Healthy Leafy Green Vegetables: Which Ones You Must Eat And Why?

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

Green vegetables are excellent for you. One of the main reasons is that it is usually made up of leafy greens, which are high in nutrients.

Leafy green vegetables have been linked to a slew of health advantages.

It has been discovered that leafy green vegetables are one of the best sources of dietary nitrates.

These are chemicals that have cardiovascular benefits[1].

Leafy green vegetables are an essential component of a balanced diet.

They are high in fiber, minerals, and vitamins while being low in calories, but we should know which are the healthiest ones.

A diet abundant in leafy greens has been shown to lessen the risk of mental decline, obesity, and high blood pressure.

While nearly every leafy greens have something to offer, the amount and type of minerals, vitamins, and fiber they contain might vary.

Including a variety of leafy greens in your diet is a wonderful way to reap the benefits of what they offer, but the darker the leaf, the more nutrients it contains.

In this article, we will be looking at some of the best healthy leafy green vegetables which are good for you.

Here are some of the best healthy leafy green vegetables:

  1. Microgreens

    Immature greens made from the seeds of herbs and vegetables are known as microgreens.

    They are usually 2-4 inches in length. They have been employed as decoration or garnish since the 1970s.

    They have a lot of functions[2]. They are a combination of nutrients and flavor despite their small size.

    Microgreens contain up to 30 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts, according to one study.

    Vitamins K, C, and E are examples of these nutrients.

    Microgreens might be cultivated throughout the year in the comfort of your own home, making them readily available.

  2. Cabbage

    If you want to keep your blood glucose levels in check, cabbage might be a great option.

    It has a low-calorie count and contains a lot of fiber.

    Because of its antihyperglycemic and antioxidant characteristics, it could help[3] those with diabetes.

    Adding cabbage as a side dish at least once a day is a simple way to incorporate it into your diet.

    If you do not want to eat it as a side dish, you might receive the same advantages by adding it to soups, salads, and dals.

  3. Spinach

    Spinach is a common leafy green vegetable that could be used in a wide range of meals, such as salads, sauces, soups, and smoothies.

    One cup (35 grams) of raw spinach provides 15 percent of the daily value for manganese, 180 percent of the daily value for vitamin K, and 58 percent of the daily value for vitamin A.

    It is also high in folate, which aids in the prevention of neural tube abnormalities during pregnancy and the synthesis of red blood cells, according to research[4].

    Low folate consumption during the first trimester of pregnancy was revealed to be one of the most preventable risk factors for spina bifida, which is a neural tube defect in one study.

    Eating spinach, in addition to taking a prenatal vitamin, is an excellent method to boost your folate consumption during pregnancy.

  4. Watercress

    Watercress is a nutrient-dense[5] leafy green vegetable that is little but powerful.

    Watercress, such as cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts belong to the Brassicaceae family of vegetables.

    The entire plant is edible and has a light peppery flavor which gets lighter when cooked. It has round small leaves and light, small stems.

    It is often found in sealed bags in the salad section of most supermarkets.

    Watercress is delicious in sandwiches, pasta dishes, salads, smoothies, and as a side of sauteed greens.

  5. Lettuce

    Lettuce is a popular leafy vegetable with a strong center rib and dark leaves.

    It is quite popular, especially in salads, because of its crunchy texture.

    It is high in vitamins K and A, with one cup (35 grams) supplying 65 percent and 85 percent of the daily value for these nutrients, respectively.

    Furthermore, studies in animals revealed that lettuce lowered[6] blood lipid levels, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.

    More research into these benefits in people is needed.

  6. Mustard leaves

    The peppery leaves of the mustard plant, which is also known as Chinese mustard, Indian mustard, brown mustard, and vegetable mustard are one of the most nutritious greens you could consume.

    Mustard leaves and seeds are also edible, which makes them a year-round addition to your menu.

    They feel and look like kale. They have a strong mustardy and peppery flavor when fresh, but the flavor is milder when cooked.

