Go green: A handy guide to greens

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The most important thing to remember about greens is the darker leaves have more vitamins and nutrients. Another tidbit is that greens have flavor and a variety at that so choose something that will complement the other food on your plate. Also, try to avoid boiling greens unless it is for a few seconds only. Boiling destroys the vitamins in the leaves and makes a mushy side dish.

The Green family line-up:

Iceberg is the worst lettuce and the most consumed. Don't eat it period. Sure it has some dietary fiber but it lacks everything else and is a carrier of sugars. Plus, it has little to no taste. Boring.

Romaine is my go-to green because you can find it everywhere and usually an organic option is available too (though I still wash it because who knows if it's truly 'organic'). This leafy bundle is packed with vitamins A and C making it a heart-healthy green along with a good dose of potassium and folic acid. Romaine leaves are crispy and its mild taste makes it a great addition to vegan burgers.

Green leaf and red leaf are softer than romaine. They are a good source of vitamin A -- with a little folate -- and have a pleasant taste that could be paired with anything. The red leaf is slightly healthier than the green with its darker leaves but both taste the same and can be found in most grocery stores with organic options.

Bibb/Boston/Butter lettuce is not as nutritious as its greener brethren but it has a fair amount of vitamin A and calcium and excels in vitamin K. The leaves are soft with a 'buttery' flavor and it smells good. I have never tried this lettuce because of its lighter green leaves but it would be a good starter in getting friends and children adjusted to the more nutrition-packed greens.

Spinach is a vitamin packed bunch of awesomeness. It provides far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and A, almost all the manganese and folate your body needs and almost half of your magnesium requirement. Spinach is a great source of 20 different measurable nutrients including: dietary fiber, calcium, and protein. It also holds the record for having the lowest calories per cup with 40 calories. This green is a superhero fighting several different cancers including: skin, breast, stomach, ovarian and prostate, and it also helps your cardiovascular health, improves brain function and protects against aging. Superhero to the core.

Kale is my favorite green even though I don't eat it as much as romaine (trust me, I'm working on this). It comes in a variety of looks and textures from frilly to straight leaves and green, purple and black coloring. All taste great and are loaded with vitamin A, C and K along with calcium, folate and potassium. I recommend thoroughly cleaning kale under water before using because it's known to be a dirty green.

Collards are unappreciated as a healthy green. Their kale and spinach brothers take the spotlight while collards stand aside. However, this broad-leaf, great tasting green has amazing health benefits. It is your protagonist in cancer prevention providing detox, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Mustard leaves add a robust peppery flavor to dishes and the assortment of leaf shapes and colors makes this green a fabulous addition to any meal. Like collards, this green is a cancer fighter and is amazing at lowering your cholesterol. Mustard also has one of the highest folate ratings making it a hero in cardiovascular health.

Swiss chard has a beet-like taste and soft texture. It is full of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, manganese and zinc. It helps regulate blood sugar and it brimming with calcium, magnesium and vitamin K. I have not tried this green yet but I heard it's great sauteed!

Endive/Chicory is something I have yet to try because its not as green as its brothers. However, after reading up on it this green has impressed me with its overwhelming health benefits. It's loaded with vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate and selenium. It's a good source of beta-carotene and potassium, aids digestion and helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. The only downside to endive is its bitter flavor so pair it with something robust (like mustard greens!) and BAM! you have an extremely healthy lunch that will make your friends envious.

Arugula is yummy! I'm not a huge salad eater (a weird vegetarian trait I know) but I love arugula salad. Just a heap of this green with some all-natural dressing and some fruit and I'm a happy camper. It's a great source of protein and is rich in dietary fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, zinc, potassium, folate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and vitamins B6, A, C and K. That's quite a hefty list for a green! My grocery store only sells arugula in prepacked containers but just wash whatever you buy and it'll be fine.

Dandelion is a new green to me. I always thought people bought this for their rabbits (though veggies are said to only eat 'rabbit food' right?) so I never considered eating it. This green packs a punch as it provides relief from liver and urinary disorders, acne, cancer and anemia. Dandelion also helps in maintaining bone health, skin care and weight loss. Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium all inhabit this green making it a healthy contribution to any meal.

Rapini, like most greens, is high in vitamins A, C and K. I had never heard of this green before working at a grocery store but it doesn't disappoint. It carries a good dose of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, zinc, manganese, potassium, calcium and iron. It has a strong and bitter flavor and is usually used in Italian and Chinese dishes.

Escarole is your go-to green for fiber and is a perfect addition to any low-fat diet. Like most greens, escarole is high in vitamins A, C and K, folate, and carries an adequate dose of iron and calcium. It's not as bitter tasting as its endive cousin and it complements most food dishes.

Kale Salad My mom made this last time I visited and it is amazing! 1 clove garlic 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 1 tbsp. thyme, dried ½ cup sunflower seeds, soak for a few hours, drain and rinse 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 1-3 tsp. sea salt 2 bunches lacinato kale, washed well, stemmed, rolled into a bunch and sliced thinly 1. Puree everything together except for the kale to make the dressing. 2. Toss kale in marinade and refrigerate overnight. You can eat it fresh but it should be eaten the next day to allow the flavors to blend together.

Samantha Edwards | Blog
Salt Lake City, UT Sam is usually found at school completing her BA in English under a pile of text and empty coffee cups. At home, she bakes high altitude vegan goodies for her boyfriend and friends. She is the mother of three gorgeous and mischievous ferrets who like to "help" her bake by starring up at her and looking adorable. Sam also maintains her own blog containing recent school work and writing ventures.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/b_2

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