Collard greens are a leafy, green vegetable and a member of the Brassica genus of plants, just like broccoli, cabbage, and kale. These plants are native to North America and have been a traditional part of the Southern American diet for hundreds of years. Just like other Brassicas, collard greens are packed with nutrition and provide many health benefits when eaten regularly as part of a healthy diet.
The vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber found in collard greens provide significant health benefits. Dietary fiber is important for helping maintain your digestive health. The soluble fiber in collard greens can help absorb cholesterol before it makes its way into your bloodstream, lowering your cholesterol levels. The insoluble fiber in collard greens feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which can help you digest foods more efficiently.
Some of the other health benefits of collard greens include:
Collard greens are a good source of vitamin K, which is vital for healthy bones. Consuming enough vitamin K daily helps your body absorb calcium and strengthens the fundamental structure of your bones. As a result, collard greens can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Your body naturally produces free radicals as a byproduct of using energy. These free radicals can damage other cells, potentially causing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Collard greens are rich in the antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and may help reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.
Prevent Birth Defects
Dark, leafy greens, like collard greens, are the best natural sources of folate. Folate is an important vitamin that helps your body grow and is particularly important for small children and pregnant women. Doctors recommend that people who may become pregnant get at least 400 micrograms of folate daily in order to help prevent birth defects like spina bifida.
Collard greens provide vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which are important to your immune system. Vitamin C helps keep your blood cells healthy and vitamin A is important for healthy T-cells, a part of your immune system that attacks invading bacteria and viruses.
Collard greens are rich in potassium, which is important for regulating your heartbeat, helping your muscles contract, and balancing out the effect of salt on your body.
Collard greens also have a low glycemic index rating, which means they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike after eating. People who have diabetes often turn to foods with a low glycemic index to help manage blood sugar levels more effectively.
Foods with a low glycemic index also help you feel fuller longer because they take longer to digest. This effect may help people who are trying to lose weight avoid overeating.
Collard greens are also an excellent source of:
Nutrients per Serving
One cup of fresh collard greens contains:
- Calories: 11
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: Less than 1 gram
Collard greens are healthy for you, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Collard greens are full of fiber, which takes longer for your body to digest than many other substances. Eating too much fiber at once can lead to uncomfortable side effects like bloating or gas. Eating no more than a cup or two of collard greens at once is a good way to get their health benefits without stressing your stomach.
How to Prepare Collard Greens
Because collard greens are related to broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, they’re tougher than many other types of leafy greens. While some people enjoy their stiff texture, others prefer to cook collard greens to soften them up.
Collard greens are a versatile veggie that can be added to just about any savory dish.
Here are some ways you can add collard greens to your diet:
- Use collard greens instead of tortillas to wrap burritos.
- Chop collard greens and add them to chili.
- Include collard greens in a soup.
- Add collard greens to stir fry for a pop of color.
- Purée collard greens to make a pesto.
- Sauté collard greens and eat them as a side dish.
- Blend collard greens into a smoothie for extra nutrition.