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The King of Alkalization: Dark, Leafy Greens

When we think of health, we think green. When we think of nature, we think green. Green is a color associated with the good aspects of life, yet when it comes to dietary choices we generally have a certain reluctance towards this food group.

I’ve even heard people say, “They taste too healthy.” Of course this is the case! Our taste buds have been conditioned with the intensity of artificial flavors and sugars. We’re under the influence of carefully crafted addictive flavors from food manufacturers.

“We’re being manipulated by food engineers who have figured out how to tap into our brains. But if we can kick our addiction to junk food, we become better able to distinguish the fake stuff from the real, and that chemical aroma will lose its power to hook us (SuperLife, pg. 22).

There is a social stigma as well. I often hear people call greens “hippie food” or “rabbit food” — and I’m sure you have your own names to add to this list. It gets even more interesting because innately we know consuming greens is one of the best things we can do for our wellbeing, yet if possible we would skip the greens ­— and, let’s face it, most people do.


While spending time in the Mediterranean I was invited to go harvest food for lunch. I was expecting a trip to the nearby garden for local staples such as tomatoes, eggplant, or bell peppers. Little did I expect to be standing in what looked like a bare field with no visible crops. I turned around and found my host picking wild greens. “These are the real secret of our diet,” he told me. Yes, wild greens. We are lead to believe it’s the wine, the olives, the tomatoes and so on that constitutes the Mediterranean diet of longevity, but I was re-educated on the subject what the diet includes by the locals themselves — not the ones promoting the diet or writing books about it — but those who are actually living it as their forefathers have for generations.

Interestingly I can pinpoint similar situations in my travels across the globe where greens were presented as a cultural “secret” to health. In Mexico, walking down a Mayan market we found a wide variety of quelites, an umbrella term used to describe any edible green — usually wild — with “weedy” characteristics. As we interviewed the lady selling them, she somberly discussed how regardless of the tradition of eating them, the abundance, and the cheap cost, most people were avoiding them nowadays. Holding the greens, she looked at us and said, “Esta es la pura medicina” (This is the pure medicine). Her quiet words carried the full force of truth.

You don’t need to travel to a Mayan market to grasp that greens are “pure medicine” for your body. As I’ve continued to travel the world, dark leafy greens have come up again and again. I consider them a “superfood” that you should strive to frequently include in your diet! Remember, a superfood is something that is more nutrient dense calorie for calorie than another “regular” food and greens definitely fit that description!

Plus, greens supports four out of the five life forces (nutrition, oxygenation, alkalization, and detoxification). Here are some amazing reasons why eating greens absolutely rocks for your health:

1. DARK, LEAFY GREENS GIVE YOUR BODY FOLATE

The word folate describing the B vitamin originates from the Latin root word folium, which means leaf. Fact: our bodies have to get it from food. Where do you think you find it in abundance? Dark green leafy vegetables. The function associated with folate is varied and works in conjunction with other nutrients. Folate deficiency is common (no surprise, we don’t eat a lot of greens!) and leads to a host of health problems you don’t want including digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and most famously perhaps, birth defects. Folate is also crucial in epigenetics (external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off without changing the DNA sequence) through a process known as methylation where folate acts as a methyl donor promoting cellular differentiation. Folate is also essential for DNA and RNA synthesis, amino acid production, and cell division. In short, you really, really need it.

2. DARK, LEAFY GREENS BURN FAT

Greens are recommended as a weight-loss food. You might think this is because greens are low calorie. But there’s more to it than that! Yes, greens are low caloric while still being packed with nutrients and other active compounds, however, greens’ effect on weight loss goes beyond just calories. Greens contain nitrites, which have been associated in browning fat cells, meaning converting fat-storing white cells into fat-burning brown cells. This creates extra fat burning and ultimately, weight loss.

3. DARK, LEAFY GREENS ARE ANTI-AGING

A study carried out at Rush University medical center reported a significant decrease in the amount of cognitive decline for those participants consuming higher amounts of dark green leafy vegetables. The researchers associated the high vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein present in these greens as influencing this anti-aging effect. Green’s antioxidants, brain protection, cellular support, anti-inflammatory benefits, and essential fatty acid nutritional contribution (in particular, the much-appreciated ALA omega-3 fatty acid) all contribute to anti-aging as well.

4. DARK, LEAFY GREENS HELP YOUR HEART

Cardiovascular health is positively influenced multiple ways when making greens a continuous part of your food choices. First, greens regulate the production on a hormone known as erythropoietin, which decreases blood viscosity. This potentially reduces blood clots and heart attacks. Greens’ dietary fiber helps regulate cholesterol and trygliceride levels in a positive way making sure they don’t cause any unnecessary trouble. Nitric oxide — our internal blood pressure regulator — is positively influenced through the consumption of greens. High homocysteine has been linked with cardio vascular diseases, but greens provide substrates that convert homocysteine into harmless amino acids.

5. DARK, LEAFY GREENS FEED YOUR TELOMERES

Telomere length reflects biological aging. I write about telemeres (the little tails on our DNA chromosome) in SuperLife (page 10) and you’re going to hear A LOT more about them in the media soon (it will be a new buzzword). I’ll be writing more about them as well, because they are a big indicator of our longevity.

What’s a telomere? “Inside the nucleus of a cell, our genes are arranged along twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide, and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer,” describes The University of Utah, which has some great visuals and simple explanations of what telomeres are and how they work in your body.

Cell division is necessary for growing new skin, blood, bone, and other cells, and telomeres keep the main part of the chromosome — the part essential for life with your DNA code — from shortening each time a cell divides. The telomere shortens instead. Each time the cell divides, its telomere gets shorter and shorter until it is too short and the cell dies. One way to think of telomeres is like a bomb fuse on your cells. You want that fuse to stay as long as possible! The telomere shortening process is the fuse slowly burning away closer and closer to the bomb, the death of the cell.

