You probably already know that leafy greens are considered the holy grail of nutrition. While they’re low in calories, they’re also rich in the key vitamins and minerals needed to help our body function its best. Yet, a lesser-known aspect of these powerful veggies is that not all are created equal, and in fact, some are far more nutritious than others. Browse through some of the most popular salad greens, ranked from least nutritional to healthiest, below.
#7 Butter Lettuce
While swapping out wraps or bread for butter lettuce is a healthy way to enjoy your favorite sandwich without the carbs, butter lettuce has only small amounts of iron and calcium. It is, however, a good source of vitamin A, which still makes it a strong contender in the realm of salad greens.
#6 Green/Red Leaf Lettuce
Often found in packaged mixed greens, red and green leaf lettuce is well-liked for its mild taste, making it the perfect base for salads with flavorful ingredients. It can also deliver a significant dose of vitamins A and K. Since it’s low in fiber, consider pairing it with some fibrous veggies, including cauliflower, celery, and green peppers.
Perhaps the most popular lettuce of all, romaine has a fresh flavor and a rewarding crunch. Although it’s versatile enough to accommodate virtually any toppings, it isn’t quite as nutritional as some of the other types on this list. It does, however, have a high concentration of folic acid, which supports fetal health.
Often overlooked here in the U.S., watercress is a popular salad green in Europe. It’s has a higher nutritional value than romaine and leaf lettuce, and delivers nearly the entire daily recommended intake for vitamins A and K. Surprisingly, it’s also a great source of vitamin C.
#3 Swiss Chard
Also, a less popular veggie, swiss chard has similar properties to watercress with lots of vitamins A, C, and K. Yet, it also has iron and calcium, a critical nutrient for supporting bone health. This green from the beet family can be enjoyed raw, but it has less bitterness when cooked. If you don’t find it appealing on its own, consider incorporating it into a soup, omelet, or stir fry.
It should come as no surprise that spinach falls so high on the list. Although it has a mild flavor, it provides a wealth of nutrients, including vitamins C and K, as well as fiber and iron. It also has lots of folic acid. While fresh fruit and nuts come together to form a delicious spinach salad, it can also be blended into smoothies without altering the overall taste.
Often hailed as a “super food,” kale is certainly deserving of its spot as the healthiest salad green. In addition to fulfilling your daily requirements for vitamins A, C, and K, the veggie is a rich source of phytonutrients. These compounds found in plants have powerful benefits, including cancer prevention, heart health, and immune system support.
As you can see, it’s a good idea to switch up your go-to salad every now and then to reap the greatest benefits that greens have to offer. Whether you’re a longtime kale connoisseur or you’re just starting to broaden your horizons for salad greens, there are many ways a variety of leafy vegetables can help you achieve and maintain your best version of health.