December 12, 2017
Spinach

Greens: Nutrient Powerhouses

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

The term “cooking greens” refers to a group of leafy green vegetables from several different plant families that are distinguished by their pungent bite and abundant nutrients. For many years, cooking greens were primarily a staple of Southern-style cuisine. More recently, likely because of their nutritional merits, cooking greens have grown popular throughout the country. Chefs find their assertive flavors appealing, and the greens have found a new and appreciative audience at farmers’ markets.

Types of Cooking Greens

Most of these greens can be eaten raw when young, but as they mature, their strong flavors benefit from brief cooking.

Cooking greens: Nutrition

To reap the highest rewards from leafy greens, look for the darkest greens. Many types of intensely colored leafy plants—especially kale, collards, and others in the cabbage family—are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and other substances that may help protect against cancer, heart disease, and a host of other conditions.

Cooking greens are also good sources of fiber and of various minerals, particularly iron and calcium. For particularly good sources of calcium, collards and turnip greens top the charts. In some countries, including many in Asia where vegetarian diets are more prevalent, many people rely almost entirely on greens for their calcium intake. It should be noted that beet greens, spinach, and Swiss chard also contain substances called oxalates, which reduces absorption of minerals, but they don’t block them completely. Still, this is no reason to throw away these greens. They are rich sources of beta carotene, an important health-promoting carotenoid.

See our recipe forSauteed Greens.

How to Choose the Best Cooking Greens

Choose smaller-leaved plants for their tenderness and mild flavor. Look for a fresh green color—leaves should not be yellowed or wilted.

Vitamin K interactions

People who take blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) are sometimes told to avoid greens with Vitamin K. In fact, they don’t need to shun these greens. It’s more important to keep a consistent diet, and eat greens moderately, regularly. Don’t suddenly switch to a diet high in greens. If you take blood-thinners, the National Institutes of Health suggests eating no more than ½ cup a day of chard, collards, kale, mustard greens, or spinach.

For a full listing of nutrients, see the National Nutrient Database:

How to store cooking greens

Wrap unwashed greens in damp paper towels, then place them in a plastic bag. Store them in the refrigerator crisper. Sturdy greens, such as collards, keep better than delicate greens such as spinach.

See our recipe for: Broiled Scallops with Baby Spinach.

7 Ideas for Cooking Greens

Cooking greens are nutritious and delicious in spicy salads, frittatas, and soups, or simply sautéed in olive oil.

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