To fuel telomeres, we have to eat what our cells eat so they stay healthy. Dark, leafy greens have A LOT of what our cells need! A diet rich in greens is well documented to protect telOmere length and integrity.

6. DARK, LEAFY GREENS FIGHT DIABETES

Glucose imbalances, which can lead to complications such as diabetes, can be prevented and regulated by introducing greens into your diet. Magnesium, ALA omega-3 fatty acid, and polyphenols found in greens are considered to be of crucial importance in managing glycemic load and insulin sensitivity (which both need to function properly to keep diabetes at bay). Enhancing insulin secretion and also mimicking insulin function are other integrative mechanisms that greens can contribute to keep diabetes, which is your body’s inability to make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or your body’s inability to respond to the effects of insulin (type 2 diabetes)), from developing.

7. DARK, LEAFY GREENS FEED YOUR GUT

Though it’s complicated to pinpoint exactly what the Paleo, hunter-gatherer, primal, or pre-agricultural diets of our ancestors were composed of (especially since it was highly dependent on where you lived and what you had access too), one thing that is clear — they ate a lot more plants in greater variety and volume than today. Jeff Leach at The Human Food Project considers this to be a critical aspect. Through his work with people following a modern hunter-gatherers’ type diet, he is able to deduce the effect of high-plant-based diets and the resulting effect on the human microbial community even when consuming high volumes of animal products. He believes high fiber content in plants provide substrates for gut microbes to digest and create byproduct that effect various gut metabolic activities including PH balance, gut permeability, immune balance, bowel movements and so forth. Failure to consume high amounts of plants in these diets leads to severe compromise in your gut microbial communities leading to what Dr. Leech calls“a diet that will not be into you.”

8. DARK, LEAFY GREENS PROVIDE SUN PROTECTION

For all you sun lovers, greens provide UV protection at a cellular level through the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Here are other foods you can add to your diet to “eat your sunscreen.”

9. DARK, LEAFY GREENS PROTECT AGAINST TOXINS

Aflatoxins are types of toxins produced by fungi, and they are one of the most carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances known. Chlorophyll found in plants and abundant in particular in greens has a neutralizing effect on these ubiuitous toxins; it does this through directly trapping the toxin, rendering it harmless. Find out about other natural toxins that can be in your food in this blog.

10. DARK, LEAFY GREENS BUILD ENZYMES

Enzymes are the body’s sparks. They ignite countless chemical reactions. A lack of enzymes keeps us from digesting our food and getting all the nutrients out of them. Raw foods have the most alive, active enzymes. When you are adding fresh, raw salads to your diet, you’re boosting the enzymes your body needs. Greens consumption also increases the activity in your body of a specific family of enzymes known collectively as GSTs. They promote cellular detoxification of toxins such as the already mentioned aflatoxins, but also of xenobiotics, which are foreign substances that can contribute to diseases.

Overall, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, and phytochemical-rich characteristic of dark, leafy greens provide our bodies with beneficial effects ranging from the microscopic, molecular level to the telescopic tissue level such as your skin. Greens provide proven health benefits! What else do you need to know to starting including a heaping serving of greens with every meal if possible?

WHAT TO EAT

I personally love wild greens – the darker and wilder the better – or greens you can grow yourself in a garden or even in containers on your porch. Heading over to your local farmers market and browsing and talking to the farmers is a great way to learn about new greens to try. You can usually try a leaf or two to get a taste of these plants! Yes, greens taste “healthy,” but you’ll find that there is incredible diversity in the actual flavor (arugula is peppery, while radicchio is bitter) and the texture (romaine is crisp, while butter green are “buttery” and smooth) of the different types of greens.

Note: Do not overconsume one particular type of green – this can actually cause unwanted side effects (for example, some greens bind calcium so your body can’t absorb it). You never will have issues if you mix it up! That is why variety is vital! Try arugula, beet leaves (yes, you can eat the tops!), collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens (spicy!), parsley, green and red lettuce varieties, romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and more!

Eat a wide variety of dark, leafy greens and you’ll reap all the positive health benefits.

So you might not have heard this in a Mayan market – but I hope the truth is just as powerful for you! Make dark, leafy greens a regular part of your diet! Do it! They “taste healthy” because they are!

One of my favorite ways to consume these greens is in a morning smoothie. I often include a few different types of greens as well as Barukas nuts (premium baru nuts from Brazil), which are a complete protein and full of other micronutrients, making them perfect for a smoothie. I discovered them about two years ago, and they are simply the most nutritious nut on the market. Learn more here.

Like this article? Think it could help a friend? Pass it on! We’re all in this together!

10 Reasons Why Green is Good for You

Revolutionize your health with the power of green foods. Green foods are packed with nutrients and are an extremely important part of our diet. They are the healthiest and most filling choices one can make. There are numerous options to choose from, and they can easily be incorporated into meals.
Some popular green foods include spinach, broad beans, bok choy, peas, cabbage and broccoli, to name a few. Using a wide variety of these foods is the best way to ensure that you’re consuming enough of them.
Research proves that green foods are great source of phytonutrients and also have great healing powers. The power of green can revatalize one’s health as green foods are easy on glucose levels. They are very low in sugars and because they’re packed with fiber and water, they actually help to regulate your blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Celery – More than just a stick for dipping
Celery benefits your nerves and blood. It lowers blood pressure due to its potassium content.

Go green to boost metabolism and burn more calories

The body’s metabolism can be increased by indulging in vegetables to give an edge to the weight control regime.

Eat fruits and vegetables to stay happy
The study found that those who ate around eight portions of fruit and vegetables are more cheerful and optimistic about the future.

Research proves green tea and papaya can prevent diabetes
Green tea prevents an increase of sugar levels in blood while the fermented papaya helps positively reduce the level of the reactive protein C and the uric acid.

