitamin A, K, and a range of B vitamins as well. With just one serving, women can hit nearly 50% of the daily recommended intake of calcium. Including it in your diet can help support healthy cholesterol levels, too.
Arugula has a pungent, peppery flavor. That has worked its way into the recipes of many rock star chefs. You’ll most often find it at the grocery store in plastic containers alongside baby spinach. Vegans, those lactose-intolerant, and anyone who doesn’t like milk should note that it is a surprisingly good source of calcium. In fact it has one of the highest amounts of this bone-builder on our list. Loading up on arugula may also help you breeze through your workouts since it has high levels of natural nitrates. This is what your body converts to nitric oxide, which increases muscle blood flow. Studies found that they can help your muscles work more efficiently during exercise.
8. Mustard Greens
As the name implies, these are the lacy-edged leaves of the same plant that gives mustard seeds. They tend to be a little less bitter and more peppery tasting than kale or Swiss chard. And come second only to kale in beta-carotene. Inside your body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A to boost eye and bone health. These greens also contain an arsenal of phytonutrients called glucosinolates. That can speed up detoxification enzymes. These can help protect the cells of your liver and other organs from all the nastiest of free-radical damage.
9. Collard Greens
This Southern favorite has large, leathery leaves and a somewhat mild flavor. But its tough texture calls for longer cooking times than other greens. On top of providing a payload of vitamin K, C, and beta-carotene. Collards contain higher amounts of dietary fiber than other leafy greens. A study found that women who ate the most fiber had almost a 25 percent lower risk of suffering heart disease. Than those who consumed the least.
Popular in Europe, this salad green is often used in the United States as a mere garnish. But don’t underestimate its power in your diet. It’s more nutrient-rich than romaine and leaf lettuce. Just 1 cup fulfills almost three-quarters of your daily requirement of vitamin K. It is also a good source of vitamin C. Watercress makes a delicious addition to a salad. It has a peppery flavor which you can enjoy alone with just a touch of oil and vinegar. You can also puree it into a soup for an extra dose of flavor and nutrition.
While not technically lettuce, this leafy garnish that sits on the side of your plate is a quiet superfood. It’s so packed with nutrients that even one sprig can help you meet your daily requirement of vitamin K. Moreover, research suggests that it can also help control your appetite. In a study, participants ate significantly less of a dish that smelled strongly of spice than a mildly scented version of the same food. Adding herbs, like parsley, creates the sensory illusion that you’re indulging in something rich without adding any fat or calories to your plate.
This vegetable is a part of the cabbage family. Although it looks similar to cauliflower. It is rich in nutrients. With a single cup packing 135 percent and 116 percent of the recommended values for vitamins C and K respectively. It’s also a great source of fiber, calcium, folate and phosphorus. Of all vegetables in the cabbage family, broccoli is richest in the plant compound sulforaphane. This may improve your bacterial gut flora. And decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease.