I recently did a show on a whole OTHER type of greens. This one though is about what are the best greens you should include in your diet.
This is where variety gets important and if you’ve been eating the same old red and green leaf lettuce or romaine it’s time to step your game up. In this show, I’m going to run down in order what the best greens are and what makes them so beneficial. They really should be the cornerstone of your diet and you should be aiming for double-digit servings of them each day.
So grab a hunk of swiss chard and listen up to get your learning on so you know what are the best greens for you.
And to avoid the Jolly Green giant giving you a pummeling.
In This Episode On What Are The Best Greens You Should Eat You’ll Learn:
- Why greens are so crucial in the first place
- Why specifically the colour green is so nutritious
- Why your usual choices might not be the best
- Why kale is the king of all greens
- The Popeye classic
- Greens you thought were garnishes but you should eat more of
- A few choices you may never have heard of
- How to put these all together in salads
What Are The Best Greens You Should Be Eating
Greens are maybe one of those things which you are hopefully eating. But sometimes you might wonder why you even need to eat them in the first place, how are they really helping you, and what’s actually going on behind all this stuff. So today, we’ll primarily be talking about all that and why all greens aren’t equal to one another.
So, in general, you would want to go for dark, leafy greens. On a daily basis, you should be aiming for double-digit servings of non-starchy vegetables each day.
You should go easy on the rice and potatoes and include a rainbow of different colored veggies instead. But when it comes to greens, you want to go for especially dark green colored veggies. In short, the darker the green, the healthier and better it is.
We’re going to cover all sorts of things like kale and arugula. You could stick with the same thing all the time, say just kale or spinach, which is great, but it’s still going to differ in the vitamin and mineral content that they have.
So, it’s not like one green is superior above all others; there’s a couple of front runners, but ideally, there’s a variety, and you should be exposing yourself to as many things as possible.
Some of the greens mentioned in this article will be ones you’re already familiar with. If not, you can get some more information from health.com. They do tons of research and breakdowns of specific ingredients and why they’re so good, etc.
If you had to choose a green from the top of your head, it’d probably be kale. Kale ihas sort of been a darling in the nutrition world. It’s actually because of how vigorous and strong kale is in holding up dressings and salads and food items of that sort.
Chefs love working with it because it’s just so robust and how it holds its shape over time.
But it’s obviously not trending for just that reason. For those who don’t know, kale has a huge content of vitamins and minerals. For one cup of kale, you’re going to be looking at only 33 calories or so, six grams of carbs, one gram of fiber, and surprisingly, three grams of proteins.
This is a decent number of vitamins. You can get your daily requirement of Vitamins A, C, and K from Kale. Plus, it’s a great cancer-fighting vegetable.
It’s also high in phytonutrient. Again, the darker green you can get, usually the higher phytonutrient content in it due to its naturally heavy chlorophyll. So, these are natural chemicals in our body that have the ability to help fight some of those diseases like heart disease. So, it’s a little higher in calories, not that these calories are an issue whatsoever, but just that it’s a little more substantial than other greens. And at the same time, besides those vitamins, mineral wise, it’s going to provide a good dose of iron, calcium and also potassium.
It honestly is the best base for any salad because it goes with a lot of stuff. And like mentioned before, it holds dressings well, and it goes well with some other robust ingredients like roasted squash.
And it’s good as bed nuts, seeds and all sorts of beans. They’re very hearty, so it mixes well with other hearty ingredients. So not only is it versatile and very usable, it’s probably got the best nutrition out there. It’s probably at the top of the list here for greens.
Second to kale is spinach. Unlike kale, however, this is easier to turn into a smoothie too. Not that you can’t blend kale, but honestly, it’d be a nightmare unless you’ve got a 9000 dollars Vita-Mix that can literally pulverize anything and everything. Kale, in this case, is a little hard to break down. However, spinach is just awesome for smoothies and stuff like that.
The only problem with green smoothies is that greens, in general, can go bad really quick. Apparently, the average household throws away about 20 pounds of food a month, and over the course of the year, it adds up to 2000+ dollars of wasted food and produces.
The fact that it breaks down is a good indicator that we should be eating it. Food that breaks down fast indicates a high biological value, and that shows it has a lot of living enzymes in it, and can break down. And it’s better for you for digestive reasons.
Fruit, berries, and green stuff breaks down pretty quickly, so you want to get it fresh. If you can, head to the store two/three times a week so that your greens last longer.
So, a good smoothie should be a green smoothie that is based around greens, especially like spinach, because it works well. You want to be careful not to go overboard with fruit.
That sounds good when you want your smoothie to be sweeter, but the fruit does better when you eat it intact as opposed to sort of like breaking it down and using it, which just kind of elevates the high level of natural fruit sugar. If you have blood sugar issues, that can cause insulin spikes and surges and whatnot compared to the greens.