Peas can keep you satisfied and full for long
Green peas are a great source of bone-building vitamin K and manganese. They are significant store of vitamin C that helps in supporting your immune system.

Green juice: drink your way to five a day
Fresh green juice wins health points over packaged fruit juice and smoothies on several counts.

Broad Beans can help you loose weight
Broad beans are an excellent vegetable source of protein and fiber. They are also rich in both folate and B vitamins, which we need for nerve and blood cell.

Spring greens can build your bones
Spring greens provide you with vitamin C that helps in supporting your immune system. They also contain natural compounds, such as sulforaphane and indoles.

Broccoli a pack of nutrients
Broccoli offers high levels of immune system-boosting vitamin C, bone-strengthening vitamin K, and folate, which plays a strategic role in regulating cell growth and reproduction.

Eat more fish, vegetables to check prostate cancer
Simple modifications in food habits, including adopting a diet rich in cereals, fish and green leafy vegetables, can drastically reduce chances of cancer.

Recommended For You

We all know we should be eating a diet consisting of colourful, varied fruit and vegetables (working towards that 5 a day!) And our green veggie friends, in particular, include a whole host of benefits for our body and health. Take a look for yourself!

Lutein and Zeaxanthin In Green Vegetables

Dark green leafy vegetables contain plant pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, lutein and zeaxanthin may help to prevent strokes, heart disease and breast and lung cancer. Vegetables that contain the most amount of lutein and zeaxanthin include kale and spinach.

Lutein and zeaxanthin absorb excess light in plants to reduce sunlight damage. In eyes, lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in the macula. Studies from the American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology found that those who had more lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet were found to have a lower incidence of AMD.

Health Benefits of Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables provide a range of health benefits as part of a balanced diet. Green veg is high in antioxidants, minerals, fibre and much more! They keep you hydrated and can even make you feel happier.

1) High in Antioxidants

The first bit of good news is, they’re packed full of antioxidants! Yay! Green vegetables are rich in vitamin A – good for building your body’s natural defences, vitamin C for healthy skin and bones and vitamin K to help your body heal itself quickly when necessary. In addition to these vitamins, beautiful green veg is also rich in potassium and iron.

2) Full of Minerals

Green leafy vegetables, particularly spinach, are known for being high in magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral necessary for maintaining muscle health, as well as bone formation – helping the absorption of calcium.

3) A Natural Source of Fibre

Greens are a brilliant source of natural fibre, aiding digestion and slowing the rate at which your body absorbs sugar. This prevents sharp rises in blood glucose.

4) Improves Your Metabolism

As leafy, crunchy fresh greens are high in iron and fibre, they naturally improve our metabolism and keep the production of our red blood cells at a healthy rate. So pile your plate high!

5) Makes You Feel Fuller for Longer

As high fibre vegetables, greens are the perfect solution for rumbling stomachs. The more you eat, the less likely you are to reach for the junk in the cupboard!

6) Protects Your Eyes

As mentioned previously, Lutein and zeaxanthin, plant pigments found in dark green leafy vegetables are said to have beneficial effects on your eyes’ macular pigment levels when eating at least 10mg a day.

7) Edible Sun Protection

Now don’t go throwing away your sunscreen just yet – we’re not saying your green veg is a substitute! However, it is said to increase your body’s natural defences against sun damage and even repair, thanks to your green vegetables’ vitamin content, folic acid and beta-carotene.

8) Lifts Your Mood

Your green leafy vegetables are a great source of folate, and as this contributes to serotonin production, you may find your mood lifting!

9) Keeps You Hydrated

Finally, green vegetables contain a lot of water, which means adding them to your plate helps to keep you hydrated, maintaining healthy skin and hair.

V8 Original Juice is packed full of delicious green vegetables, including spinach, parsley, cress, lettuce, celery. And with one glass counting towards 1 of your 5 a day, it’s the easy way to get your fruit and veg in!

Wild Edible Greens, Foraging Your Own Wild Superfoods

Wild edible greens are leafy green plants that grow in wild unattended places all over the world in many different climate zones. They’re not just for emergency survival situations, but are actual leafy foods that are very nutritious to incorporate into meals and salads from time to time.

Albeit a bit different than the typically greens we might find at the local supermarket, these are varieties that are created in the uncultivated soils found in “nature’s garden” and are FREE of charge to any food forager. These specific types are edible to humans and are good to include in the diet whenever they are seasonally available.

Consuming a varied intake from different species throughout the year, can be a great way to get an array of other phytonutrients not typically found in cultivated foods. It is good to become familiar with about 10-20 wild green types, what they look like and where they grow in your native region or travel destinations.

When it comes to eating wild harvested leaves, plant identification is absolutely critical as there are many poisonous look-a-likes and sometimes deadly plants to be aware of. For the wildcrafting newbie we highly recommend purchasing a good wild plant identification guide or doing online research to positively classify any wild green before you consume it.

Foraging for wild food is one of humankind’s most basic survival instincts that has long been forgotten since the invention of large scale agriculture. Although, human societies throughout history have utilized wild collectibles for medicinal and food purposes, today it is not a commonly sought out practice.

While there is a small and growing community of individuals who are beginning to, once again, realize the nutritional diversity and value that these foods can provide, many modern day lifestyles, compared to only several decades ago, are not as seeming interested in shopping for produce in the great outdoors.

Most of us, however, could use more direct connection with the grounding balance that nature can provide and harvesting wild edibles can be a very rewarding way to integrate this element back into our lives.

Where Do They Grow?

Different types of wild edible greens can be wildcrafted all year long, depending on the region and climate zone. They most commonly grow in zones 4-8, but can extend to zones 2-9 depending on the species.

Many kinds enjoy cooler spring-time temperatures and adequate rainfall with partial sunlight, while others can be found in hot dry climates with full sun exposure.

