Nature’s Superpower Food You’re Not Eating Enough Of

When you think of vegetables, what comes to mind? Carrots, celery, broccoli, potatoes?

My guess is that kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, and Romaine lettuce are not the first foods that popped into your head. The USDA’s recommendation for adults is to eat 2 and a half cups of vegetables a day which includes leafy greens. The truth is that the number one most missing foods in our processed modern diets are leafy greens! As a Fort Collins Nutritionist, when my clients hear “leafy green vegetables,” they often think of iceberg lettuce, but the ordinary, pale lettuce in restaurant salads doesn’t have the power-packed goodness of other greens.

Besides kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, and Romaine lettuce; broccoli, bok choy, napa cabbage, collard greens, watercress, broccoli rabe, spinach, arugula, endive, mesclun, wild greens, and others are all considered to be dark leafy greens.

What’s so good about dark leafy greens anyway? Nutritionally, they are the most nutrient-dense group of foods that grows on land and are loaded with:

  • Calcium width=
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K width=
  • Folic acid
  • Fiber
  • Chlorophyll
  • Enzymes
  • And other phyto-chemicals

Beyond their incredible nutrient profile, they can help you ditch cravings, increase mineralization in your body, improve circulation, boost your immune system, purify your blood, prevent cancer, and promote weight loss. Are you convinced of the superpower status of leafy greens? I hope so!

Despite their powerhouse status, many people are scared to try them. For some reason, greens seem to be intimidating but when you learn to prepare, cook, and eat leafy greens, your energy will skyrocket and you’ll be glad you gave them a try.

Aim for 1 to 3 servings of leafy greens per day or about 1.5 cups. Here are a few ideas to help you incorporate leafy greens into your diet:

1. Start with salads– add delicate greens to salads to make a colorful salad mix. (See Salad on Demand)

2. Add leafy greens to soups, stews, and pasta sauce– chop them finely if you want them to disappear.

3. Saute hearty greens like kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens with onions and garlic and serve as a side. (RECIPE: Quick and Easy Kale)

4. Toss a few leaves of greens in your fruit smoothies. (RECIPE: Strawberry Peach Sunrise Smoothie)

5. Make kale chips as a snack– yum! (RECIPE: Crispy Kale Chips)

However you choose to eat leafy greens, have fun trying new greens and new recipes!

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Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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