What’s so important about eating your leafy greens? First, they provide us with the most phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are natural chemicals that are found in plants. These chemicals guard plants from harm, such as pests and UV rays. But they do not just benefit the plant itself; they benefit those who eat the plant as well!
Greens whose leaves grow separately off a stalk, rather within a bunch, are much more phytonutrient-dense. This is because the leaves are more exposed to the environment and must develop an abundant amount of phytonutrients for survival.
Here are some of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens you should include to your diet!
Crazy for kale? Don’t worry. The rest of the world seems to be too. It is no surprise how popular this leafy green has gotten these past few years. What makes kale so super you may ask? Well, kale is very high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that keeps your skin and eyes healthy. It also contains Vitamin K, which helps transport calcium throughout your body to enhance the strength of your bones.
We’ve all seen them before, the common weed with the yellow flowers and the fluffy seed balls. As the dandelion may be a large nuisance in the garden, it is an underrated, nutrient-rich leafy green in the kitchen.
Dandelion leaves are full of essential minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous. Additionally, one cup of cooked dandelion provides you with 15% of your daily calcium value. (That’s more than spinach!).
Another reason would be chard’s richness of Vitamin C; about 1 cup provides you with 33% of your daily value. In addition, chard contains syringic acid, a phytonutrient that helps regulate blood sugar. Other nutritional properties of chard include high amounts of Vitamin K (<500%) and A (<50%).
(*Note: another leaf that’s just as tasty and nutrient dense is Collard)
Here is a super simple, yet tasty chard recipe that only uses 4 ingredients!
For a more daring soul, this curry recipe is golden.
The last on our list of green superfoods does not take a leafy form. Instead, it is derived from a type of algae and is bought as a powder. The wonders of spirulina are endless.
First, it is about 65% complete protein, which makes it one of Earth’s most protein packed plant (Vegetarians, take note!). Second, it is rich in chlorophyll, a strong detoxifying agent. Lastly, spirulina is rich in beta-carotene, antioxidants, and many other important minerals.
The best way to benefit from this superfood is by adding a teaspoon to your smoothies. This smoothie includes kale, creating a delicious superfood duo!
by Janelle Manzano, Clinical Nutrition Student