Once you become familiar with the species available in your local area, you can pretty much guarantee they will be there year after year. Although quantity may vary depending on the weather conditions, which may fluctuate with any one given season, these plants are hardy and vigorous once they take root and/or lay down seeds.

They can be found in most any natural environment from the deep wilderness to front yard lawns as well as abandon fields, meadows, sea cliffs, mountaintops, forested foothills, riverbanks, urban parks or even cracks in city sidewalks.

For the purest and highest quality we tend to recommend harvesting your greens away from any atmospheric pollutants, roads or industrial areas.

The list of our top favorites further below are common edible wild greens that can be found in many moderate climates around the world.

The Benefits of Edible Wild Plants

Wild greens are the origins of all hybridized green leafy vegetables we know today and while they are much smaller in size, they are considerable more condensed in quality medicinal and nutritive constituents.

Although cultivated variations have their place in modern day living, there is no comparison to the wild untamed nutrients that these edibles can provide and we largely encourage including a portion of them in the diet throughout the year whenever they are available.

Growing prolifically in uncultivated patches of earth, natural non-hybridized leafy greens can be a great wild superfood adjunct to a health promoting diet and lifestyle. These greens and herbs are often called “weeds” because they are tenacious, hardy and tend to propagate quite easily when given the slightest opportunity to do so. This is not the case with standard garden vegetables that cannot thrive in wild habitats, untended by human hands.

It is extremely beneficial to eat foods that are innately strong and vigorous. These are signs of their potency, containing higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and chlorophyll as well as concentrations of species specific plant-based compounds.

The taste of wild edible greens can take some getting used to if your palette is accustomed to cultivated variations. Most have strong “green” flavors and others can be quite bitter. However, these are qualities that make them highly nutritious and helpful for stimulating digestive juices and cleansing the body systems. These tastes can be camouflaged, if they are not to your immediate liking, in blended drinks, green juices, green smoothies and many raw and cooked recipes.

Many wild greens are a great medicinal food source for detoxing the tissues, reducing inflammation and clearing the lymph system. A variety of species are often found growing prolifically outdoors in springtime conditions, a recognized time of year by herbalists for cleansing the liver organ.

Wild Edible Greens Benefits List

  1. Offer greater concentrated nutritional components over cultivated or hybridized vegetables.
  2. Like shopping in “nature’s produce section”, wild edibles are a source of FREE food.
  3. Transfer their vigorous, self-sustaining and hardy nature.
  4. Resilient qualities, when ingested, potentially help us to naturally adapt to environmental changes and conditions.
  5. Wild edible greens are a nutritionally balanced food source, growing in untilled soils in harmony with natural surroundings.
  6. Foraging for wild food gets you outside connecting with the natural elements, beneficial for emotional and spiritual well-being
  7. Wild edible greens are a great emergency survival food.

Top Wild Edible Greens List

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory is one of the great wild edible greens that has naturalized to many parts of the world. Commonly found as a roadside plant, it also thrives in wild field locations and most areas with heavy soil containing clay or gravel. It is a drought resistant species that tends to prefer full sun. Chicory leaves are toothed-shaped like dandelion, but is a taller-growing woody variety with periwinkle blue flowers that are also edible.

The tender young leaves are an excellent digestive bitter and the roots have been used for centuries as a cleansing and tasty tea. Young gathered leaves can be used fresh in salads, or when mature, can be steamed, incorporated into recipes or dried for use in teas or as a digestive herb sprinkled on meals.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is a soft, delicate wild edible green that grows in abundance in cool, wet, shady conditions with partial sunlight. Chickweed’s tiny leaves are somewhat succulent with an oval shape and pointed tip and the plant has tiny 5-petaled segmented white flowers.

Its chlorophyll-rich leaves are known for their therapeutic effects at purifying the blood and lymphatic system and have a long history of use in European folklore as a skin compress and skin healer when eaten or used topically. Chickweed leaves and stalks work well as a fresh herb that can be eaten raw, juiced, steamed or infused as a tea. It is however not as suitable as a dried herb as it loses potency quite fast.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The young leaves of the dandelion plant, called “dandelion greens”, are probably one of the most famous edible “weeds” known around the world. Their medicinal properties and bitter taste are helpful as a natural diuretic and detoxifier as well as a digestive stimulant that will increase bile flow and improve fat metabolism. The leaves have tooth-shaped edging and are smooth not rough or hairy like “false dandelion”, a common look-a-like. True dandelion also grows close to the ground as opposed to tall and upright.

All parts of the dandelion plant are edible, including the yellow flowers which are known source of lecithin. Whole blossoms are frequently utilized by herbalists for making “dandelion wine.” The root of dandelion can also be simmered as a gentle cleansing tea for the liver or roasted with chicory root as a coffee substitute.

Dock (Rumex crispus)

There are many varieties of “docks”, but they all have similar characteristics. Curly dock or yellow dock are common types available as a wild edible green with leaves that can become quite large in size compared to other species. Dock leaves are known to have high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and potassium. They are boosting to the immune system and have been studied as an herbal adjunct for malaria treatment.

It is best to harvest dock leaves in their early stages of growth as they are known to contain higher amounts of oxalic acid as they mature. They can be consumed as a raw leafy green in moderate amounts or can be steamed to remove some of the oxalate content. The roots of dock, especially “yellow dock”, also act as a powerful liver cleansing herb and can be decocted as a tea.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Wild fennel is native to the Mediterranean but has naturalized to regions all over the world, often growing abundantly in coastal foothill climates and next to riverbank locations. Like many of the wild edible greens it is perennial herb and will often dry up and grow back from the same rootstock year after year in the spring season. With tall hollow stems, the fennel plant can mature to heights of about 8 feet (2.5 m) and is relatively easy to identify once you become familiar with it.