    Adding citrus, salt, or oil to any bitter green, whether cooked or raw might assist in smoothing out the flavor.

    Mustard greens are commonly served as a side dish as steamed, boiled, or seasoned. They also provide flavor to casseroles and soups.

  7. Bok Choy

    Bok choy is Chinese cabbage. It has green dark leaves which work quite well in stir-fries and soups.

    Bok choy is high in selenium. It is a mineral that aids in cancer prevention, cognitive function, and immunity.

    Selenium is also necessary for normal thyroid gland function.

    This gland, which is located in your neck, produces hormones that are important for metabolism.

    Low selenium[7] levels were linked in observational research to thyroid disorders, such as enlarged thyroid, hypothyroidism, and autoimmune thyroiditis.

  8. Turnips

    The dark leafy green tops of turnip plants are known as turnip greens. These greens are cruciferous vegetables.

    It means they contain more phytonutrients[8] and minerals than the turnip itself.

    The greens are leafy and large, with a somewhat spicy flavor. It might be cooked and served in the same way as mustard greens.

    Turnip greens are a tasty alternative to traditional greens which might be sauteed, braised, or used in salads.

  9. Kale

    Due to its many antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, kale is regarded as one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world.

    One cup (35 grams) of raw kale contains 135 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, 685 percent of the daily value for vitamin K, and 208 percent of the daily value for vitamin A.

    It also contains antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lutein, which help to minimize[9] the risk of oxidative stress-related disorders, according to a study.

    Kale is best consumed raw to get the most out of what it has to offer, as cooking might diminish its nutritious profile.

  10. Arugula

    Arugula, leafy green with a peppery flavor, is another leafy green vegetable that nutritionists usually prescribe.

    It is high in dietary nitrates, which help the body produce more nitric oxide.

    It is also high in antioxidants which help the anti-inflammatory compounds and immune system.

    The best way to eat this vegetable is minimally cooked or raw.

    While some individuals dislike the spicy flavor, some like it. The same could be said for its scent.

    Some individuals adore it, while some despise it.

    If you are in the latter group, start with a small amount of arugula before adding more.

    You might even learn to enjoy its spicy flavor once you have gotten used to it.

    Nitric oxide is required for a variety of tasks, including the relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, which lowers[10] blood pressure.

  11. Swiss chard

    Swiss chard features a sturdy stalk and green dark leaves with a variety of benefits.

    It includes syringic acid, a rare flavonoid, as well as different beneficial elements[11].

    Swiss chard is a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. When raw, the leaves have an earthy and bitter flavor.

    When cooked, they have a sweet and mild flavor akin to spinach.

    The stems of the Swiss chard plant are often discarded, though they are quite healthy.

    Every section of the Swiss chard plant might be used in casseroles, soups, and tacos.

  12. Collard greens

    Collard greens are cruciferous leafy green vegetables that provide a variety of health advantages[12].

    They provide cleansing benefits, prevent cancer, enhance digestive health, and are high in fiber, vitamin K, A, and C.

    They also include choline, calcium, vitamin B6, and magnesium among different minerals.

    Collards also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in decreasing blood pressure and inflammation.

    These greens also have a high dietary fiber content, about 5 grams per cooked cup, as well as several antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.

    Collards also contain folate, a B vitamin that is beneficial to heart health.

    Cooked collard greens have 35 calories per cup, which makes them ideal for a low-carb diet.

    Collard greens are delicious in sandwiches, salads, and wraps.

    Sauteing, boiling, braising, and using them in soups are different options.

Conclusion

If you plan ahead of time, eating more dark green leafy veggies could be easy, straightforward, and inexpensive.

To begin, one could incorporate them into three to five meals per week, then gradually increase the number as you discover new variations which you prefer.

Leafy green veggies are high in potent nutrients which are essential for maintaining excellent health.

