Leafy greens enjoyed their moment in the spotlight this past decade. For a little while, kale was everyone’s favourite vegetable – and it certainly earns its superfood status. Like every leafy green, kale is jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre which keep you healthy1 .
The United States’ public health authority, the CDC, recently named leafy greens a ‘powerhouse vegetable’. That’s because they contain the nutrients the UN’s Food Institute consider essential to public health2 .
What are leafy greens?
Leafy greens include watercress, rocket, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, beetroot leaves, chicory, and Chinese cabbage.
In this article, we’ll explain how good leafy greens are for you. We’ll examine the nutritional profile of leafy greens, advise how you can get more in your diet, and warn of any potential risks.
Benefits of leafy greens
Leafy greens are associated with a wide variety of health benefits, including:
- Support brain health. One scientific study showed that those who eat leafy greens may have better cognitive function later in life than their peers who do not3 .
- Support heart health. Eating leafy grains can support your heart health.4 .
- Support absorption of Omega– Omega 3 fatty acids are strongly associated with heart health5 . One scientific study suggested that eating plenty of leafy greens increases your body’s ability to absorb Omega-3s6 .
The nutritional profile of leafy greens
Leafy greens come in many different shapes and sizes. We’ll break down the nutritional content of two of our favourites, so you can get an idea of how many vitamins they all have:
The nutritional profile of spinach
A 180g portion of spinach contains:
- 987% of your daily recommended vitamin K. Vitamin K keeps bones healthy and contributes to normal blood clotting7 .
- 105% of your daily vitamin A. Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and immune system health8 .
- 73% of your daily recommended Manganese. Manganese contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism9 .
The nutritional profile of Swiss chard
A 175g portion of Swiss chard contains10 :
- 636% of your daily recommended vitamin K. Vitamin Kcontributes to the maintenance of normal bones11 .
- 60% of your daily recommended vitamin A. Vitamin A helps the maintenance of normal vision12 .
- 42% of your daily recommended Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the normal function of the immune system13 .
How to get more leafy greens in your diet
Leafy greens are a versatile vegetable, and many global cuisines incorporate them as staples. Turn to Italy for inspiration, as they stir kale or spinach into pasta dishes, and use rocket as a side dish for meat.
Enjoy a watercress and walnut salad like the Scandinavians or throw chopped beetroot leaves into a curry. Consider Chinese cuisine and add bok choy to your next stir fry.
Potential risks from leafy greens
Leafy greens are occasionally contaminated with harmful bacteria during the industrial packing process14 . Emolliate the risk and cook them until thoroughly wilted. Always wash your greens before use.
Last Updated: 5th November 2020