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Top 10 Healthy Powerhouse Greens

September 08, 2019

"PFVs, or powerhouse fruits and vegetables, are nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that contain 10% or more of your daily value of 17 specific nutrients."

When we think "healthy greens" we usually think of kale, right? But there are many other incredible options that are fantastic for health. Watch today’s live with Dr. Nancy Lin PhD, holistic nutritionist, where she ranks the top 10 healthiest greens in order, including the benefits of each. Plus, learn a few of Dr. Nancy’s top greens recipes the whole family will love.

Video Highlights

  • 01:09: Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables
  • 05:32: Mustard Greens
  • 08:39: Turnip Greens
  • 10:51: Collard Greens
  • 12:34: Romaine Lettuce
  • 14:52: Chicory
  • 17:16: Spinach
  • 19:49: Beet Greens
  • 21:58: Swiss Chard
  • 24:00: Chinese Cabbage
  • 30:41: Watercress
  • 35:42: Wrap-Up

Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables

By now, you’ve all probably heard the term “superfood”, which we’ve talked about in previous articles. A superfood is a nutrient-rich food that is reportedly excellent for our health because its vitamin and mineral content far exceeds its calorie content. 

Well, move over superfoods, because there’s a new buzz word in town! “Powerhouse” is the latest term being coined by health officials when applied to certain fruits and vegetables, it’s even got its own fancy acronym — PFV. PFVs, or powerhouse fruits and vegetables, are nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that contain 10% or more of your daily value of 17 specific nutrients. Some of those nutrients include: 

  • Iron
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K

In total, there are 41 vegetables out of 47 that were studied and meet the powerhouse criteria. Today, we’re going to talk about greens, in particular, as we rank the top 10 healthiest.

Think you know which leafy green is in the top spot? The answer may surprise you. You may also be surprised to see which leafy greens did not make the top 10.

Powerhouse fruits and vegetables, aside from being nutrient-dense, are also the best fruits and vegetables to eat in order to lower your risk of and even prevent certain diseases like heart disease and even cancer. 

Top 10 Healthiest Greens

#10: Mustard Greens

Did you know former First Lady Michelle Obama is a big fan of mustard greens? She included mustard greens in the vegetable garden she planted at the White House. 

Mustard greens live up to their name when it comes to taste. They have a mustard or horseradish taste to them, but they also have a bit of a bite that’s often described as “peppery” when eaten raw. When cooked, the taste of the greens does mellow out a bit. They’re dark green in color and have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They also bind to bile in your intestines, which then allows that bile to be eliminated and, as a result, helps eliminate bad cholesterol from the body. 

Because of their mustard taste, mustard greens can be used to season your food as well as eaten as a vegetable. They taste great simply sautéed in a little avocado oil and then seasoned with some garlic and red-pepper flakes. 

#9: Turnip greens 

Turnip greens are a cruciferous vegetable derived from the turnip root. They have a flavor similar to that of mustard greens, radishes, or even cabbage, and they make a nice addition to salads and soups. They also work as a side dish, either sautéed or boiled to lock in maximum health benefits. 

Turnip greens can reduce your risk of anemia, also known as iron deficiency, and can prevent osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. Turnip greens are high in choline, something that can help you sleep better and can also help improve cognition and memory, as well as muscle movement. 

#8: Collard Greens

When you hear “collard greens,” you likely think of the south, right? But did you also know that they are one of the healthiest greens you could eat? Collard greens are one of the best bad cholesterol-fighting foods you could eat, even more so than some of its leafy green counterparts like kale, which (spoiler alert!) didn’t even make this list. 

Collards are high in fiber, calcium, and vitamins A, E, C, and K, making them ideal for reducing inflammation, improving heart health and digestion, and preventing cancer. 

#7: Romaine lettuce

Low in calories and carbohydrates, romaine lettuce is high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as high in vitamins A, C, and K. A lot of these vitamins and minerals found in romaine are excellent for strengthening teeth and bones, and preventing osteoporosis. Other health benefits of romaine include:

Bottom line here is, if you’re making a salad, grab the romaine as your base lettuce over any other lettuce variety. 

#6: Chicory 

Chicory has been used for centuries both in the kitchen and for its medicinal properties. It has long stems with leaves that look quite similar to dandelion leaves. Its has a bitter taste and is best served raw in salads, paired with a vinaigrette, or braised and served in soups or as a side dish. 

Nutritionally, chicory packs a wallop, loaded with vitamin K, vitamin C, and minerals like iron, calcium, copper, and manganese. Most notably, however, it contains the compound inulin, which is essential in helping to reduce blood sugar, as well as bad cholesterol in the body. 

Chicory also contains high amounts of vitamin A, beta carotene, and lutein, all of which are excellent for maintaining and even improving the health of your eyes. 

Fun fact: chicory root makes an excellent substitute for coffee

#5: Spinach

This one’s not a shocker. Spinach is packed with so many vital vitamins and minerals, including: 

  • Iron
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6

The calcium in spinach is great for bone health, and the antioxidants it contains are excellent for your skin – they promote the healthy development of skin cells and encourage a healthy skin tone. Another bonus is the antioxidant properties found in spinach also increase the production of collagen which is responsible for giving you smooth, even skin and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. The vitamin A found in spinach can also help keep the skin hydrated, preventing things like psoriasis, acne, and dry skin. 

#4: Beet greens 

Beet greens are the edible leafy tops of beets. One cup of raw beet greens contains more than twice your daily dose of vitamin K, a vitamin linked to reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes

When you eat foods rich in vitamin K, bacteria in the large intestines converts the vitamin to its storage form before it is absorbed in the small intestine and stored in your fatty tissue and the liver. 

