Nine Uncommon “Green Leafy Vegetables” Worth Trying
You hear it virtually everywhere these days: eat more green leafy vegetables. And with good reason; leafy greens are among the most nutritious of all vegetables, offering major benefits to your entire body, including your brain, your bones and your heart, while helping to prevent cancer, detoxify your body, boost your immune system and give your more energy. Not bad for a bowl full of greens!
However, most Americans are not eating enough of these incredibly healthy foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that less than one-third of American adults eat the amount of fruits and vegetables the government recommends, despite the fact that diets rich in these healthy foods are known to prevent disease.
Bok choy, a type of Chinese cabbage, tastes great as a side dish and also helps prevent cancer, protect against cataracts and fight free radicals in your body.
Give These Uncommon Greens a Try
If your diet is lacking in healthy greens, or if you’re looking to experiment with a tasty and healthy side dish tonight, the following greens deserve a spot on your table. They’re incredibly good for you, low in calories, easy to prepare and, best of all, they’re delicious!
Kale has a pungent, earthy flavor that is excellent on its own or mixed with other vegetables. Once you sauté or steam it lightly, kale makes a great side dish and is delicious added to cole slaw, stir fries, soups — even mashed potatoes and homemade pizza!
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber, copper, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassium
- Health Benefits: Kale contains compounds that fight many forms of cancer, optimize your cells’ ability to detoxify, lower your risk of cataracts, promote lung health, support your immune system and help keep your brain sharp as you age.
2. Collard Greens
Though collard greens are popular in Southern cooking because of their rich smoky flavor, they are largely ignored by other cuisines. This is a shame, as collard greens are delicious lightly steamed and served with lemon juice and olive oil, garlic and onion or even black-eyed peas and rice (for a more Southern flavor).
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, folate, fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin B2 and vitamin B6, and a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, vitamin B5, niacin, zinc, phosphorous, and iron.
- Health Benefits: Collard greens are rich in phytonutrients that help your body to detoxify, fight against cancer, provide antioxidant protection, support your immune system, protect your heart and lungs, ease the symptoms of menopause and protect your mental function as you age.
3. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens have a strong, peppery flavor and their brown seeds are used to make Dijon mustard. Simply sauté them and add them to sweet potatoes, stir fries, casseroles and even pasta salad for a bit of a spicy kick.
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, manganese and fiber
- Health Benefits: Mustard greens are packed with antioxidants that fight against the damaging effects of free radicals, protect your lungs and heart, help keep your mind sharp, reduce the symptoms of menopause and protect against rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Turnip Greens
When it comes to turnips, most people focus on the root, but the greens of this plant are also incredibly healthy (and have a pleasant, slightly bitter flavor). Turnip greens are delicious sautéed or steamed as a side dish with garlic, onion, olive oil and lemon, or as an addition to soups, stews and pasta.
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, copper, fiber and manganese
- Health Benefits: Turnip greens help provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis, promote colon health (including lowering the risk of colon cancer), fight against atherosclerosis, promote lung health, and fight against declines in mental function.
Turnip greens can be added to soups, stews, and pasta, and they help keep your colon, lungs, heart and brain healthy.
5. Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables, better known as seaweed, are the leafy greens of the sea. Though not technically a vegetable (they’re actually classified as algae), seaweed is loaded with nutrition and has a unique, slightly salty flavor. Sea vegetables can be eaten on their own as a snack (in the dried form) or can be added to soups, salad, stews and stir fries.
- Notable Nutrients: Seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food — the same minerals found in the ocean and in human blood, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine. It also contains vitamin K, folate, and the B-vitamins riboflavin and pantothenic acid.
- Health Benefits: Sea vegetables may help to prevent cancer, promote healthy thyroid function, prevent birth defects and heart disease, provide relief for the symptoms of menopause and help reduce inflammation in the body.
6. Romaine Lettuce
When many Americans think of lettuce, they may think of iceberg lettuce — the nutrition-less, flavorless, pale lettuce that usually comes on fast-food hamburgers. Romaine lettuce, on the other hand, is loaded with nutrition and has a crispy texture and fresh flavor. Romaine lettuce makes an excellent base for salads, a great topper for sandwiches and an ideal “wrapper” that can be filled with anything from hummus to chicken salad.
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, manganese, chromium, fiber, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, potassium, molybdenum, iron, and phosphorous
- Health Benefits: Romaine lettuce helps protect the heart, particularly by supporting normal cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages, and they have the health benefits to match. Brussels sprouts protect against cancer, birth defects, rheumatoid arthritis and more.
Endive, which is the second growth of the chicory plant, can be pale yellow or purple in color and has a pungent, bitter flavor. This crisp, lettuce-like vegetable makes a unique addition to salads but can also be steamed or sautéed and served as a hot side dish.
- Notable Nutrients: Potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin C, folate and selenium
- Health Benefits: Endive is rich in compounds that help boost the immune system, detoxify the body, promote regularity, lower the risk of cataracts and protect the heart.
8. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts often get a bad rap because of their strong flavor and smell, but when prepared correctly they are delicious! Steam them until they’re tender, then season them with some butter, salt and pepper, or try them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar or even feta cheese. You can either leave them intact or cut off the base and separate the leaves (then toss them with seasonings and serve like a salad).
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, manganese, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1), omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorous, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, copper and calcium
- Health Benefits: Brussels sprouts help to prevent cancer, detoxify your body, promote healthy skin, colon and immune function, protect against rheumatoid arthritis and protect against birth defects.
9. Bok Choy
Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage with a mild flavor and a great crisp texture. It’s excellent sautéed with onions, olive oil and salt and pepper, or add it to stews, soups and casseroles.
- Notable Nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, potassium and vitamin B6
- Health Benefits: Bok Choy can help prevent cancer, protect against cataracts and fight free radicals in your body.
CDC: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report