Eating more fruits and vegetables is a common goal among all healthy eaters. But if you’ve mastered the art of creating a colorful plate of produce for nutrient-dense meals, it’s time to take your nutrition goals to the next level. That’s right, it’s time to focus on your leafy greens game! Increase your knowledge with this leafy greens list to learn how each variety can add different flavors and nutrients into your meals.
Kale is a powerhouse leafy green known for supplying vitamin K, but it also serves as a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. It’s grown and harvested in the colder months until temperatures are as low as 20 degrees F, resulting in its sweet, nutty flavor.
Kale comes in several varieties, such as curly, red Russian and Tuscan, and it’s available whole or chopped in the refrigerated produce section at your grocery store. You may also find dehydrated kale in the same aisle as nuts, seeds and dehydrated fruit. Try kale raw, baked, sautéed, roasted or stewed. Let these recipes inspire different ways to prepare kale.
- “Cheesy” Kale Chips
- Homemade Creamy Turmeric Dressing with Massaged Kale Salad
- Tuscan Kale & White Bean Soup
Arugula is best known for its peppery taste and versatile use. It contains a good source of calcium, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C and is best planted in spring and early fall. Common varieties include astro, Italian rocket and selvatica.
Find arugula in the refrigerated produce section of your grocery store, and try it raw or cooked. Arugula’s peppery taste makes it a great addition to sandwiches, or blend an arugula purée to add to pasta sauce. Check out these arugula-inspired recipes.
- Pear and Walnut Flatbread with Gorgonzola, Arugula and Balsamic Glaze
- Meatballs with Arugula Soup
- Peach, Arugula and Basil Pesto Pasta Salad
Spinach is one of the most versatile leafy greens. It can be planted in spring, fall and even winter, and you can buy it canned, frozen or fresh. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, riboflavin and magnesium.
The spinach plant comes in multiple varieties but is categorized into three main groups based on leaf attributes: savoy, semi-savoy and smooth-leaf spinach. Spinach has a light, sweet and herby flavor but can become bitter if overcooked. Add it to soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, pasta, smoothies or hide it in your kid’s next breakfast. Let these recipes inspire your next meal.
Turnip, mustard and collard greens
Growing up in the south we always had “greens” on the table, and depending on whose house you visited it might be mustard greens, collard greens or turnip greens. Greens contain fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. Greens tend to have bitter, peppery notes, and you can find them frozen, fresh or canned.
Unlike the more delicate leafy greens, these fibrous, robust greens require more cooking. Greens are commonly simmered on the stove to cook away the bitter flavor. To clean fresh greens, soak them in water for a few minutes to remove sand and dirt.
Greens can be sautéed or blended into a sauce, but the most common method of cooking greens is to simmer on the stove or in a slow cooker with broth. Ham hock is traditionally used for flavor, but using bones and both broth can add flavor with less fat. Top your greens with hot sauce (my favorite), vinegar or enjoy them plain. Let these recipes inspire you to add greens to your next meal.
- Collards and White Bean Brown Rice Skillet
- Ginger Pork and Mustard Green Soup
- Turnip Green Dip with Artichoke Hearts
Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage commonly found in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines. The entire vegetable can be eaten, from the white bottoms to the green leaves, and it has a mild flavor similar to cabbage. It is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.
If adding bok choy to a garden, fall and early spring are ideal times for growing. Eat this vegetable raw, boiled, sautéed, pickled, roasted, grilled or baked. It’s delicious on its own or paired with a main dish. Trying bok choy for the first time? Let these recipes inspire!
- Smoked Chicken Curry with Baby Bok Choy
- Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables
- Sheet Pan Sesame Salmon and Bok Choy
Swiss chard is considered a part of the beet family and is entirely edible from stem to leaf. The stems add a colorful burst to any dish and are usually red, pink or yellow. They’re as nutritious as they are colorful, providing magnesium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Swiss chard has a similar taste profile to spinach, but once cooked, the taste transforms to salty sweet. It grows best in spring and fall and can be cooked several different ways. The most common way to cook Swiss chard is by sautéing on the stove. Let these recipes inspire you to use Swiss chard in a new way.
- Swiss Chard Soup with Chicken Sausage
- Gluten-Free Swiss Chard Sushi
- Mo’s Nutty Rainbow Swiss Chard Smoothie
Many vegetables have leafy tops that are usually chopped off and discarded, but think twice next time you’re chopping. Many vegetables have edible leafy tops. These include carrots, beets, radishes and celery.
When purchasing these vegetables with intent to use the tops in recipes, ensure the leafy portions are not wilted or yellow. Leafy tops have similar vitamins and minerals to their bottom halves, which include vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K. They are a delicious addition to soups and pesto, or they’ll add a pop of flavor to any salad.
- Roasted Beets and Beet Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette
- Beet Green Pesto with Goat Cheese Appetizer
- Roasted Mediterranean Salad with Potatoes, Radishes & Olives
Leafy greens are a must have for any style of eating. They provide a powerhouse of nutrients and are naturally low in sodium, fat, sugar and cholesterol. Boost the nutrients in your next meal. Just add in a leafy green!