By Jo Schaalman and Julie Pelaez of the Conscious Cleanse
Dark leafy greens are among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet! In fact, dark leafy greens are the stars of our number one vibrant health secret – green smoothies.
In the past few years kale has been stealing the stage when it comes to dark leafy greens. But we’re here to tell you that there is a world of dark leafies that you don’t want to look past, and for good reason!
You likely have spinach, romaine lettuce, even kale in rotation. But what about all the others? Rotating your greens is one of the keys to long-term vibrant health, ensuring that you’re getting a variety of different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. Below is our list of the unsung heroes of the dark leafy greens out there. Start rotating these into your diet today and reap the benefits.
Arugula: Arugula tops the charts as our favorite salad green any day of the week. Packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and calcium, arugula is one of the most nutritious of all the dark leafy greens. In fact, arugula contains more calcium than the famous kale does. A little spicy or peppery in flavor, arugula is delicious as a topper on your avocado toast or simply drizzled with some fresh olive oil and sea salt.
Beet Greens: Beet greens, the edible and delicious tops of the root, are actually higher in vitamins and minerals than the beets themselves. Best known for their high iron, vitamin C, and calcium content, when you eat your beet greens (rather than discard them), it’s like getting a two-for-one deal! Beet greens are delicious sautéed with a little olive oil. Top it with a poached egg and you have one healthy breakfast. They also go well in many soups, juiced, or blended into a smoothie.
Bok Choy: Bok choy, and its smaller, more tender counterpart, baby bok choy, is an Asian green (as known as Chinese cabbage), excellent in stir-fry, right on the grill, or in soups. Loaded with vitamins C and beta-carotene, bok choy also has a high water content. So it’s another two-for-one in that you not only get all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber, it’s also very hydrating to the body.
Chard: Chard, Swiss Chard, Red Chard, and Rainbow Chard are all part of the same family and can be used interchangeably. High in vitamins A, C, and K, chard is also a great source of calcium and magnesium. This mild-tasting green turns slightly sweet and earthy when cooked. It’s extremely versatile and tastes best when sautéed or steamed, then drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Collards: If you’re from the south, you’ve undoubtedly had collard greens cooked for hours on end in broth and ham. Fortunately there are tastier, more healthy ways to enjoy collards. Although a little tougher than many of the greens out there, collards hold up really well in soups and stir-fry, but our favorite way to incorporate them into our diet is in our daily green juice. Paired with lemon, celery, cucumber, and parsley, collards deliver many vitamins, namely B vitamins. Raw collards, like chard, also makes for a nice and sturdy wrap or bun.
Dandelion Greens: Yes, America’s most despised weed is edible, not to mention a nutritional goldmine! Dandelion greens are bitter, but don’t let that stop you from figuring out a way to eat them. What’s most notable about dandelion greens is that they are rich in a prebiotic fiber called inulin. Inulin enhances the gut’s production of friendly bacteria, good for boosting your immune function and reducing inflammation throughout the body. Our favorite ways to enjoy dandelion greens are in a green juice or green smoothie, as a warm detox tea, or sautéed with onions and olive oil.
Green Leafy Herbs: We would be remiss to not mention our beloved green herbs, which also pack a nutritional punch and are easily grown in your window sill or home garden. Fresh herbs like parsley, basil, and cilantro are powerhouses. If detox is a concern (and for the majority of us it should be), incorporate parsley and cilantro into your green juices or smoothies. All of these herbs are also delicious in pesto or salad dressing.
All our dark leafy greens are chlorophyll-rich, which help to cleanse the blood and balance the body’s pH. This is really important in our overly acidic and toxic modern world. We hope you’ll try incorporating more dark leafy greens into your diet. They truly are the foundation for a healthy diet.