How many times have you been told to “eat your leafy green vegetables”? When it comes to leafy greens, most of us rely on the basics like romaine, leaf lettuce and spinach week after week, which are absolutely great – and while all of these provide health benefits, there are a few leafy green vegetables on this list you may be missing.
Leafy green vegetables are a total nutrition powerhouse providing plant-based calcium, iron and magnesium, plus vitamins A, C and K (vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and bone health).
If you don’t like the taste of one variety, chances are you can find an alternative. It might also be a matter of preparation method, so don’t hesitate to do some experimenting and have some fun.
Here is a quick leafy greens list of the lesser known kinds:
Quick Leafy Green Vegetables List
Swapping arugula for romaine is a great way to spice up a salad (literally!). This leafy green has a peppery bite and delicate texture. It pairs perfectly with a light citrus vinaigrette and some shaved parmesan cheese (aka – the ultimate no hassle dinner side salad). Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable, like its cousins broccoli and cauliflower, and therefore has added disease-preventative effects.
You might already be familiar with traditional “curly” kale that has become a grocery store staple in recent years. Lacinato or “dino” kale is the one that has long flat leaves with a bumpy texture. Add it to your favorite soup or stew near the end of cooking time for a pop of bright green color and an extra element of texture. Cooking kale mellows its bitter flavor, so a quick sauté in some olive oil with a bit of lemon juice is a delicious way to enjoy this nutrient powerhouse.
This leafy green typically has a gorgeous bright pink or yellow stem. Due to the large size of the leaves, chard makes a nice swap for tortillas (a great low-carbohydrate option!). Use the leaves to wrap hummus and vegetables. You can also sauté the delicate leaves, as they cook up quickly. The stems are full of nutrition so chop them and sauté first with some onion and garlic for an amazing side dish [we’ve been known to add in some chickpeas for a plant-focused meal.]
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable with long stems and small, circular leaves. It makes a great sandwich topper in place of traditional leaf lettuce for a fun presentation. The bright, peppery taste does well with just a bit of vinegar and olive oil. You can also drop into soups just before serving for a burst of flavor. One of our favorite salads includes watercress, cucumbers, and radishes – fresh and delicious!
Bok Choy is a type of Chinese cabbage with a bright white stem surrounded by dark green leaves. It’s most commonly used in Asian cuisines including stir-fries and soups like ramen, but feel free to add it to salads and slaws. We love this simple recipe for sheet pan bok choy – simply place quartered bok choy on a parchment-lined sheet pan and toss with freshly grated ginger and sesame oil. Roast at 350° F until softened and serve with fresh lime wedges.
Romaine lettuce is the most common (accounting for more than 30% of total lettuce consumption!) type of dark, leafy green. It has a watery crunch and mild flavor. It also promotes bone health due to the high amount of Vitamin K inside. And it’s a power vegetable for your skin and eyes, with about the same Vitamin A as spinach. You can also find folate which is vital for a healthy heart and preventing early pregnancy defects, and antioxidants that may help decrease inflammation and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Green Leaf Lettuce
Green leaf lettuce may look like romaine, but it’s not actually the same. It does make a great substitute for romaine and iceberg lettuce though. It’s soft and tender, mild in flavor and works great for salads or on top of sandwiches. Try it in a BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato Sandwich). You can also try it as a wrap like in my Asian Pork Lettuce Wrap recipe.
Spinach is a dark, leafy green actually in the amaranth family (the same family as beets!) and it is full of health benefits. It’s also the one leafy green vegetable that you can freeze and use in multiple ways. It’s great for your eyes (vitamin A), your bones (vitamin K), your skin (antioxidants) and better blood pressure (healthy for you, naturally-occurring nitrates). Here’s one of my favorite salads with spinach: Strawberry Spinach Salad.
I hope you enjoyed this leafy green vegetables list and found some new ways to incorporate them into your meals and why they are such great choices. If you want help in making healthy eating easier in a personalized way, as a registered dietitian nutritionist I can help. I combine culinary instruction into your nutrition care plan and so that it fits your lifestyle.
Book your appointment today.
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