Dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of many vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy, like vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. They are also great sources of fiber. The darker the leaves, the more nutrients the vegetable usually has.

Examples of dark green leafy vegetables and the best way to eat them:

Arugula has a peppery taste and is rich in vitamins A, C, and calcium. Arugula can be eaten raw in salads or added to stir-fry, soups, and pasta sauces.

Chicory has a slightly bitter flavor and is rich in vitamins K, C, and calcium. Chicory is best eaten with other greens in salad or when added to soups and pasta sauces.

Collard Greens have a spinach-like flavor and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best if you boil them briefly and then add to a soup or stir-fry. You can also eat collard greens as a side dish. Just add your favorite seasoning and enjoy!

Dandelion Greens have a bitter, tangy flavor and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best when steamed or eaten raw in salad.

Kale has a slightly bitter, cabbage-like flavor and is rich in vitamin A, C, calcium, folic acid, and potassium. Kale is tasty when added to soups, stir-fries, and sauces.

Mustard Greens have a hot, spicy flavor and are rich in vitamin A, C and calcium. They are delicious eaten raw in salads or in stir-fries and soups.

Spinach has a sweet flavor and is rich in vitamin A, C, iron and calcium. Spinach tastes great eaten raw in salads or steamed.

Swiss Chard tastes similar to spinach and is rich in vitamins C, K, and calcium. It is beststir-fried or eaten raw in salads.

Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene,and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems, among many other effects. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of fats.

Perhaps the star of these nutrients is Vitamin K. A cup of most cooked greens provides at least nine times the minimum recommended intake of Vitamin K, and even a couple of cups of dark salad greens usually provide the minimum all on their own. Recent research has provided evidence that this vitamin may be even more important than we once thought (the current minimum may not be optimal), and many people do not get enough of it.

Vitamin K

  • Regulates blood clotting.
  • Helps protect bones from osteoporosis.
  • May help prevent and possibly even reduce atherosclerosis by reducing calcium in arterial plaques.
  • May be a key regulator of inflammation, and may help protect us from inflammatory diseases including arthitis.
  • May help prevent diabetes.

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so make sure to put dressing on your salad, or cook your greens with oil.

Greens have very little carbohydrate in them, and the carbs that are there are packed in layers of fiber, which make them very slow to digest. That is why, in general, greens have very little impact on blood glucose. In some systems greens are even treated as a “freebie” carb-wise (meaning the carbohydrate doesn’t have to be counted at all).

Leafy vegetables are ideal for weight management as they are typically low in calories. They are useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease since they are low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as containing a host of phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. One study showed that an increment of one daily serving of green leafy vegetables, lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11 percent. In the Adventist health study, the frequent consumption of green salads by African-Americans was associated with a substantially lower risk of mortality.

Because of their high magnesium content and low glycemic index, green leafy vegetables are also valuable for persons with type 2 diabetes. An increase of 1 serving/day of green leafy vegetables was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of diabetes. The high level of vitamin K in greens makes them important for the production of osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health. The risk of hip fracture in middle-aged women was decreased 45% for one or more servings/day of green, leafy vegetables compared to fewer servings.

Green vegetables are also a major source of iron and calcium for any diet. Swiss chard and spinach are not considered good sources of calcium, due to their high content of oxalic acid. Green leafy vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which can also be converted into vitamin A, and also improve immune function. Millions of children around the world have an increased risk of blindness, and other illnesses because of inadequate dietary vitamin A from green leafy vegetables.

Green, leafy vegetables provide a great variety of colors from the bluish-green of kale to the bright kelly green of spinach. Leafy greens run the whole gamut of flavors, from sweet to bitter, from peppery to earthy. Young plants generally have small, tender leaves and a mild flavor. Many mature plants have tougher leaves and stronger flavors. Collards, Swiss chard, bok choy, and spinach provide a mild flavor while arugula, mizuna and mustard greens provide a peppery flavor. Bok choy is best known for use in stir-fries, since it remains crisp, even when cooked to a tender stage. One should always choose crisp leaves with a fresh vibrant green color. Yellowing is a sign of age and indicates that the greens may have an off flavor. Salad greens provide a whole range of important nutrients and phytochemicals to keep us healthy.

Sources: Young Womens Health, Vegetarian Nutrition

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