The Healthiest Leafy Greens & Their Benefits
We know that salads and leafy greens are beneficial for us, but which ones are the best? Not all leafy greens are equal when it comes to nutritional content, so I'm going to break down a few and dive deeper into which ones pack the biggest nutritional punch. Here are the top leafy greens to incorporate into your diet and how to prepare them.
Why are leafy greens beneficial?
In a nutshell, leafy green vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals. Generally, the darker green they are, the more nutrients they have. Leafy greens are high in antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body and help prevent cellular damage. Generally, they are rich in folate, vitamin K, and vitamin A. They also contain fiber, which aids in digestion. In my humble opinion, leafy greens are one of the most important foods to be consumed on a daily basis.
Spinach is an excellent plant-based source of iron, making it a valuable vegetable for those who don't eat meat. However, this leafy green is beneficial for everyone. Spinach is rich in folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K1, calcium, magnesium, and other B vitamins. Sauté your spinach in a pan with some garlic, eat it raw in your salads, or add it to your breakfast smoothies. Adding spinach to smoothies will give you extra nutrients without changing the flavor. Raw is best to maintain all of the nutrients, so I prefer to enjoy it in salads over sautéing.
Swiss chard is high in vitamins K, A, and C and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and potassium. Swiss chard makes a delicious side dish that pairs well with just about anything. You can eat it raw in your salads, but it has a bitter taste when left uncooked. Cooking it will soften the leaves and give a beautiful flavor. I sauté the stems first, and then add the leaves once the stems are almost cooked.
Watercress is one of the healthiest leafy greens you can consume. Despite being small, it is packed with nutrients. This leafy green is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and many other vitamins and minerals. Add some watercress to your sandwiches or mix them into your salads for all those health benefits.
When picking your lettuce of choice for your next salad, stick to the darker leaf lettuce. Leaf lettuce, such as red and green lettuce, is high in folate, vitamin A, potassium, manganese, and iron. Red and green lettuce have different antioxidants, so it's best to mix them in a salad for optimal flavor and health benefits.
Kale is a leafy green that is famous for its health benefits. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, K, C, and B6. It also contains many valuable minerals, such as manganese and copper. There are many delicious ways that you can prepare kale. If you use it in your salad, be sure to marinate and massage the leaves because they are very firm. Roasted kale chips also make healthy and delicious snacks or a side dish.
Collard greens are rich in nutrients. Like other healthy leafy greens on this list, they are a great source of vitamin K, A, and C. However, collard greens are also one of the best sources of fiber in vegetables. The best way to prepare collard greens is to steam them because this preserves all the nutrients. Collard greens can also be used as a base green for sautéed dishes such as greens and beans.
So, head to your favorite local farmer’s market and pick up some of these tasty greens while they are in season and even higher in nutrients because they’ve been freshly picked and have not traveled far! I am interested to know if you grown your own greens of any kind, and how you like to prepare them! Let me know!