What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than to spend some time checking out the powerhouse greens of the vegetable world: dark green leafy vegetables. They are such low-calorie carriers of nutrients that it’s a shame we don’t eat them more often. We’ve compared some below to highlight the nutrients they bring to the table.
Dark Green Leafy Veg Showdown (1 cup raw serving)
Highest in Lutein
- Winner: Kale – 26,498 mcg
- Runner-up: Dandelion greens – 7,486 mcg
Dark green leafy veggies contain lutein, a nutrient that guards against age-related macular degeneration and has a protective effect against heart disease and stroke. The amount of lutein in kale is seven times what you get from an equivalent serving of spinach.
Richest in Folate – It’s a tie!
- Winner: Turnip greens – 107 mcg and mustard greens – 105 mcg
- Runner-up: Spinach – 58 mcg and collard greens – 60 mcg
Folate is important in the production and maintenance of new cells; it is one of the most-needed nutrients in infancy and pregnancy. It also plays a role in the prevention of anemia and cancer.
Most Vitamin K
- Winner: Kale – 547 mcg
- Runner-up: Dandelion greens – 428 mcg
Dark green leafy vegetables are generally high in fat-soluble Vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting. Just for comparison, an equal amount of spinach contains 145 mcg.
Top for Vitamin C
- Winner: Kale – 80 mg
- Runner-up: Mustard greens – 39 mg, turnip greens – 33 mg, bok choy – 32 mg
We often associate Vitamin C with fruits, but it turns out some of the dark green leafy veggies also contain a respectable amount of this well-known antioxidant.
Packed with Vitamin A
- Winner: Kale – 10,302 IU (515 mcg_RAE)
- Runner-up: Turnip greens – 6,373 IU (318 mcg_RAE)
Vitamin A plays a huge role in vision health, and is also important in bone growth, reproduction and skin health. It also helps the immune system to fight off infections.
The Bottom Line
While it’s great to stock up on broccoli and spinach, there are so many more types of dark green leafy vegetables out there just waiting to be discovered. Kale, for example, contains mind-boggling amounts of lutein, Vitamin K, and Vitamin A, while dandelion greens provide a reason to look at this common weed in a new light! Note that many of the lesser-known greens have a stronger flavor, some of them bitter, so it is best to quickly blanch them in boiling salted water before preparing them for other dishes.
- Nutrition Faceoff: Kale vs. Spinach
- Five Different Ways of Cooking Green Leafy Veggies
- Nutrition 101: Vitamin E
- Benefits of Lutein in Eye Disease Prevention – Macular Degeneration and Cataract
- Collard Greens: Health Benefits and How-To