In addition to lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, beet greens promote bone health, reducing your risk of osteoporosis, and brain health by helping improve memory. Beet greens can also help lower blood pressure because vitamin K prevents minerals from building up in the arteries, allowing the heart to pump blood with more ease throughout the body. This mineralization is something that occurs naturally with age, so eating foods high in vitamin K could not only keep your blood pressure where it needs to be but can also help prevent things like heart attack and stroke. 

#3: Swiss chard 

Swiss chard has it all — it’s versatile since you can eat the leaves and the stems, it makes a great substitute for spinach, and it’s super nutritious. Chard, which is a member of the beet family, is similar in taste to beet greens but a little bit milder. It’s high in vitamin K like beet greens, but it’s also high in vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E. This is particularly notable because foods high in vitamin E tend to also be higher in fat. Not the case with chard, making it a low-fat option to get the vitamin E you need in order to neutralize free radicals roaming around within the body. This helps reduce your risk of chronic disease and inflammation. 

Are you a fan of Taco Tuesdays?? Well, you can use the leaves of chard as a healthy replacement for tortillas! 

#2: Chinese cabbage

This is the runner-up in terms of healthiest greens. Chinese cabbage, also called Napa cabbage, is that oblong shaped cabbage with frilly yellow-green leaves that you see in the supermarket. It is very popular in parts of China, as the name would indicate, and has a sweet, crunchy taste somewhat similar to celery. It’s often used in kimchi, stir fries and stews, and can also be eaten raw on salads. 

Since this green is in the #2 spot, its nutrient profile is pretty impressive. It’s loaded with antioxidants and both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can help lower bad cholesterol and protect you against certain types of cancer like colon, prostate, and breast. 

One cup of Chinese cabbage contains your recommended daily of vitamin C which can help boost immunity and reduce inflammation. It’s a natural source of electrolytes and minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium, which work to keep your cells healthy and your heart rate and blood pressure normalized.

Chinese Cabbage Rolls Recipe 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 16 Chinese cabbage leaves
  • 16 ounces ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 zucchini, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup liquid coconut aminos
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

To make these, preheat your oven to 400°F. Oil a baking dish and set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water for about 4 minutes. Strain them and drop them immediately into a bowl of ice water. Pat them dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the chicken or turkey with the carrots, zucchini, onion, ginger, egg, salt, pepper, 1/8 cup coconut aminos, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Set that aside. 

To assemble your cabbage roll, take one of the cabbage leaves and place about a teaspoon or teaspoon and a half of the meat mixture in the center. Roll the cabbage leaf, folding both sides inward as you do, until you reach the end. You can either leave them as is or tie them together using chives. 

Place the cabbage rolls in the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes. Halfway through, remove from the oven, and pour the remaining coconut aminos and lemon juice over them.  And for a vegetarian option, just omit the turkey or chicken and add extra veggies!

#1: Watercress

Are you shocked? Watercress is small but mighty so don’t let its tiny size fool you. Did you know that watercress was considered a weed during the 19th century in the UK? That’s certainly not the case now!

Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable, alongside broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables in general are good for improving heart health and lowering cholesterol. Watercress specifically contains naturally occurring nitrates that can boost the health of your blood vessels, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and preventing arteriosclerosis, a thickening of the arteries.

Did you know that the nitrates that naturally occur in watercress might also help give you a boost during your workouts

This is because the nitrates found in watercress relax blood vessels and increase the amount of nitric oxide in your blood. This can help boost performance during exercise. Pretty cool, huh? 

Like beet greens, watercress is high in vitamin K and it’s also high in vitamins A and C, making it a healthy, natural way to improve immunity and eye health. 

Watercress, like all the greens on this list, are nutrient-dense, meaning the amount of nutrients they contain far outweigh their caloric content. As a result, watercress is a good green to help prevent obesity and help you maintain a healthy weight

And finally, watercress contains phytochemicals, which are believed to reduce your risk of cancer, and it also contains compounds called isothiocyanates. These compounds are activated when cruciferous vegetables like watercress are cut or chewed and they also protect the body against cancer by safeguarding healthy cells from tumor growth and carcinogens. Studies have shown these isothiocyanates in watercress are particularly beneficial in protecting against colon, prostate, skin, lung, and breast cancer. 

Watercress has a peppery taste to it when eaten raw that mellows out a bit when you cook it. You can use watercress as a side with your eggs, sprinkled on soup just before serving, or pureed into a soup itself. It also makes a flavorful addition to salads. 

Watercress Pesto Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch watercress (about 5 cups), tough stems removed 
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Pinch of red-pepper flakes

Pulse the watercress, pine nuts, lemon zest, and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and pulse to combine. Season with salt and red-pepper flakes. So easy!

Wrap-Up 

Today we talked about the top 10 healthiest greens you should be eating. We used the Center for Disease Control’s results from a recent study conducted on what is now being dubbed PFVs, or powerhouse fruits and vegetables. 

The greens on today’s list include:

  • Mustard greens
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Beet greens
  • Chicory
  • Chinese cabbage 
  • and watercress

All the greens on this list have amazing health benefits which includes their ability to help fight free radicals in the body that lead to cancer, as well as their ability to reduce your risk of: 

  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Diabetes 
  • Stroke

Our top 10 list of healthiest greens are also high in vitamins K, A, and C, vitamins that are responsible for improving immunity and bone health, cognitive function, digestive health, and the health of your eyes. 

And to make sure you’re getting the right amount of all your essential vitamins and minerals from organic food sources, make sure you’re also taking the Smarter Multivitamin!

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