The 13 Healthiest Leafy Green Vegetables And How To Eat Them, Salads Excluded!

Last updated on : September 21 2020

close up of leafy green vegetable

Everyone readily agrees that eating leafy green vegetables is one of the healthiest choices we can make. However, we often can't decide how to eat them, and more often than not, they end up in salads. 

If you're bored with salads and are looking to add variety to your choice of leafy green vegetables, and how to eat them, then look no further than the excitement below. 

This article covers the 13 healthiest leafy green vegetables and then ten ways to eat them, salads excluded. 

The 13 Healthiest Leafy Green Vegetables

In no particular order, rest assured that each of the choices below comes packed full of nutritional value, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, and health benefits.

1. Kale

Kale or leaf cabbage (it belongs to the cabbage family) has edible leaves. It is rich in minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins, particularly vitamins A, C, and K, and brings all the associated benefits.

It's best to eat Kale raw because cooking reduces the nutritional profile of the vegetable. Try blending it into a vegetable smoothie, or juicing.

2. Microgreens

Microgreens are immature greens harvested just after their first embryonic leaves have developed (not to be confused with shoots or sprouts). Growers produce them from a variety of leafy vegetables, herbs, or other plants.

They're flavorful and packed with nutrients like vitamins C, E, and K.

Microgreens can be grown all year, and easily at home, making them readily available. They're perfect as garnishes. Use them in salads, sandwiches, tacos, pizzas, and soups. Treat them as you would lettuce or sprouts.

3. Spinach

Spinach is a popular leafy green vegetable that originated in Persia.

You can use spinach in a variety of ways, both raw or cooked. Try stir-fried with garlic, rolled up in pasta, or blended into a pesto.

Spinach contains loads of nutrients, including Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, and is low on calories. It's also an excellent folate source that may prevent issues in pregnancy, such as spina bifida.

4. Cabbage

Cabbage has thick leaves and comes in various colors, including purples, whites and greens.

It is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts and contains lots of nutrients and vitamins. Try it roasted, stir-fried, in a slaw, and even in curry. 

You can also turn cabbage into sauerkraut (fermented raw cabbage with a distinctive sour taste), which offers additional health benefits, and is potentially suitable for your gut.

5. Romaine Lettuce

Romaine or cos lettuce is popular lettuce. It grows in a tall head of sturdy leaves with firm ribs down their centers.

Although we commonly use lettuce in salads, it can be cooked just like any other green. Try it in a beef stew with beans.

It's rich in vitamins A and K, and studies suggest it may reduce cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

6. Beet Greens

Beet greens are the edible scarlet stems and leaves of the beet. You can eat them as a side dish or add them to salads, soups, or saute.

They're full of nutrients, iron, vitamins B and C, including antioxidants that may support eye health.

7. Watercress

Humans have used watercress in herbal medicine for centuries, and it is one of the oldest leaf vegetable known to man.

It has a bitter and slightly spicy flavor and makes a great addition to neutrally flavored foods. Use it with a boiled egg on a sandwich, as a watercress soup or ground into a pesto. 

It grows fast, all year round, and is high in potassium and vitamin A. Some test-tube studies suggest it may help with cancer treatment.

8. Turnip Greens

Turnip greens are the green leafy tops of the turnip plant. They are a cruciferous vegetable similar to kale and broccoli and are high in vitamins, particularly vitamins A and C, and are low in calories.

Add them to braises and sauteed dishes.

Studies have found that they may decrease your body's stress and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and inflammation.

9. Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable with a slightly bitter flavor closely related to beets and spinach. It's rich in color and often used in Mediterranean cooking.

While many people typically throw away the stems of the Swiss chard plant, they're crunchy and highly nutritious. So try adding all parts of the plant to dishes such as soups, stews, or casseroles.

Swiss Chard contains the flavonoid syringic acid, which may be beneficial for reducing blood sugar levels.

10. Arugula

Arugula is a leafy green vegetable with a peppery taste. It goes by several different names, including salad rocket, rucola, and Italian cress.

It's often eaten raw in salads or as a pizza topping but can also be cooked and added to soups, pasta, or other dishes.

It's rich in vitamins and naturally occurring nitrates, reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow.

11. Endive

Endive is a lesser-known leafy green vegetable. It's curly and crisp in texture, with a bitter taste.

We often see endive on salads, but you can cook it. It tastes great grilled and seasoned with balsamic vinegar, in stir-fries, or baked with butter.

Endive also contains several nutrients, including the antioxidant kaempferol, which may reduce cancer cell growth.

12. Bok Choy

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage and often used in soups and stir-fries. Gently fry or roast some bok choy and garnish with balsamic vinegar for a decidedly Asian taste. 

Bok Choy contains the mineral selenium, which benefits your brain health, immunity, cancer protection, and thyroid health.

