Battle of the Leafy Greens: What Greens Are Best for You

Tess Patrick TESS PATRICK

How many times in your life have you had to be reminded to eat your greens?

I know it’s a lot for me - but here’s how I encourage myself to eat more. The sad reality is that no matter what I do, whether it’s a delicious smoothie or a nourishing salad bowl, there’s not much that really compels me to eat my greens. Except for the fact that I know they’re good for me. Getting a daily dose of leafy greens is the answer to so many of our health worries, from supporting our immunity to detoxing our body leafy greens are an essential part of our diet.

But what greens are best for you? I’ve done a deep dive to find out.

1. Kale - The Nutrient Hit

We all know that leafy greens have some goodness in them, but what exactly is on offer? Kale is perhaps the best to showcase that juicy nutrient profile. It’s even considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet. One cup (67 grams) of raw kale packs 684% of the daily value (DV) for Vitamin K, 206% of the DV for Vitamin A, and 134% of the DV for vitamin C. Further looks have also shown it contains the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene, which reduce the risk of diseases caused by oxidative stress.

2. Arugula (Rocket) - The Blood Regulator

Arugula is packed with the incredible vitamins and minerals found in most leafy greens. But one thing that sets it apart from the rest (and not just the distinct peppery taste) is that it’s one of the best sources of dietary nitrates, which is turned into nitric oxide in your body. Some studies have shown that nitrates may help to increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure by widening the vessels, markedly in hypertensive patients.

3. Collard Greens - The Vitamin K Boost

We know that kale offers an impressive serve of Vitamin K, but it really shines in collard greens. One cup of this leafy vegetable offers an overwhelming 1,045% of the DV. But why do we need Vitamin K in the diet? Most importantly, it is known for its role in the blood clotting process - which is needed for optimal health. More recently, however, studies have been exploring the role of the vitamin and bone health. One study, in particular, found a strong link between Vitamin K deficiency and increased hip fractures.

4. Spinach - The Pregnancy Support

Spinach, like other leafy greens, is an incredible all-rounder with a pleasantly neutral taste - some would argue even slightly sweet. This makes it versatile and one of my personal favorites. But what makes it truly stand out is the essential folate found in the leaves. Folate is essential for red blood cell production as well as the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy - most notably spina bifida. Increased consumption of this in the first trimester has been linked to decreased risk of the fetus developing this condition.

5. Watercress - The Cancer Fighter

While watercress may have a strong flavor, the potential benefits outweigh any unpleasantness. This green has been used in medicinal tinctures for centuries and we’re only just beginning to understand its powers in the scientific community. While studies are minimal, there is some evidence to suggest that watercress extract may be beneficial in targeting cancer stem cells and impairing cancer cell reproduction and invasion, so here’s hoping the research continues.

6. Bok Choy - The Selenium Booster

Selenium is an essential mineral that’s missing in many diets. We can obtain it through Brazil nuts (a personal favorite), but it’s abundant in Bok Choy - which is incidentally the best green for Asian-inspired dishes. Selenium plays an important role in cognitive function, immunity, and cancer prevention, as well as supporting regulation of the thyroid gland. Among many functions, the thyroid is responsible for metabolism in the body - so safe to say selenium is needed wherever we can get it.

7. Dandelion Greens - The Detox Support

Last time we wrote about eating dandelion greens, our Food Matters community was thrown by the idea - but embraced it wholeheartedly. The greens (and roots from these) promote detoxification and weight loss, alongside enhanced liver function, making it the perfect detox companion. A few leaves in a salad or brewed into a tea will see you reaping the benefits in no time.

What healthy green will you be picking next? Let us know below!

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