Leafy greens are the number one food you can eat regularly to help improve your health. Green leafy vegetables are brimming with fiber, minerals, vitamins, and numerous plant-based substances that may help protect you from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other illnesses. Dark green leafy vegetables are consumed by Americans on average of only once or twice per week yet are one of the most inexpensive sources of many important nutrients.

Here’s a guide to help you eat green this winter! If you’re hesitant, start with the milder tasting beginner greens. Then you can incorporate the intermediate greens into salads, smoothies, and juicing!

Beginner Greens

· Spinach has a delicate mild flavor that helps improve red blood cell function, strengthen bones, regulate heart rate, and quench free radicals.

· Green leaf lettuce is very versatile, inexpensive and mild. Because it contains generous amounts of vitamin A it is a great choice to improve vision.

· Red leaf lettuce has a very mild flavor, contains many antioxidant compounds, and is also inexpensive.

· Romaine lettuce helps build healthy bones, eyes, skin and mucus membranes. Its nutrients also help promote heart health, and prevent stroke.

· Iceberg lettuce is the least nutritious of all the greens. However, it is not a useless green. It has been shown to help combat heart disease, anemia, and age-related illnesses.

Intermediate Greens

· Kale is the most nutrient dense green leafed vegetable. It offers everything you could possibly want in a green! Kale aids in blood clotting, fighting cancer, and promoting healthy vision.

· Swiss chard helps maintain connective tissue, control blood sugar levels, prevent anemia, control a healthy heart rate, and boost immunity.

· Turnip greens are loaded with calcium, and vitamins A, C and K. Consuming turnip greens help boost immune defenses against cancer and illness, help build healthy bones, combat anemia, and enhance collagen synthesis.

· Arugula inhibits cancer growth as well as helps to build healthy bones, and improve immune defenses.

· Collard greens help to lower LDL cholesterol levels, help the immune system protect against viral and bacterial infection, regulate blood sugar, and protect against osteoporosis.

· Mustard greens prevent arthritis and anemia, offer protection against cancerous growths, lower LDL cholesterol, and battle the onset of heart disease.

Branch out and eat more greens!

By Darci Joy Steiner, MS

A similar version of this article first appeared in the May, 2013 issue of Colorado Community Media


    1. All types of lettuce leaves each have something a little different to offer. The darker the green, the more nutritional value it has. Mixing up the kinds, variety, is best of all!

  1. I did not know there was so much to know about greens. I certainly do need to branch out. I spend most of my time eating beginner greens and occasionally I will eat kale! Thanks for the information!

    1. Thanks for reading Branch Out and Eat Green! I think most people stay in the beginner greens. My husband and I saute some of the darker greens with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. They are delicious sauteed!

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