On a per calorie basis, dark green leafy vegetables pack more concentrated nutrition than just about any other food. In addition to being loaded with vitamins and minerals; they also a great source of vital phytonutrients. They are especially rich in beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin; phytonutrients which protect cells from free-radical damage and eyes from age-related problems.
Avoid smothering your greens under an unhealthy load of fats and sugars for the best nutritional value. We recommend small amounts of fat-free dressing and a little olive oil to bring out the taste of these nutritionally potent greens.
Our Favorite Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
- Kale: An excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, kale also has a decent amount of calcium for a vegetable. If that weren’t enough, this amazing dark green leafy superstar gives you a healthy quantity of folate and potassium. Add to soups for a touch of color and a boost of nutrition or sauté in olive oil, broth and garlic for a tasty side dish.
- Collards: Popular in Southern-style cooking, collard greens are similar in nutrition to kale. Collards, however, bring a chewier texture and a stronger taste to the table. Because of their width and strength, some people like to use collard leaves for sandwich wraps instead of tortillas or bread.
- Spinach: You don’t have to be a pipe smoking “sailor man” with big biceps to enjoy spinach. This incredible leafy green has about 20 calories per serving and is loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as folate.
- Swiss chard: The red stems, stalks, and veins of Swiss chard add a festive touch to any meal. This chard has a beet-like taste and soft texture that stands up well to a quick sautee. A good source of vitamins A and C, this tasty chard weighs in at about 15 calories in a one-half cup serving.
- Bok Choy: With tender leaves and crispy stalks, purchasing bok choy is like getting two veggies for the price of one. One cup of bok choy gives you about half of your daily value of vitamins A and C at the cost of a mere 10 calories.
These are just a few of the great leafy greens available at your local supermarket or farmer’s market. To add more variety and fun flavors to your healthy lifestyle, we also recommend trying turnip greens, mustard greens, watercress, escarole, and romaine lettuce to your menu. You’ll enjoy the benefits of concentrated nutrition and the pleasure of experimenting with new textures and tastes.
As a final note, if looking for nutrients, we recommend avoiding the iceberg. Iceberg lettuce may be America’s most popular leafy green but it is a bland substitute for the more nutritious greens we have mentioned today. Iceberg lettuce is mostly water and has very little nutritional value.
When it comes to leafy green vegetables, heading for the dark side is likely your healthiest option.