Green foods are crucial to our health for a plethora of reasons including their role in strengthening the immune system, cancer prevention, improved blood circulation, blood purification, lowering cholesterol, promotion of healthy intestinal flora, increased energy, detoxification through improved liver, gall bladder functions, kidney function, and even clearing congestion.
A study published by the Centers for Disease Control that ranked 47 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables,” on a scale for nutrient density with 100 points being the healthiest of all.
Because I know you will wonder “where’s the omnipresent and hyped kale”. Kale is actually not the meanest green. In fact, the CDC ranked kale at 15th (with 49.07 points out of 100). So yes, kale is considerably more nutritious than two-thirds of powerhouse fruits and vegetables. There are still healthier and economically viable options to promote greater health benefits.
Here’s the top ten that pack the best nutritional bang for your body.
SUPERFOOD #10 Collard Greens
Nutrition Score: 62.49
A staple vegetable of soul food is good for the soul. Collard greens boast incredible cholesterol-lowering benefits — especially when steamed. A report published in the journal Nutrition Research compared the effectiveness of the prescription drug Cholestyramine to steamed collards. Collards improved the body’s cholesterol-blocking process by 13 percent more than the drug. Caveat, it’s all in the preparation. The collards my grandmother prepared were a heart attack served warm. I season mine with sea salt, pepper, red chili powder, and olive oil. If you must have protein, try turkey instead of pork.
SUPERFOOD #9 Romaine Lettuce
Nutrition Score: 63.48
Romaine lettuce is a great source of folate, also sometimes called folic acid. Folate is a type of B vitamin that is used by the body to convert homocysteine, which when unconverted can lead to heart problems including damaged blood vessels and dangerous plaque build-up. Romaine lettuce nutrition also supplies vitamin A and vitamin C, two antioxidants which play a role in heart health by oxidizing cholesterol and keeping arteries strong. These antioxidants help prevent build-up in the artery walls that form plaque. They also increase blood flow, and help prevent blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
SUPERFOOD #8 Parsley
Nutrition Score: 65.59
Yes, that leafy garnish you instinctively set aside the minute the plate is placed before you. Turns out, it is packed with nutrients. Even one sprig can go a long way toward meeting your daily requirement for vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential to building strong bones and preventing heart disease. In fact, vitamin K is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten vitamin” because its major benefits are often overlooked. So the next time your dish is garnished with parsley, partake it – your heart will thank you.
SUPERFOOD #7 Leaf Lettuce
Nutrition Score: 70.73
These lettuces are high in vitamin A and offer some folate. The darker the lettuce leaf, the more nutrition it has, making red leaf slightly healthier than green. If you don’t drown lettuce in a creamy dressing, one cup contains 10 calories. Leafy greens contain a large supply of antioxidants, including beta carotene, which has been proven to both renew and repair skin. Once in the body, beta-carotene changes into vitamin A, which is necessary for good vision, a well-functioning immune system, and healthy mucous membranes.
SUPERFOOD #6 Chicory
Nutrition Score: 73.36
Chicory, sometimes known as endive or radicchio, or even escarole has been used throughout Europe for millennia as both a food and a medicine. Although chicory contains no huge amounts of any one nutrient, it can claim small amounts of the whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals; selenium and manganese are two of the main ones. The former helps regulate thyroid hormones and the immune system, while the latter supports the formation of healthy bones, tissues, and sex hormones. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) maintains normal blood sugar levels and nerves. The potassium is essential for optimum kidney function, phosphorus metabolizes proteins, sugar, and calcium
SUPERFOOD #5 Spinach
Nutrition Score: 86.43
According to the Department of Agriculture, a 180 gram serving of boiled spinach provides 6.43 mg of the muscle mineral — that’s more than a 6-ounce hamburger patty. It also contains thylakoids, a compound known to suppress appetite. Spinach is high in oxalic acid, which can bind with iron and calcium and cause your body to absorb less of these nutrients. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, capsicum, lemon juice or orange juice along with spinach can aid this absorption. Spinach is high in fiber, but too much of it can cause digestive problems such as bloating and cramping.
Spinach is also associated with an increased risk of kidney stones, but only in people who are predisposed to the condition.
SUPERFOOD #4 Beet Greens
Nutrition Score: 87.08
While many people throw away these greens and only consume their round root portion, beet greens are actually the most nutrient-rich part of the plant and provide amazing health benefits. A cup of the bitter green serves up nearly 5 grams of fiber—that’s more than you’ll find in a bowl of Quaker Oats. Just 100g of the fresh leaves contain 50% of daily-recommended levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a moderately powerful water-soluble antioxidant, which helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. I use beet greens as a salad base. They have a light texture and are a pleasing palette for any ingredients layered on top.
SUPERFOOD #3 Chard
Nutrition Score: 89.27
Some of the antioxidants found in Swiss chard include: carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin which are crucial for eye health, and flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol which act as antihistamines and reduce allergic reactions and inflammatory responses. Swiss chard is also one of the best sources of betalains, water-soluble plant pigments that have a wide range of desirable biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties
SUPERFOOD #2 Cabbage
Nutrition Score: 91.99
Cabbage is a stomach’s best friend; it’s an amazing source of fiber. Raw cabbage has also been shown to help cure stomach ulcers. It also prevents bile from absorbing fat after a meal, which lowers the overall amount of cholesterol in the body. Red cabbage is chock full of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant commonly found in blue, purple, and red plants . Studies show antioxidants can reduce inflammation, provide cancer protection, and boost brain function. Cabbage, rich in iodine, helps in proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system, along with keeping the glands of the endocrine system.
SUPERFOOD #1 Watercress
Nutrition Score: 100
According to the (CDC) journal, watercress is labeled as the most nutrient dense food, and for the same reason, it tops the list of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”.
Fresh cress has higher concentration of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) than some of the fruits and vegetables. 100 g of leaves provide 72% of RDA of vitamin C. As an anti-oxidant, vitamin C helps trap free-oxygen radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) through its reduction potential properties. It is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin K; over 200% of daily recommended intake. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limit neuronal damage in the brain; and thus, it has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Further, it is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Calcium is required as bone/teeth mineral and in the regulation of heart and skeletal muscle activity.
Regular inclusion of cress in the diet has been found to prevent osteoporosis, anemia, and vitamin-A deficiency and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.