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The 7 Best Greens for Your Health (And How to Cook With Them)
With all the hype surrounding kale, it's easy to forget that there are other greens with major nutritional benefits that are also supremely tasty. Spolier alert: There are. We rounded up seven of 'em (including that cool kid, kale) and asked Amanda Cohen, the award-winning chef behind New York City's Dirt Candy vegetarian restaurant, to supply fresh cooking ideas.
Both green Swiss chard and the rainbow variety of the earthy bitter vegetable are nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they rich in dietary fiber, but they deliver more than 700 percent of your daily vitamin K (important in building strong bones and preventing heart disease) and more than 200 percent of your daily vitamin A (which supports good vision) in each cup.
Try It: "Instead of throwing away the stems, slice them finely and blanch them, then shock them in cold water. Let them pickle in lime juice and salt for at least 48 hours," suggests Cohen, who likes to use them as a garnish.
There's a reason kale remains one of the buzziest superfoods on the block: This leafy green brings 659 percent of daily vitamin A and more than 900 percent of your recommended daily value (RDV) of vitamin K in a single cup. Kale also supplies more iron per ounce than beef does when it's cooked and contains 45 types of flavonoids, which all have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Try It: "To give kale a meaty, rounded flavor, toss it with oil and salt, then grill until it turns bright green and forms char marks," Cohen says.
You can get more than a quarter of your reccomended daily calcium intake and two days' worth of vitamin K from just a cup of this broccoli and Brussels sprout cousin (they're all part of the brassicas family). Other benefits include almost half of your daily value of folate, an especially important nutrient for moms-to-be, and a mega-dose of cancer-fighting sulforaphane.
Try It: "Take raw collards and fold the leaves tightly, then slice them very thin and serve with a lemon vinaigrette, or add them to your salad to give it some texture," Cohen suggests.
Swapping in this crunchy lettuce in place of your usual iceberg will add twice the protein and calcium, three times the vitamin K and four times the iron to your salad. Need more convincing? It'll also add eight times the amount of vitamin C.
Try It: "This is another green that actually grills very nicely," Cohen says.
Cruciferous veggies FTW again. Glucosinolates—compounds that the body transforms into cancer-fighting sulforophanes and indoles—are the biggest reason to eat this slightly bitter green, which is also called rapini. It also delivers more than 50 percent of the average person's daily requirement for vitamins A and C, both of which fight off cell-damaging free radicals.
Try It: "Set your oven on its lowest possible temperature and lay out the broccoli rabe leaves on a cookie sheet," says Cohen. "Let them dehydrate until they're crispy, and you can eat them as a snack or crumble them over a salad."
Though a cup of these greens comes with almost one-fifth of the RDV of calcium (197 milligrams), that's not their most significant health benefit—turnip greens also contain almost 300 milligrams of potassium, which boosts endurance and overall muscle strength. They're also high in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to lower blood pressure.
Try It: Cohen likes to sauté turnip greens quickly with garlic and serve them alongside turnips themselves.
In addition to being a great source of vitamins K and A, these peppery greens have high levels of glucosinates, which may help prevent the development of certain types of cancer, including lung and colon.
Try It: Watercress is great in salads and sandwiches, but Cohen's trick turns it into a tasty, splurge-worthy snack: "Make a basic batter out of seltzer and flour, then dip the watercress into it in fistfuls. Drop each bunch into a pot of oil at 350 degrees and fry them," says Cohen.
Don't toss the leafy stems if you buy whole beets: One half-cup packs a wealth of calcium, iron, and vitamin A, as well as 30 percent of the RDV of immunity-boosting vitamin C.
Try It: Cohen uses beet greens to up her pesto game, and so should you: "Blanch the greens, then shock them in cold water. Add them to a food processor with olive oil, garlic and pistachios and pulse until they form a rough paste. Serve with the beets."