So, a good mix is using like a couple of spinach, maybe some protein powder, and ice. If you’re using some fruit, go for something that’s a little more on the lower glycemic index, like blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
If you don’t do the berries, you can do a green apple, which has lower sugar levels, but it’s got a good high fiber content. You can throw in a bit of lemon too. Lots of variations on that, but you always want it to be green-based in general.
Spinach is a little tough to portion out because you might prepare a large mound to cook to only end up with an amount that fits in the palm of your hand after it simmers down. This is because of the naturally high water content present in spinach.
Some people, in this case, recommend having raw spinach as it apparently provides a better nutritional value. On the other hand, you can also cook it at milk temperature in order to really retrieve back its nutrients.
When you’re looking at a serving of spinach for smoothies, you can go around 2 cups of that, which is about 14 calories, 2 grams of carbs, a gram and a half of fiber, and half a gram of protein.
It’s got a great nutrient profile, almost like a multivitamin. It’s got a lot of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and fiber. It’s also got probably more folic acid than most salad greens. Folic acid helps convert the food you eat into energy and also helps produce healthy red blood cells.
And again, it’s maybe even a little more versatile than the kale because it goes with a lot of stuff, and it does well in salads; it does really well with fat on it, such as goat cheese or big bass stuff. You also can throw strawberries in it for a smoothie. And it does awesome with balsamic dressings as well.
You can use some spinach, grilled chicken, and sort of cutting them into strips. Maybe throw in some red onion depending on what you’ve got at hand, and maybe a little bit of avocado too. Add some feta cheese and olive oil dressing to that, as well as some herbs like basil. Give it a toss, and there you have it! Some delicious home food.
3. Swiss Chard
The next one is a little foreign choice, but it’s always in the top list of the best greens you can eat, and that is Swiss chard. You’re probably not eating it either because you can’t find it or you don’t know what it is, but Swiss chard is a relative of the family.
It’s going to taste like spinach, and it’s getting more popular. You’ve probably seen it if you shop at Whole Foods or Farmer’s Market as it’s relatively easy to grow, and it’s being grown in more places because it’s getting popular.
Interestingly, it has a higher sodium count than other salad greens, so it’s probably not going to be an issue at all, but just worth noting. Swiss chard is loaded with vitamin A, C, K, and it’s got some calcium and some iron too.
When it comes to portioning Swiss chard for meals, you’re looking at two cups serving, which is pretty much the same as spinach.
It has 14 calories, 3 grams of carbs, a gram of fiber, and a gram of protein, so if it’s new to you, you might not want to make an entire salad based on it. Instead, you can mix it in with some other greens and some other vegetables.
When it comes to Swiss chard, you get to add more variety to it as opposed to only eating it plain like kale or spinach. So in a way, you get a lot more variety of nutrition here as well.
This might not be too familiar to you if you’re from Europe or England, but you’ll know all about it here. Some people think of it as a garnish, but it’s actually a really awesome green.
Watercress is more nutrient-rich than just regular lettuce and romaine lettuce. People usually just go for the usual romaine lettuce and whatever for salads, but it’s actually not the best choice as a majority of white romaine lettuce you get is from bags, and that isn’t all that healthy.
As mentioned before, you want to get the darkest green possible. The dark green leaves are where the actual phytonutrients are, so you can’t necessarily find them in lettuce. But on the other hand, watercress is just rich in these nutrients.
In one serving, it’s basically almost half your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, K, and C. In a serving size of two and a half cups, you get around ten calories, which is basically negligible. Coming to carbs, it’s got one gram of carbs. It’s got half a gram of fiber and two grams of protein.
It also has all these vitamins, especially Vitamin K, which has a history of its own. Basically, vitamin K creates proteins that are necessary for normal blood clotting but also helps build stronger bones and can protect against osteoporosis.
Depending on conditions or issues you have, you have to consult with doctors first, but if you’re eating, and if it’s something you’re needing, then Watercress can help with its rich Vitamin K content because technically, everyone can have benefited from increased bone strength and protection against osteoporosis.
5. Romaine Lettuce
When you usually look at romaine lettuce, it’s that white-colored one, which isn’t ideal at all. You want to find dark green romaine lettuce with really long leaves. That’s what’s good for salads. It is rich in folic acid and Vitamins C and K.
It’s not exactly a mineral powerhouse, but it’s still good enough if you get the right version of romaine lettuce as you can easily mix it up with other best dark green veggies.
Maybe throw in some Swiss chard or kale. You can blend all that up to get a high antioxidant content. Don’t go for packaged salads as they don’t really come with the nutrient stuff.
Packaged salads come with a lot of romaine salad and maybe a few baby kale and Swiss chard, but that amount isn’t enough to be nutritious. If you want to get prepackaged stuff, get salads that come with a nice blend of everything to get a wider variety.
And again, like I said, in salads, because it’s like that super-strong leaf. So it holds oils and balsamic and stuff like that very well and keeps things crisper.
When you’re looking at with Romaine, portion size is considered six leaves due to its large size. So, in that portion size, you can have 30 calories, around five and a half grams of carbs, three and a half grams of fiber, and two grams of protein.
