Eating dark green vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may prevent certain cancers, promote heart health, and help to control weight and blood pressure. Dark green vegetables are important to eat daily, as they contain dietary fiber, high levels of vitamins A, C, E, and K, and key minerals, like magnesium, potassium, iron and calcium.
According to the National Cancer Institute, most Americans are not consuming the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables; we are particularly lacking in dark greens! Adults between the ages of 30 and 51 years should consume at least three cups of dark green vegetables every week, in addition to orange-colored and other vegetables. Women older than 51 years of age need at least two cups of dark greens weekly. Those who are more physically active may be able to consume more while staying within calorie needs.
When it comes to dark greens, there are lots of choices! The following table lists some dark green vegetables and what counts as one cup toward your recommended amount.
|Dark Green Vegetable||What counts as one cup of vegetables?|
|Broccoli||1 cup chopped or florets3 spears 5″ long raw or cooked|
|Greens: collards, mustard greends, turnip greens, kale||1 cup cooked|
|Spinach||1 cup cooked 2 cups raw is equivalent to 1 cup of vegetables|
|Raw leafy greens: Spinach, romaine, watercress, dark green leafy lettuce, endive, escarole||2 cups raw is equivalent to 1 cup of vegetables|
Continue to eat those greens that you already know and love, but try at least one new each week.
- When you eat dark green vegetables, make sure to add a teaspoon of dietary fat, such as olive oil, cheese or salad dressing to make sure your body absorbs all of the vitamins you eat.
- Broccoli can appeal to both adults and kids! Steam and season with fresh lemon juice, add to stir fry or omelets, or enjoy raw broccoli in a salad or with a low-fat dip. Rotate broccoli with other dark greens such as bok choy, nappa cabbage, collards, watercress, or mustard greens.
- Arugula, endive, chicory, and romaine lettuce work great in wraps and salads. Add strawberries, nuts, and a vinaigrette dressing for a fresh spring or summer treat.
- Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse! Make a spinach salad with roasted almonds, mandarin oranges or apples, and extra virgin olive oil and garlic. You can sneak spinach in a fruit smoothie for the kids!
- Beet greens are high in potassium and may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Swiss chard, also with the beets family, has an impressive list of health-promoting nutrients. Consider using chard in addition to spinach when preparing vegetarian lasagna.
- Kale, an excellent source of vitamin K, is versatile—it works great in soups, stews, and side dishes. Try Kale chips: remove leaves from thick stems and tear into “chip” sized pieces, toss with a little olive oil, spread evenly across a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, add a pinch of sea salt and bake in your oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until edges brown.
Some dark green vegetables contain high levels of oxalates, and in rare cases, may be problematic for individuals with medical conditions such as kidney or gallbladder disease. Consult with your doctor prior to making sudden changes to your diet.
Sources: National Cancer Institute, United States Department of Agriculture, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. For medical advice, consult your physician.