Has King Kale Been Dethroned? These Greens Might Be Even Healthier

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Has King Kale Been Dethroned? These Greens Might Be Even Healthier

For so long, all we’ve heard is “kale this” and “kale that” and “kale is great for health.” Yes, kale is a superfood, packed with nutrients and antioxidants, but, according to a 2014 rating system conducted by the CDC[1], it might not be the most nutritious of the leafy green team.

Forty-seven fruits and vegetables were scored based on their nutrient density (calculated using the bioavailability of their nutrients) divided by the energy density of the food (kilocalories per 100 g). In other words, this ranking found the foods with the most nutrients per gram. It did not weight foods for their specific health-supportive properties. The particular nutrients they based the food’s bioavailability on included:

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

Here are the highest-ranking leafy greens and their scores that you should consider incorporating into your diet:

Watercress—100

Chinese cabbage—91.99

Spinach—86.43

Romaine—63.48

Collard greens—62.49

Turnip greens—62.12

Mustard greens—61.39

Kale—49.07

Dandelion greens—46.34

Arugula—37.65

Cabbage—24.51

Iceberg lettuce—18.28

If you are looking for specific benefits from your greens, not just overall nutrient density, here are a few things you should know:

Kale: has one of the highest concentrations of vitamins A and K. In fact, just one cup of chopped kale delivers 98% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A and a whopping 1,180% vitamin K. Kale also contains folate, which is particularly important for preconception and pregnancy diets.[2]

Collard greens: have been linked with an improved resistance to colon cancer and acute bowel disorder when consistently consumed. Those trying to avoid grain-wraps often use these broad, fiber-rich leaves as a healthier alternative, but beware of their mild cabbage-like flavor.

Turnip greens: are believed to have anti-aging properties and are high in iron, which is essential for healthy red blood cells. Furthermore, one cup of these greens contains 20% of the recommended daily calcium intake.

Romaine: If looking for a salad green, romaine is your guy, coming in as one of the most nutrient dense forms of lettuce. With just 8 calories per cup, this leafy green has eye-supporting vitamin A as well as a healthy dose of folate.[2]

Iceberg: This poor guy’s gotten a bad rap as being devoid of any nutritional value, but you can put those worries to rest. While it has significantly lower levels of nutrients, it offers a satisfying crunch unlike most other salad greens. Two cups of iceberg also delivers about 30 percent of daily vitamin K recommendations and 10 percent of vitamin A.[2]

So, all in all, it’s really up to you which green sits on the throne. If you’re looking for one high in vitamin K, kale is your man. If you want the overall most nutrient dense green, try adding watercress to your diet. Overall, we recommend getting a substantial amount of greens daily, no matter the type. Most grocers and markets stock a wide variety of these leafy vegetables, so try some new ones and let us know your favorites!

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[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Defining powerhouse fruits and vegetables: a nutrient density approach. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/pdf/13_0390.pdf

[2] Bender, M. (2015). Are some leafy greens healthier than others? A look at 9 types. Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/health/are-some-lettuces-healthier-than-c1431735914464.html

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