Fortunately, many leafy greens are available throughout the year and could be easily incorporated into your meals in a variety of ways.

Include a variety of leafy greens in your diet to get the numerous outstanding health advantages of these vegetables.

Leafy greens are one of the healthiest vegetables to consume and for good reason.

They are high in fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins which might help you feel better.

There are a variety of ways to include more leafy greens in your diet, such as smoothies, salads, stir-fries, and sandwiches.

When it comes to nutritional content, however, not every leafy green is made alike.

Some have more minerals, vitamins, and different nutrients than the rest.

One might eat leafy green vegetables which are not on our list, though be sure to include more of them in your diet to reap the most advantages.

Sources

  1. Lauren C. Blekkenhorst, Marc Sim, Catherine P. Bondonno, et al. Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Specific Vegetable Types: A Narrative Review Nutrients. 2018 May; 10(5): 595. Published online 2018 May 11. doi: 10.3390/nu10050595
  2. Vito Michele Paradiso, Maria Castellino, Massimiliano Renna, et al. Nutritional characterization and shelf-life of packaged microgreens Food Funct. 2018 Nov 14;9(11):5629-5640. doi: 10.1039/c8fo01182f. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30298894/
  3. Hazem A. H. Kataya and AlaaEldin A. Hamza Red Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) Ameliorates Diabetic Nephropathy in Rats Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Sep; 5(3): 281–287. Published online 2007 Apr 27. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem029
  4. Elena Jovanovski, Laura Bosco, Kashif Khan, et al. Effect of Spinach, a High Dietary Nitrate Source, on Arterial Stiffness and Related Hemodynamic Measures: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults Clin Nutr Res. 2015 Jul; 4(3): 160–167. Published online 2015 Jul 31. doi: 10.7762/cnr.2015.4.3.160
  5. Esmaeel Panahi Kokhdan, Hadi Khodabandehloo, Hossein Ghahremani, et al. A Narrative Review on Therapeutic Potentials of Watercress in Human Disorders Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021; 2021: 5516450. Published online 2021 May 7. doi: 10.1155/2021/5516450
  6. Catherine Nicolle, Nicolas Cardinault, Elyett Gueux, et al. Health effect of vegetable-based diet: lettuce consumption improves cholesterol metabolism and antioxidant status in the rat Clin Nutr . 2004 Aug;23(4):605-14. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2003.10.009. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15297097/
  7. Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, and Francisco Carrilho Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment Int J Endocrinol. 2017; 2017: 1297658. Published online 2017 Jan 31. doi: 10.1155/2017/1297658
  8. Gordana M Dejanovic, Eralda Asllanaj, Magda Gamba, et al. Phytochemical characterization of turnip greens (Brassica rapa ssp. rapa): A systematic review PLoS One. 2021 Feb 17;16(2):e0247032. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247032. eCollection 2021. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33596258/
  9. Erika Ortega-Hernández, Marilena Antunes-Ricardo, and Daniel A. Jacobo-Velázquez Improving the Health-Benefits of Kales (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala DC) through the Application of Controlled Abiotic Stresses: A Review Plants (Basel). 2021 Dec; 10(12): 2629. Published online 2021 Nov 29. doi: 10.3390/plants10122629
  10. Satnam Lidder, Andrew J Webb Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):677-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04420.x. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22882425/
  11. Magda Gamba, Peter Francis Raguindin, Eralda Asllanaj, et al. Bioactive compounds and nutritional composition of Swiss chard ( Beta vulgaris L. var. cicla and flavescens): a systematic review Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(20):3465-3480. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1799326. Epub 2020 Aug 4. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32746613/
  12. Helle Olsen, Kjersti Aaby, Grethe Iren A Borge Characterization and quantification of flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids in curly kale (Brassica oleracea L. Convar. acephala Var. sabellica) by HPLC-DAD-ESI-MSn J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Apr 8;57(7):2816-25. doi: 10.1021/jf803693t. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19253943/