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Everyone knows that green vegetables are good for your health. They’re low in calories, but a rich source of essential nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin A, a variety of minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants. But not all green vegetables are created equal.
If you just ate iceberg lettuce and cucumbers, you would miss out on a whole lot of nutritional goodness. To make the most out of your daily vegetable intake, here are 9 of the world’s healthiest green vegetables.
One cup of broccoli contains over 200% of your daily vitamin K needs, 123% of vitamin C, and a considerable amount of manganese (1). But broccoli isn’t just a superfood due to its vitamin and mineral content.
As a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is rich in a powerful beneficial compound called sulforaphane. Researchers have found that sulforaphane can reduce inflammation, promote detoxification, and even cut down the risk of cancer by up to 40% (2, 3).
To maximize the sulforaphane content, either cut the broccoli into tiny pieces or chew it thoroughly. This helps convert the glucosinolate in broccoli into sulforaphane.
Watercress is a champion among super green vegetables. This flavorful leafy green is so healthy the US Centers for Disease Control ranked watercress number one in nutrient density out of over 40 different superfoods (4).
Just one cup of watercress provides over 100% of your daily vitamin K needs—a fat-soluble vitamin essential for healthy bones and blood clotting. Research suggests that consuming vitamin K-dense foods can reduce the risk of certain cancers (5, 6). Another study found that eating around two cups of watercress per day reduced DNA damage associated with cancer by 17% (7).
Popeye was right about spinach. It’s one of the healthiest green vegetables out there, so long as it’s organic. That’s because conventionally-grown spinach often tops the list for pesticide content.
Aside from being free of toxic pesticides, one cup of organic spinach provides 56% of your daily vitamin A and 100% of your vitamin K needs (10).
Spinach is also packed with disease-fighting antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein. These two antioxidants are associated with a decreased risk of cancer (11). Other evidence suggests that spinach can help lower your blood pressure due to its potassium and dietary nitrate content (12).
While they may not be very popular due to their bitter taste, dandelion greens are an exceptional source of vitamin A, C, and K. Just one cup provides a whopping 535% of your daily vitamin K and 112% of your vitamin A (13).
They also have some calcium, iron, and manganese. Dandelion greens are rich in antioxidants and compounds that can fight inflammation, making them a good salad topping (14).
When cooked right, asparagus delivers both exceptional flavor and nutrition. Just one cup of asparagus provides around 180% of your daily vitamin K needs, 73% of your daily vitamin C, and a hefty dose of folate (15).
Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that have the world divided. People tend to either love them or hate them. But we can all agree that brussels spouts are a powerful superfood.
One cup of brussels sprouts has over 200% of your daily vitamin K, 132% of your daily vitamin C needs, and some folate (18). Brussels sprouts are also high in fiber, omega-3s, and sulforaphane.
If you can’t stomach the taste of brussels sprouts, don’t steam or microwave them; instead try roasting them with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper. When prepared this way, they taste like a whole new vegetable.
While a mainstay in traditional Japanese or Korean food, seaweed is less common in western culture. Which means you could be missing out on great flavor and a nutritional powerhouse.
A cup of raw seaweed provides about 40% of your daily folate requirements, and seaweed such as dulse and kelp are also packed with minerals like magnesium, iron, and calcium (19).
Seaweed also contains antioxidants to slow down aging, polysaccharides to support a healthy gut, and iodine for optimal thyroid function. To try seaweed, start with seaweed salad or dried seaweed snacks. Alternatively, you can find it in this organic green juice powder.
Cilantro is a popular herb in cooking thanks to its distinctive fresh and bright taste. Studies suggest it provides a wide range of health benefits.
Perhaps the most unique property of cilantro is its ability to help remove toxic heavy metals from your body—what scientists refer to as chelation (20). One animal-based study, for example, suggests that cilantro can hasten how quickly your body gets rid of lead (21).
If you choose to eat more cilantro for its detoxification properties, it’s best to combine it with a natural mineral called zeolite, which can bind to a wide range of heavy metals, even those found throughout the body.
And last, but certainly not least, there’s spirulina which is a blue-green alga that grows in water. While algae may not be your idea of a green vegetable, spirulina is a superfood by all accounts.
Ounce-for-ounce, spirulina is so nutrient dense that some organizations propose it’s the solution to malnutrition in developing countries (22). Beyond nutrition, scientists have found that spirulina can lower blood sugar levels, improve cardiovascular health, and even help counteract the toxic effects of heavy metals found in drinking water (23, 24)
Green vegetables are an amazing source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But if you want to make the most out of your daily vegetable intake, pick the green vegetables that contain the most beneficial nutrients.
If you have trouble meeting the 5 servings per day recommendation, or if you find it hard to stomach eating some of the veggies here, then a green juice powder may be your best bet. That way you can easily fill in any nutritional gaps, without obsessing over your daily vegetable intake.