We all know that vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. Not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but they can also be easily incorporated into almost any meal.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025 recommends that Americans vary their vegetable intake, highlighting dark green vegetables as a key category.
Whether tossing them into your omelette, blending them into a smoothie, or sneaking them into a burrito, dark green leafy vegetables are the perfect vehicle for adding nutrients to any dish.
To learn more about the best green leafy vegetables to eat every day, we consulted members of the medical expert board. Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, also known as the twins of nutrition. Read on to see what these registered dietitians had to say. Then for more healthy eating tips, check out The #1 Best Vegetable for Lowering Blood Sugar.
This leafy green probably isn’t in your usual vegetable rotation, but it should be.
“One of the reasons these vegetables are so powerful is that they help increase bile flow, break down fats, aid digestion, and support the liver, protecting it and helping it filter potentially harmful chemicals from food,” The Nutrition Twins say.
Packed with antioxidants like beta-carotene, dandelion leaves have been shown to protect against cell damage, which can ultimately help prevent chronic disease. Additionally, its rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin support eye health, while its vitamin C and K content helps promote bone health. And that’s not all these green leafy vegetables can do.
“One of their true superpower qualities is that they are a rich source of gut-friendly prebiotics, thanks to their inulin,” says The Nutrition Twin. “They enhance intestinal production of ‘good’ bifidobacteria, which helps boost immune function and may even help prevent cancer.”
Bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable, which means it is in the same family as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
“Cruciferous vegetables reduce cancer risk and contain carcinogen-fighting nutrients like vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, folate, and selenium, which have been shown to slow tumor growth,” says The Nutrition Twins.
In addition to being packed with bone-strengthening vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin K, bok choy is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that has been linked to reducing inflammation and protecting against disease Chronicles.
For a nutrient-rich meal, The Nutrition Twins suggests chopping up this leafy green and adding it to a stir fry.
If you’re bored with broccoli, why not try broccoli sprouts?
These leafy greens are 3-5 day old broccoli plants with small green leaves that resemble alfalfa sprouts. While they offer the same number of calories and macronutrients per ounce as broccoli, they contain about 100 times more glucoraphanin.
“…when chewed or cut, [glucoraphanin] is converted to the superstar phytochemical sulforaphane, which has powerful anti-cancer effects, including promoting the death of cancer cells [and] reducing inflammation and susceptibility to cancer-causing toxins,” says The Nutrition Twins. “Sulforaphane increases detoxifying enzymes in the liver, and may even help turn off certain genes involved in cancer.”
This cruciferous vegetable has a slightly tangy and tangy flavor, along with a host of health benefits.
According to a ranked list of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) crowned watercress the most nutrient-dense vegetable. This means that it contains the most nutrients in the least amount of calories. Therefore, this green is especially helpful when it comes to disease prevention and weight loss.
Additionally, The Nutrition Twins notes that watercress contains high amounts of fiber that promotes digestion, vitamin C that supports the immune system, glucosinates that prevent disease, and more.
“One of the highlights of this powerhouse is its vitamin K, an extremely important (and overlooked) critical nutrient for bone health,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Just one cup (34 grams) of watercress provides more than 100% of the [recommended daily intake] for vitamin K.
Since this leafy green is so versatile, The Nutrition Twins recommends adding it to salads, soups, stir-fries, and even pizza.
Spinach is packed with carotenoids, which help “scavenge” free radicals known to create cell damage, The Nutrition Twins explain. They also point out that research has shown these green leafy vegetables protect against cancers of the stomach, colon, mouth, and esophagus.
As a rich source of potassium, spinach has been linked to lower blood pressure, while its lutein content has been linked to improved cognitive function. And beyond its nutritional benefits, this vegetable boasts a versatile flavor profile.
“Spinach is so smooth it’s like a chameleon, and it can be mixed into foods like smoothies and be undetectable, making it the perfect vegetable for people who have a hard time enjoying green vegetables,” says The Nutrition Twins. .