All parts of the fennel plant are edible, but typically the feathery leaves, seeds and fennel bulbs are most commonly utilized. The fresh chopped young shoots, mature herb or root bulb can be used for salads or raw meals as well as integrated into a variety of cooked dishes. The seeds, with their aromatic, anise-like flavor, have likewise been used throughout history as a culinary spice and a digestive herbal tea infusion for soothing gastrointestinal upset.

Grape Leaves (Vitis species)

The wild grapevine is a robust and hearty plant species that can be found in most any location that wine grapes are cultivated. Commonly found weaving its way up trees or over bushes, wild grape typically grows near water sources alongside riverbanks, streams or close to underground aquifers. Wild grapevines produce very large leaves the size of one’s hand and are a rewarding species to harvest and easy to identify.

They are commonly wildcrafted in many parts of the world for use as a type of wrap for a variety of food fillings and frequently steamed, canned or fermented for use as “stuffed grape leaves” or “dolmas.” The young leaves harvested early in the season can also be consumed raw or as a steamed leafy green but, because it becomes less palatable as it matures, it is usually prepared as a pickled food wrap. The leaves are high in fiber and are good sources of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium.

Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album)

This wild edible green ranges from 1-6 feet (30-182 cm) in height and is frequently referred to as “wild spinach.” Lamb’s quarter grows abundantly in many temperate climates. The undersides of the leaves are often whitish in color, making it somewhat easy to identify. Lamb’s quarter has been a common wild food source in European cultures for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

It is related to the protein-rich grain quinoa and the seeds can be gathered and cooked in much the same way. The shoots, leaves and stems are all edible. Leaves can be eaten fresh or steamed as a green vegetable. Like dock, lambs quarter is a source of oxalic acid and should be consumed in moderate amounts as a raw leafy green or steamed to remove some of these substances.

Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Also called malva, this hardy wild edible green comes from the Greek word “malakos”, which means “to sooth.” The leaves of malva or mallow are soft to the touch and are soothing and calming to the digestive tract. Mallow is a great plant to start foraging if you are new to collecting wild edibles. This is because it is easy to identify as the leaves are quite large and have a lobed rounded ruffled look. The leaf growth alternates along the main stem and can become somewhat tough and fibrous as they age.

The leaves, roots and flowers of the wild mallow plant are all edible and have a long history of use in herbal medicine as a wild food source. The root of the mallow plant, related to cultivated marshmallow root, is used by herbalists worldwide to treat coughs, sore throats and helps eliminate congestion. The young leaves can be consumed raw but become more mucilaginous upon maturity. They can be utilized in green smoothie recipes or used to make wild malva or “cheeseweed” soup.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

While milk thistle is commonly utilized for its milk thistle seeds, it is also a large leafy edible green variety that grows abundantly in many springtime climates around the globe. Milk thistle leaves, however, need to be appropriately trimmed around their thorny exterior before consumption. This can be easily achieved with kitchen scissors. The smooth, somewhat waxy, green leaves are identifiable by their characteristically splashed milky look and ruffled spiny edging.

Milk thistle is from the artichoke family and the stems and de-thorned heads are also edible. The brown-black seeds can be harvested later in the season after the red-purple flower head dies back. They are well known for their potent cleansing effects on the liver organ and can be powdered for medicinal use. The leaves are best eaten as a steamed vegetable as opposed to a raw salad green, but can be chopped and added to salads if desired.

Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)

This wild edible green is known as “miner’s” lettuce because it was used extensively by the California Gold Rush miners as a valued food source that provided nourishment in times of food scarcity. Its high vitamin C content also significantly helped prevent scurvy for these mining populations.

While this rounded dainty, yet hardy, green leaf grows in large numbers throughout the California foothills, woodlands and coastal locations, it is also naturalized to similar climate zones around the world. Miners lettuce is often found next to wild chickweed, enjoying partial shade and springtime weather conditions. It is closely related to wild purslane which is evident through its similar thick and succulent-type leaves. It is also, like purslane, unusually high in omega-3 fatty acid content.

Mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

Wild mustard is found in many parts of the globe, commonly on seaside cliffs and coastal locations, but also grows in inland fields and roadsides. It prefers sunny habitats at an altitude between 0–4,593 ft (0–1,400 m) above sea level, preferring alkaline calcareous soils.

Mustard greens are hot and spicy plants from the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables. It is a familiar springtime herb to forage and is best eaten raw when the leaves are young. After this point they tend to develop a courser hairy texture that is better when steamed as a green leafy vegetable. It is an annual plant usually growing about 1-3 feet (30-91 cm) tall with seeds, yellow flowers and leaves that are all edible. The seeds can be harvested later in the season to make a spicy ground mustard.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Wild stinging nettles are not necessarily an edible green that you would pick and eat raw straight from the plant as they have stinging hairs that need to be processed before consuming. These hairs or “trichomes”, are naturally designed to help protect the plant from insects and predators and are deactivated when the plant is steeped, steamed, macerated, dried or prepared in an alcohol or vinegar solution. Stinging nettle is a leafy herbaceous plant that grows as a wild green all over the world in mild to temperate climate zones and is one of nature’s top vitamin-mineral rich plant-based supplements available for free in many forests, foothills and coastal locations worldwide.

The common nettle plant has been valued for centuries as a nutritious leafy edible and herbal tea variety that is extremely dense in energizing substances and unique plant constituents that are nourishing to the blood as well as cleansing to the body. Although the roots, stalks, stems and seeds can all be used therapeutically, the leaves are the primary part consumed as a prepared food source. While it is possible to rub off the hairs and eat the leaves, for safety reasons we often recommend that they be juiced or steamed before consumption.

Plantain (Plantago)

The plantain leaf, from the genus Plantago, is a long slender (sometimes oval-shaped leafy green) and low growing plant with ribbed indents running up its leaves that make it easy to identify. The new shoots are the most tender and appetizing to consume as a raw salad green or cooked potherb. Although the older leaves can become quite bitter and astringent, they can be used medicinally via topical application as a poultice for skin ailments and bee stings.

