Looking for a list of leafy greens to add to your diet or grow in your garden? If you think of a green salad when you hear the term leafy vegetables, you’re right. But what about all the other leafy greens you see at the grocery store, but seldom buy? Leafy greens, including kale, spinach, turnip greens and others, are power houses of nutrition. They contain ample vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, those plant compounds known to fight diseases, including cancer.
In fact, several studies have shown that a steady diet of leafy greens offers protection against gastric cancer and ovarian cancer. Leafy greens are high in carotenoids that our bodies convert to vitamin A, which researchers believe is necessary for maintaining healthy body tissues and fighting off invaders and toxins.
Leafy greens can also reduce your risk of heart disease. One study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that participants who ate one daily serving of leafy vegetables reduced their risk of heart disease by 23 percent.
Eating leafy greens regularly may even help trim your waistline. They’re virtually fat-free and very low in calories, while offering a big helping of nutrition. One cup of raw spinach, for example, has only 7 calories, but 149 mcg of Vitamin A and over 50 grams of calcium!
Using Leafy Greens
Whether you grow your own leafy greens or buy them at the store, select greens with bright green leaves. The smaller leaves are usually more tender and sweet. Wash greens in the sink or in a salad spinner and blot them dry carefully with a paper towel. Store them in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for three to five days.
Almost any leafy green can be used in a salad, but there are hundreds of other ways to use them as well. Add them to stews and soups, steam or stir-fry them or roast them in the oven for two to three minutes. Check out the cookbook Greens, Glorious Greens! for inspiration. Regardless of the cooking method, leafy greens need only a few minutes to tenderize them. Overcooking them makes them turn bitter. Add a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of kosher salt and you’ve got a delicious and nutritious dish.
Types of Leafy Greens
Peppery arugula adds a nice kick to any salad. Smaller leaves tend to have a milder flavor. It can also be sautéed and used like spinach in various recipes.
Boston / Bibb Lettuce.
This salad green (Lactuca sativa) can only be described as pretty. It has greenish-yellow leaves and a sweet, delicate flavor. Bibb lettuce is more expensive to buy than other lettuces, probably because it’s a bit more difficult to grow. In the home garden, it readily turns bitter when temperatures rise.
Eat these raw or steam them lightly and top them with a dab of butter. Beet greens have a robust flavor. Beets are an excellent crop for the home gardener. They grow easily in most conditions and you get two crops from one plant!
Bok Choy (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis) is a type of Chinese cabbage. Works as an early spring plant, or plant it in late summer for a fall harvest.
The darling of the South, collard greens thrive in slightly cool weather, making them a good fall or spring crop. They are ready to harvest in 40 to 80 days.
Who knew the menace of your yard could be so tasty? Dandelion greens are delectable in early spring. Add them to salads or sauté them gently. One serving contains 275 mcg of Vitamin A. Don’t eat greens that have been treated with herbicides, though.
Iceberg lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. capitata) is a very low calorie lettuce thanks to its high water content. You’ll find it in salads everywhere because of the mild flavor. Icebergs take between 50 and 90 days to mature.
Similar to collard greens, kale prefers cool temperatures. Spray kale with cooking spray and roast it in a hot oven for a few minutes.
Along with kale and collard greens, mustard greens can help reduce your cholesterol levels. They pack the most benefits when lightly cooked, rather than raw.
Also known as broccoli rabe, rapini is commonly used in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean. It has a nutty, slightly bitter taste that resembles broccoli.
A favorite in salads, romaine lettuce is crisp and hardy, and stands up well to dressings and salad toppings.
One of the most reliable leafy greens for the home garden. Choose the smooth-leafed kind for easier washing. Wash spinach two or three times to remove the sand and grit that sticks to it.
Chards come in a rainbow of colors. The tender stalks are edible, as well as the leaves.
Similar to beets, turnip greens have a robust flavor, which improves with a touch of frost.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is an aquatic or semi-aquatic perennial herb that has an extremely high nutritional value. Not easy to grow yourself, but delicious and healthy to eat.
Want to learn more about green leafy vegetables?
Don’t miss these resources:
Leafy Green Vegetables from University of Virginia
Growing Leafy Greens in the Home Garden from University of Illinois Extension.
A Visual Guide to Cooking Greens from Epicurious
Did we miss any leafy greens? Leave a comment and let us know!
Robert Angell says
There is no Vitamin A in any vegetable. Betacarotene, yes. However betacarotene must be split by an enzyme which about 15% of the population does not have. Those folks can eat carrots and leafy greens till they turn orange and they will sicken from Vitamin A deficiency. Often – cancer.
The gardening channel must correct this misinformation, which is literally life threatening for many folks. To repeat: there NO vitamin A in any vegetable. None.
We are able to improve our enzyme count, so please don’t lose sight!
Ellie A says
This is just not true…numerous articles on Healthline (a verifiable health website) have stated that there many vegetables containing vitamin A.
For example, this article has a list of vegetables & fruits high in it:
Sweet potatoes, for example, contain 204% the daily value of vitamin A. Kale contains 98% of the daily value. Plenty of veggies are naturally high in vitamin A.
May I also mention, that vegan vitamin A supplements exist. These are packed with vitamin A, which comes from spinach, broccoli, squash, kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and yes, carrots.
No one is dying from a lack of vitamin A in vegetables – vegetables and fruits (plant foods) are the original source of all vitamins and minerals (this is where the animals you eat get their vitamins and minerals from). I have never heard of anyone, including those who eat only plant-based, not being able to get vitamin A from vegetables. Please do your research next time before making false claims like this.
A healthy (and not nutrient-deficient) vegan.
“Ellie” next time read seriously before reply, the claim of the original post is right vegetable contain no retinol aka the active form of vitamin A but a precursor called beta carotene which can eventualy convert to retinol if you have the right gene but if you have trouble for the conversion best to not eat too many carrot or other colorful vegetables.
dixie l fleege says
There is a green in Italy called herbette or pistiche looks very similar to a mustard or collard green. Have you ever heard of this?
Tammy Marie Pinkney says
I would like to have different kinds of recipes for dark green vegetables are any kind of greens for extremely healthy eating and nutrition the more green we eat the extremely better for our diet wow that is amazingly wonderful please and thank you
I found a leafy medium green plant that lies close to the ground. The larger leaves at the bottom are approximately 6 inches & 1 1/2 inches at the middle. The leaf tapers at both ends. It is a flat leaf with the main stem vein going down the middle. The edges are not smooth, but go in & back out every 1/4″ to 1/2 inch. The plant has layered leaves, with the largest leaves on the bottom & as more layers grow, the smallest are at the top. The plant height is only 2-3 inches.
I am wondering if this green is edible. It is not one I have ever seen.
I’m on Coumadin, I can’t eat any leafy greens, is broccoli & Brussel sprouts considered in the same category. Do you have a LIST and break down of what the amount of each above content is weather cooked, raw, steamed or baked. My Dr. says I can eat the above only if I eat the same amount of any of the above every day. That is why I’m asking for any type of break down you can provide for me. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Ex: Spinach has way more of something vs lettuce. Thank you in advance, please have a Blessed Day.
Is watercress considered a leafy green?
Are green & read leaf lettuce, and watercress considered leafy greens?
ALAN STROM says
Looks like Broccoli is the only one I could stomach or disguise amongst other foods.
All the others appear disgusting to me.
I suppose I could put them all in a blender and hold my nose as I skolled them.
Ross Barranco says
Missing: Bok Choy; Boston Lettuce; Endive; Iceberg Lettuce; and Watercress.