Same old salad got you down? Ditch the usual green lettuce, spinach, and kale, and build your next salad on a less common bed of greens. There are many leafy options you might not have tried or thought of, and some of them are just as nutritious (or more nutritious!) than the usual suspects.
Green leafy organic vegetables are a must for a healthy diet. Why? Because they're abundant in vital nutrients and don’t have many calories, which is a win-win for our health. They’re also rich sources of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber. And what keeps us healthy on the inside also keeps our hair and skin in tip-top shape.
But salads can get boring if we stick to the same old thing. Sure, lettuce has nutritional value too, like vitamins A and C. But many of the greens you pass by at the grocery store have much more to offer, and they’re not all the same. Eating a variety of leafy greens is the best way to take full advantage of what these veggies provide.
So if you’re ready to branch out, check out this list of ten less common greens (with a list of their most abundant nutrients) for a nutrient-packed medley.
- Dandelion greens
Those pesky bright yellow flowers that sprout up where you least expect it come with amazing health benefits. While you can actually eat all parts of the plant, we’ll focus on the leaves. Dandelion leaves are used medicinally as a diuretic and help with digestion. As a leafy green, they make a great salad base, though they’re bitter, so you might prefer to mix them in with other greens. You can also sauté them with oil and other spices. They’re high in the following vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, B6), Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Copper, Manganese
- Collard greens
You don’t have to live in the Southern U.S. to enjoy collard greens. You can find them everywhere. Collards are in the cabbage family, along with kale, and are a winter green. Most commonly eaten warm sauteed in oil, they also make a great salad addition raw. And like other dark leafy greens, they are a bit bitter when raw, but not as much as kale. An excellent source of the following:
Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese
- Mustard greens
Mustard greens have a distinctive peppery flavor and are great raw in a salad or sauteed with garlic and oil. You can find them at most grocery stores and farmers’ markets or Asian grocery stores. They’re in season in the cooler months. Mustards are excellent sources of the following:
Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Iron, Calcium, Manganese
- Swiss Chard
Chard is a relative of the beet and tastes similar to spinach. It’s considered a winter green and you can usually find it all year. The rainbow type adds beautiful colors to your meal. It’s delicious raw or sauteed, like many of the other greens. It’s also rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants that help fight damage caused by free radicals. Plus, it’s high in the following:
Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Copper, Manganese
Seaweed has reached superfood status recently because of its impressive nutrient profile. There are various kinds of seaweed out there, though, so the nutrition depends on the type. Seaweed is generally high in a lot of nutrients other vegetables aren’t, like iodine and protein, and some even have vitamin D and B12. Have you tried seaweed salad? Seaweed contains the following:
Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Folate, Iodine, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium
Endive is part of the chicory family and is fully loaded with nutrition. The name can be confusing because it has many varieties, like Belgian endive, escarole, and frisee. They either come in flat, broad leaves or curly leaves like frisee. The flat leaf type is tougher and is best sauteed or in soups. Frisee is excellent in salads and salad mixes. And it contains a very high amount of many nutrients, like:
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid), Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese
These tiny little greens sprout from the seeds of various plants, though broccoli microgreens are one of the most nutritious. (One thing to note is that microgreens are not the same as sprouts.) They’re easy to grow yourself, and they grow quickly. Even though they’re small, they’re mighty in nutritional value, often more than their mature veggie counterparts. Try a microgreen salad to mix things up. They are generally high in:
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Copper
- Beet greens
Do you toss the leaves when you buy beets? You might want to think twice next time. They’re filled with goodness! In addition to vitamins and minerals, they contain a decent amount of lutein and beta-carotene, which support eye health. They can be eaten raw or sauteed. Beet greens also have a high amount of the following:
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese
This leafy green is often used as a garnish but can impress on its own. It’s part of the cruciferous vegetable family, like kale and cabbage. Watercress is loaded with antioxidants (like beta-carotene and other carotenoids) and other phytonutrients that may help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. It has a peppery flavor and can be prepared in many ways, cooked or raw. Here are the top nutrients in watercress:
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese
- Turnip greens
Probably one of the least common on the list, this leafy green has been studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits and antimicrobial properties. Though the white roots of the plant are more popular, the leaves hold considerably more nutrients. They’re also part of the cruciferous family and have disease-fighting abilities similar to watercress, kale, broccoli, and cabbage. They can be grown in spring or fall. Turnip greens are high in the following:
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Calcium, Copper, Manganese
While dark leafy greens as a group share many of the same nutrients and health benefits, there are some differences in what they provide. So changing things up with a variety of greens gives you optimal amounts of nutrients to boost your health. Salads are a great way to get your greens, but you can eat them in many other ways than raw. Try adding them to soups and smoothies to get even more greens in your diet. You’ll find many greens available all year round too!