The seeds and husks of the plantain plant, also known as “psyllium”, are similar to cultivated psyllium often sold in supplement form or as a bulk herb. Wild seeds are likewise extremely fibrous, mucilaginous and help to increase bowel movements. The young leaves are high in beta-carotene and calcium and are a source of vitamin C content.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane is a succulent plant that has thick reddish stems and green oval-shaped leaves with a spreading root system that tolerates poor compacted soils. It is considered an “exotic weed” variety that commonly grows in warmer climates throughout the summer season and is fairly resistant to drought.

It is one of those wild edible greens, like miners lettuce that, according to a number of studies, is known to contain higher levels of omega fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and gamma-linolenic acid. Wild purslane is freshly harvested in East Mediterranean countries where it is utilized in many cultural dishes. It can be eaten raw and has a slightly sour and salty taste, but the leaves and stems are traditionally prepared steamed or cooked as a leaf vegetable. Its mucilaginous quality goes well in soups and stews.

Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor)

Salad burnet is a delicious tasting wild gourmet salad green that is very drought tolerant and can be found growing throughout the year in many climate zones. Typically suited to drier conditions and grassy foothill regions, usually in limestone soils, it is a low growing species that can reach heights of between 1-3 feet (40-90 cm). The small cilantro-looking leaves grow off both sides of a main center stem and are easy to remove by simply pinching your fingers and sliding down toward the base.

As the name implies, “salad” burnet makes a great addition to any salad, but raw leaves can be used a top any meal or blended into salad dressing. They have a refreshing flavor similar to that of cucumber.

Violet Leaves (Viola odorata)

Wild violet leaves come from the same plant as the tiny fragrant-smelling wild violet flower and are the wild relative of the cultivated pansy species. While the violet flowers are also edible and widely used in herbal syrups and honeys, not many people know that you can also eat wild violet leaves. They have a nutty and slightly spicy flavor and are classified as an alterative herb for their powerful blood purifying attributes. They are also likewise stimulating to the lymphatic system and are known for their skin clearing qualities.

Violets are easy to locate when the flowers are present, but can also be identified by their scalloped heart-shaped leaves. They are notorious for taking over untended areas of gardens and lawns, but can also be found in natural locations near water sources. The young springtime leaves can be consumed raw in salads, but become slightly bitter as they mature. They can be used in nutritive tea infusions or tinctured for their medicinal compounds.

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

Watercress is a fast growing wild edible green that is found in aquatic areas like ponds, streams or slow moving waterways. It is believed to be one of the oldest known leafy greens consumed by humans and is one of the original descendants of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables. Wild watercress is a source of isothiocyanates, like gluconasturtiin, which are in part responsible for its strong pungent flavor. Specific scientific research on the plant’s compound PEITC, phenylethyl isothiocyanate, is found to exhibit the potential to suppress certain types of tumor growth.

As a nutrient-rich wild food source, it has been utilized for its nutritious leafy stems both as a raw vegetable and steamed green. Similar to rocket lettuce or nasturtium leaf, it has a very spicy peppery sweet flavor. The leaves are also commonly employed in the culinary world for their unique taste and versatility, used in gourmet cuisine and the infamous “watercress soup.”

The Cycles of Wild Edible Greens

These are plants that come up year after year from either the same root system or from the seeds that they release. Some years, however, are more prolific than others depending on the amount of rainfall and other factors.

Sometimes, seasonal conditions additionally may allow for other types wild edible greens to emerge rather than the ones you might be use to finding in local harvesting locations.

Visit our other pages for more on wild edibles like: madrone berries, pine pollen, wild rice and desert palm fruit in the links below.

Precautions:

It is extremely important that you positively identify any wild edible plant before you harvest and eat it. There are many poisonous and even deadly look-a-likes, so it is good to err on the side of caution and use a plant identification guide to get to know the specific wild edibles in your local area.

Edible leaves

Many plant leaves are edible, from lettuces in salads to the leaves of many herbs. However, many leaves are not edible due to toxins present in them that affect human beings. Some leaves can be eaten by some species but not by others, due to the development of specialized digestive processes in some animals.

The number of edible leaves is extensive. Martin and Ruberte (1975) list about 1500 species. Many of these are common plants grown for other uses, and thus the leaves constitute little known by-products. Common weeds are frequently edible. But the rule with leaves is to know the species before eating and to eat leaves in only moderate quantities. In addition to protein, leaves contain good quantities of vitamins and minerals. They also contain undesirable substances, and some are highly toxic to the human being.

This article details the uses of edible leaves in the human diet.

Food crops

Common food crops, the leaves of which are edible include: Peppers, all kinds of squashes and melons, a1l classes of beans, okra and Roselle, all cole crops, the aroids (taros, dasheens), sweet potatoes, and cassava. Edible ornamental leaves include Hibiscus and Celosia, In addition, a few tropical crops are grown especially for their 1eaves.

The tops of the common potato are not safe to eat, due to their content of solanine.

Nutrition from leaves

Fiber from leaves

The fiber content of leaves is high. Thus, the most tender leaves of any plant are generally those selected as food. Fiber is not harmful if taken in reasonable amounts. In fact, there is some evidence that diets in the United States do not contain sufficient fiber. But excessive quantities only add bulk to the digestive tract.

Leaves as protein sources

Probably no other class of food stuffs receives so little attention when compared to its potential for providing protein as the edible leaves. Found almost everywhere in the tropics, the leaves constitute excellent sources of protein that can often be utilized to balance diets that depend heavily on starches or on a single, unbalanced plant source of protein. The amount of protein per calorie is higher in the case of select species than that of any other plant foods, including soybeans. Under conditions of survival, leaves may be the easiest foods to obtain, and their inclusion in the diet can be a valuable aid to good nutrition.