Eating greens should not be based on eating lettuce. It does taste good, but it’s not as nutritious as the other greens mentioned above, which is why it’s further down this list.
In any case, you want to be looking for red lettuce or the greenest lettuce that you can find. It’s good because it mixes well with other ingredients.
Lettuce is a little milder on the flavor, and it’s easier for people who are picky eaters and kids. It’s a little more palatable and fresher.
Lettuce is also a bit springier, and kids tend to like this texture. So if you don’t want to jump right into other greens such as Swiss chard or whatever, start with red or green lettuce as it doesn’t have an overpowering flavor. However, you’re still gonna get that Vitamin A and K. It doesn’t come with too much fiber, but you’re still going to get some benefit from it to the least.
The other greens mentioned on this list have high fiber content. As you probably already know, the higher the fiber content in greens, the fuller you will feel after eating. This is because really fibrous greens have high water content in them too. So a huge bulk of salad will fill you up but not increase calories.
So that’s why when you mix a salad with grilled chicken, you get your protein right there too. And if you make a dressing with olive oil and whatever, there are your healthy fats, and you’ve got all four things at once, and that’s going to keep you fuller for longer.
So if you’re looking to kind of control appetite, you want to focus on this type of food. If you’re looking to watch the calories, that’s where you want to be careful with how much avocado or olive oil you use just because they naturally have high calories.
So, again, red and green lettuce is very good to kind of mix up or kind of get on the road with getting into greens. If you want to kind of want to take it gentle and nutrition-wise, we’re looking at a portion being around six leaves. Here, you’ll get 15 calories, two grams of carbs, a gram of fiber, and a gram of protein.
7. Butter Lettuce
The next one we’ll go into is butter lettuce, and no, it’s not as delicious as it sounds and, again, probably something you haven’t tried. It’s not that common. It’s like Boston lettuce, depending on where you’re from, but it does have a softer and brighter texture, but more of a slightly sweet flavor.
This lettuce looks slightly folded in. It’s bright green on the outside and yellow on the inside, and sometimes it has the roots still on it, and that helps preserve the freshness in it. So it’s a good choice because it’s low in sodium, has a good source of vitamin A, as well as that little bit of iron and a little bit of calcium.
In general, it’s another good one to throw in the mix and just sort of adding a different texture to your salad. So with this, you can take one and a half-cup portion. Here, you’ll get 11 calories, two grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber, and a gram of protein.
Arugula is one of the best because it’s technically kind of a herb but also green. It’s the perfect addition to a salad because it’s got that peppery sort of flavor, so it kind of gives your salad a bit of more spice.
The problem is, it’s not the top nutrition choice. In this case, we’re looking at more of a taste variation, but it’s got a little vitamin A and C in it, and some iron as well.
Other than that, it got some calcium, but not as much as Swiss chard or spinach. So, again, even if you like it a lot, it shouldn’t be the basis of what you’re eating. It should just be in addition to those other nutrient-dense options just to give it more of that flavor; give it a little more antioxidants.
With two cups of Arugula, you’re looking at 10 calories, gram and a half carbs, and half a gram of fiber and one gram of protein.
9. Iceberg Lettuce
Let’s finish off with the one at the bottom of the barrel, and that’s going to be iceberg lettuce. This is probably the least valuable green out there. It is actually a better choice than many other variations, but it’s not exactly ideal.
It’s just the most popular for salads because it’s fresh, crisp, and it’s relatively strong, so it holds up in salads. It’s low calorie but just doesn’t have the high nutrient totals. Honestly, the nutrients in it are barely there. However, it has a high water content in it, so in a way, it’s pretty hydrating to eat.
When we’re looking at the serving of it, a quarter of a sort of a medium-sized head of lettuce can have 19 calories, four grams of carbs, a gram and a half of fiber, and a gram of protein.
In short, it’s just not your best choice. But you’re not limited to choices here either, so you can always mix in something else with another type of green. However, make sure to stick with the kale and spinach all the time.
You can mix them up with other stuff, use different ingredients on them too. They’re easy to put together with other stuff and have a good nutrient value as well.
If you had been wondering what are the best greens to be eating you came to the right place. Hopefully, this has motivated you to try some new ones and why the old lettuce standbys might not be the best choice.
That’s not to say it’s a bad choice because you’re making the conscious decision to eat something healthy when there’s a lot of bad crap that could have been taking its place. This is ALWAYS the best place to start. The next step is to upgrade what those healthy choices are. Once you’ve been eating the regular romaine lettuce for a while you can start substituting some swiss chard in and maybe through some watercress on top. Then you can mix even more together.
This is the goal; to always be making the best choices possible and slowly improve on those choices when possible. I totally understand healthy eating is not going to be a constant thing. Life gets in the way but if you focus on making the best choices a majority of the time you’re halfway there.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
- Free Healthy Eating Starter Kit: regainedwellness.com/guide
- My Amazon #1 Book: Taking Back Your Health
- Online nutrition coaching with me: regainedwellness.com/coaching