13. Collard Greens

Collard refers to specific loose-leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea, the same species as many common vegetables, including cabbage and broccoli.

Use a collard greens leaf instead of a wrap, mix them into stews, soups, casseroles, or puree them into a pesto. There are many and varied uses.  

Collard greens have thick leaves and are bitter. They are an excellent source of vitamin K and may reduce blood clots and promote healthy bones

10 Ways To Eat Leafy Green Vegetables, Other Than Salads

Bowl of pasta with green pesto

Here are ten ways to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet, other than increasing your salad consumption.

1. Add To Your Regular Smoothie

The green smoothie craze buzzing everyone up is more than just a fad. Green beverages are healthy and can quickly provide all the nutrients you'd get from eating leafy vegetables.

However, the taste can take some getting used to, so find a recipe you love and stay the course. Begin by adding just a handful of greens to your regular smoothie recipe. You can use spinach to start because it is easy to find, and the flavor is also pleasant.

Progress to more significant leafy green proportions by adding more varieties. And, instead of fruit or yogurt, use cucumber or almond milk. You may also want to consider adding herbs, such as basil, to your drink. It will give your smoothie a spicy and filling taste.

2. Add to Pesto or Pasta Sauces

We usually make pesto with basil. However, you can switch things up by adding a handful of spinach or kale. Apart from these mild blends, you can try adding watercress or mustard greens. They are stronger-tasting but worth the effort.

You can do the same for your pasta sauces too. Cut up some greens and add to the sauce before mixing in with the pasta.

3. Add Greens To Your Breakfast

You can add veggies to your breakfast and not substantially change the nature of the meal.

For instance, if you intend to have eggs for breakfast, sprinkle them with some cress. Toss in some endive while frying your bacon. Add some spinach to your muffin mix or try a kale and mushroom frittata.

Lastly, try an omelet or scrambled eggs filled with your favorite greens.

4. Have A Green Sandwich

A simple way to make an otherwise bread sandwich healthy and delicious, and keto-friendly is to use veggies.

To make your sandwich, assemble the usual fillings. Then wrap the fillings either in fresh cos lettuce or fried swiss chard leaves instead of bread.

You'll find this version just as filling and maybe even tastier.

5. Add to Pies and Pizzas

You can add some veggies into your pies, and no one will be the wiser.

Follow your standard recipe but add in a mix of sauteed, chopped, or ground up leafy greens. Try out a few different varieties to see what works. Spinach is always a fail-safe option.

Rocket is a favorite on pizza, especially with light parma ham.

6. Veggies And Soups Make A Good Pair

You can stir in some veggies into your soups, or make a specific green vegetable soup.

There are several options available but consider kale if you are making an Italian soup and chard if it is a bean-based broth that you are making. Ideally, you should add the leaves within the last three minutes of cooking to retain their flavor.

Also, watercress makes perfect soup with an exquisite taste.

7. Eat Veggie Chips

Substitute an unhealthy snack like potato chips with veggie chips, a far more healthy alternative. Getting your daily dose of leafy greens can be as easy as preparing some kale chips or buying a healthy kale chips packet.

Easily make kale chips by coating kale leaves in a mix of garlic, olive oil, and vinegar and baking in the oven until crisp, and then seasoning with salt. If you're buying off the shelf, check the ingredients to ensure no extra sugar or unhealthy oils or seasoning.

8. Drink Veggie Juices

Veggie juices are similar but not the same as veggie smoothies. While you might make smoothies with fruit or yogurt, veggie juice is pure veggie, with no additives.

You'll need a juicer and can try out a variety of leafy vegetables to understand which you like as a juice. You might be surprised to learn that green juices are quite tasty and are healthy, of course.

A tall glass of green juice first thing in the morning might be what you need to get your day going.

9. Try Kimchi or Sauerkraut

You make both kimchi and sauerkraut from fermented cabbage. Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish and Sauerkraut German.

Many people do not know that cabbage qualifies as a vegetable; thus, these two new ways of eating leafy greens are healthy, enjoyable, and great ways to incorporate veggies into your meal.

Kimchi is easy to eat. Add it to rice, stews, pasta sauces, or use it as a garnish. Treat sauerkraut like a salsa. It's excellent with German sausages or pork.

10. Use Leafy Greens As Garnishes

Using veggies as a garnish is an excellent idea, especially if you have children who balk at the thought of eating them.

To make a green garnish, finely shred or blend a selection of leafy greens and sprinkle them on top of the prepared meal.

For instance, fresh watercress, or a blend of broccoli stems, watercress, and parsley make a great garnish. Microgreens also make excellent garnishes, pluck a few from your home nursery and add to most meals for a veggie boost. 

Summary

Now you understand the 13 healthiest leafy greens and how best to eat them. Try them in a salad, or ten other ways, if you are tired of salads. Experiment on your own, because as you know, when it comes to veggies, you can never go too far wrong. 

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