From a nutritional standpoint, leaves vary widely. The leaves of legumes and of euphorbiaceous plants are among the richest in protein. Dark green leaves tend to be rich in vitamin A as well as protein. Protein concentration often appears 1ow when figures are quoted on a wet weight basis. Leaves contain large quantities of water that may lead to erroneous conclusions when leaves are compared to seeds. On a dry weight basis, protein contents are some times extraordinary. A few species with especially high protein content are given in Table A below.

n most cases the amino acid contents and chemical score are unknown. Judging from leaves in general, however, it can be said that sulfur-containing amino acids are the most common limiting amino acids. Leaves usually contain sufficient lysine. Chemical scores of the protein are usually moderate (50-70).

A few especially good sources of leaves merit mention here. Cassava, normally grown for its starchy tuber, produces an immense quantity of protein in its leaves. Crude protein of the leaves on a dry weight basis varies from 20 to 30 percent. Protein content is highest in young leaves. Methionine is the limiting amino acid. In most parts of the tropics cassava is widespread but the leaves are not used. Occasional harvest of the younger leaves has little or no influence on the tuber yield. Cassava leaves should always be cooked before they are eaten.

Chaya, Cnidoscolus chayamansa, is an extremely vigorous plant from Mexico. Propagated from cuttings, a few plants of this species are sufficient to furnish a twice-a-week green spinach dish for a family. As in the case of cassava, the leaves must be boiled to eliminate hydrocyanic acid. Another excellent leaf is that of Sauropus and rogynus, an Indonesian plant. The young shoots are eaten raw and are extremely rich in protein. The p1ant, established as a hedge, is easy to maintain. Per acre yields of this plant has surpassed all other tropical greens in Sarawak. The common spinaches of the tropics vary greatly in their nutrition content. One of the best of these is sometimes called Chinese spinach, the edible amaranth. As a plant that grows very rapidly from seed, it is one of the easiest greens to produce at the household level. The protein content has been reported to be as high as 58 percent with a chemical score of 82. Leaves are prepared in many ways but the easiest, and perhaps most satisfactory technique is by steaming them. They also can be added to soups and stews l0 minutes before cooking is terminated.

Table A – Some high protein leaves of the tropics

Scientific name
Common name
Dry weight Percent protein
Amaranthus gangeticus Amaranth 57.8
Colocasia esculenta Taro 28.8
Cnidoscolus chayamansa Chaya 26.3
Canavalia ensiformis Jack bean 27.3
Dolichos lablab Hyacinth bean 29.0
Claoxylon longifolio Salang 47.8
Carica papaya Papaya 33.5
Manihot esculenta Cassava 26.8
Moringa oleifera Horseradish tree 37.8
Nothopanax scutellarum Cut-leaf panex 25.1
Sauropus androgynus Asin-asin 49.0
Trigonella foenum-graecum Fenugreek 33.6
Cajanus cajan Pigeonpeas 20.1
Hibiscus esculenta Okra 27.6
Vigna unguiculata Cowpea 29.8

Toxic leaves

Unfortunately, leaves often contain toxic substances. The chief toxins are hydrocyanic glycosides, oxalic acid and alkaloids. The toxic as well as the edible properties of leaves are already fairly well known, and no harm should result if the species is known and leaves are eaten in moderate quantities. In some cases, indigenous knowledge on appropriate preparation of certain leaves renders them safe to consume but this knowledge needs to be learned before assuming certain leaves are safe to eat.

The oxalic acid content of spinach makes it one of the least desirable of the edible leaves and super tasters may find it harder to enjoy. The level of oxalic acid in rhubarb leaves is too high for it to be safe and such leaves should never be consumed, or poisoning will result, with possible kidney failure.

See also

Leaves

“An eminent doctor told me that proper use of green leaves could revolutionize the customary notions of food. That, of course, means elaborate research and examination of the nourishing properties of the innumerable leaves that are to be found hidden among the grasses that grow wild in India.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), amaranth (chaulai) and mustard greens (sarson) are leafy greens — or saag as they are commonly called — that we have grown up with. And you have probably heard ballads about the many benefits of kale and chard.

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After all, it is a universally acknowledged food fact that leafy green vegetables are among nature’s best nutrition supplements They come packed with iron, calcium, vitamins, antioxidants and fibre, and are vital components of a healthy, balanced diet.

Yet, apart from these usual ubiquitous suspects, few people know about the rich culinary repertoire of local and seasonal edible greens that grow across India. From treating common ailments to adding variety to a simple diet, these indigenous superfoods have been consumed in rural Indian for centuries.

So if you’re looking to infuse some fresh flavours into your daily diet, here are 15 delicious (and extremely nutritious) leafy greens that you might be walking past at the vegetable market without even realizing what you’re missing!

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Stinging Nettle, also known as sisunaak saag or bichu buti, is a perennial plant which grows wild throughout the Himalayan region of India. According to folklore, a broth made of nettle leaves was the only food consumed by the renown Tibetan mystic Milarepa during his weeks-long retreat in the forest.

Once touched, this unusual plant can give you an itch and rashes that last for a couple of hours. Once cooked, though, it doesn’t sting the palate in the least. Rich in natural fibres, this super nutritious plant has been traditionally used as a natural diuretic, laxative and allergy relief remedy. It’s also proven to benefit skin, bone and urinary health as well.

2. Haldi Patta

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Did you know that you can use the leaves of the turmeric plant in your cooking? In the coastal regions of India, turmeric leaves are traditionally used to make herbal concoctions to ward off cold, fever and other respiratory allergies. During the monsoon months in Goa, turmeric leaves are used to make a rice dish called Patoli.

