If you’ve been learning a little about nutrition and healthy eating in the last 12 months or so, you’ve almost certainly come across experts talking about the importance of leafy greens. Let’s talk about them a little. What are leafy greens and why are they getting so much attention these days?
In different cultures, leafy greens are sometimes called potherbs, vegetable greens, boiled greens or salad greens. They are the leaves of plants which people consume as vegetables. There are close to a thousand different plants whose leaves are edible.
All leafy greens are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Each has its own nutritional profile, but all are worth exploring if you’re trying to increase the quality of your food intake.
According to WebMD, the most nutritious leafy greens are:
1. Kale – the king of greens, kale supplies vitamins A C, and K, calcium, folate and potassium, among other nutrients. A popular marketing slogan calls kale “the new beef” for its high protein and iron content. Kale chips are now routinely sold in health food stores.
2. Collard – historically popular in the southern US, the plant grows large, dark, edible leaves that are sometimes used as in place of tortillas or bread as a wrapper by people who eat mostly raw foods.
3. Turnip greens – Known for their bitter bite, turnip greens are crazy high in calcium. Maximize the health benefits of turnip greens by letting them sit for a few minutes after chopping and before cooking.
4. Swiss chard – Swiss chard is thought to help regulate blood sugar. Experts recommend boiling swiss chard before eating.
5. Spinach – Popeye knew what he was talking about. Cooked spinach is actually healthier than raw. Try frozen spinach for convenience. It has a mild taste that blends well with soups and other cooked foods.
6. Mustard greens – Help lower cholesterol. Are best prepared by sauteing rather than boiling or steaming and will appeal to those who like spicy foods. The peppery taste can be softened with some lemon juice.
7. Broccoli – Chances are, you know this one. High in vitamin C and fiber, broccoli is thought to have some anti-cancer properties. Purple cauliflower, found mostly in Italy, Spain, and the UK is actually a type of broccoli.
8. Romaine lettuce – the general rule with leafy greens is that the darker the leaf, the more nutrition is packed inside. So the outer leaves of a head of romaine are slightly more nutritious than the smaller, inner leaves.
9. Cabbage – purple and white varieties can be eaten raw; cabbage has a strong smell when cooked. Interestingly, China produces 32 million tons a year, almost half the world’s supply.
10. Iceberg lettuce – the most familiar of the leafy greens, iceberg lettuce is actually mostly water. It’s the most commonly eaten leafy green but also the one with the least nutritional impact. If you’ve been eating iceberg lettuce all your life, it might be time to upgrade!
Now that you know a little more about leafy greens, it’s time to do a search on the internet for some great recipes that will allow you to incorporate these workhorse vegetables into your diet and reap the benefits.
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon page on Facebook or follow us on Pinterest for healthy eating tips, inspiring quotes, videos and photos and more.