A paste of rice flour and water is smeared on the leaf. Then a sweet mixture of grated coconut, jaggery, and powdered cinnamon is spread in the centre, after which the leaf is folded and placed in a steamer. Steaming allows the leaf’s aroma to intensify and the plant’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to seep into the stuffing.

3. Lingru

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While not technically a green leafy vegetable, the lingaru or fiddlehead fern is a widely consumed saag in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where it grows abundantly in the wild. The locals of Uttarakhand, cook it into a curd-based curry, while in the Kullu valley it is mostly consumed as a pickle.

These tender, half-curled fronds are also a much-loved delicacy in Assam, where it is called dhekia xaak. Nutritionally dense, lingaru has a delicate flavour and a distinctive nutrition profile comprising of antioxidants, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and a multitude of vitamins.

4. Pui Saag

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There is some truth to the secret behind Popeye the Sailor’s remarkable strength. The comic hero routinely energized himself with a can of spinach before every fight and ended up saving the world. And this holds true not just for the regular spinach, but for the lesser-known Malabar spinach too!

This perennial plant (also called basale soppu in Kannada and pui saag in Bengali) is a stealthy climber with nutritious leaves and several health benefits. Very low in calories (100 grams of raw leaves provide just 19 calories) and rich in fibre, these leaves facilitate digestion, reduce cholesterol absorption, enhance immunity and encourage cellular healing.

5. Saijan Saag

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If plants could be superheroes, Moringa (adapted from the Tamil and Malayalam word for drumstick) would definitely be one of them. Every part of this ubiquitous tree can be consumed — leaves and young fruits (pods) as food; and the seeds, bark, flowers, and roots as medicine.

Also known as saijan saag, the leaves especially are highly nutritious. Once harvested and dried, they contain 30% protein, all essential amino acids, and have abundant levels of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Unsurprisingly, it has long been used in India as a traditional remedy for many ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, anaemia, arthritis, liver disease, and respiratory, skin, and digestive disorders.

You May Like: Loved By Fidel Castro, This Indian Tree is Helping Fight Climate Change in Africa’s Maghreb!

6. Gongura

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Known as gongura in Telugu, ambadi in Marathi, pulicha keerai in Tamil and pundi in Karnataka, the sorrel plant is called pitwaa in Hindi, khata palanga in Oriya, tenga mora in Assamese and mestapat in Bengali. This basically goes to show just how widely these naturally sour leaves are consumed in India.

The reason being that this leafy green is an incredibly rich source of iron, vitamins, minerals, folic acid and anti-oxidants essential for human nutrition. A fresh bunch of gongura is the only key to making the right dish, the popular ones being a deliciously tangy mutton curry, a zesty toor dal and a spicy pickle-like condiment. Interestingly, the sourness of the leaves is directly proportional to the temperature of the region it is grown in!

7. Kulfa Saag

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Purslane ( also called kulfa, ghol or luni saag) is one of those summer leafy green vegetables that is highly underrated not just in taste, but also in health benefits. In India, physicians have long been recommending it for everything from reducing fever, removing worms and soothing urinary infections. In fact, it was a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, who also wrote about it in his magazine.

Modern science too has made clear why it is of such value: apart from providing significant amounts of vitamins A, B and C. and decent amounts of protein, this leafy green probably contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other commonly available vegetable source. Interestingly, most botanical studies credit India as its country of origin, and Euell Gibbons, the American expert on wild food, has even labelled it “India’s gift to the world.”

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8. Anne Soppu

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Called anne soppu in Karnataka and kalmi saag in West Bengal, water spinach grows wild, like a weed along river banks and in paddy fields. Its mild, yet distinctly savoury taste, combination of long arrow-shaped leaves and crunchy hollow stems, along with great protein and nutrient content makes it an extremely satisfying culinary ingredient

In Bengal, its stir-fried with garlic, green chillies and gram while in Karnataka, the same leaves are made into a delicious sweet-sour-spicy chutney with urad dal. Interestingly, this hardy weed is said to have sustained many lives during World War II in Japanese-occupied Singapore and during the Great Bengal Famine of 1943-44!

9. Arbi ka Patta

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The potato-resembling roots of arbi or colocasia is a well-known ingredient in most Indian households. But did you know that the jumbo heart-shaped leaves of this herbaceous plant are delicious as well? Not only this, it also packed with a multitude of essential nutrients.

In fact, several indigenous cuisines across India, especially in Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, have traditional dishes prepared with arbi ka patta (also called saru saag or taro leaves). From patrod (a spicy besan mix is slathered over these leaves, which are then rolled, steamed and fried) to a south Indian-style curry with coconut milk, the culinary variations on this saag are manifold, thanks to its robust flavour.

Also Read: 15 Rare Indian Fruits That Will Amaze You With Their Uniqueness

10. Imli ka Patta

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With few urban citizens knowing how wonderful they can be, tamarind leaves (commonly known as imli ka patta) are often ignored or thrown away in favour of the tree’s tangy fruits. These tender leaves have a tart flavour thanks to an abundance of Vitamin C. They are also known to be rich in fibre, potassium, iron and calcium.

In several south Indian villages, dishes like curries, chutneys and rasams are often incomplete without a crackling tempering of tamarind leaves. In fact, a unique chutney called chintachiguru pachadi is made in Andhra Pradesh by grinding tamarind leaves (fresh or sun-dried) with peanuts, garlic, dried red chillies, and cumin seeds.

11. Chakramarda Saag

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Also known as chakod, chakunda or chakramarda saag, the cassia tora plant grows wild like a weed, spreading like a lush carpet during the monsoons in the forested areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and in the coastal belt of Karnataka and Goa. It is eaten as a vada (lentil fritter), as a vegetable mix with dried coconut and jackfruit seeds, and as a simple stir-fry served with finger-millet bhakri.

Very rich in iron and micro-nutrients like zinc, it is considered a great way of boosting the haemoglobin count. It is also an excellent toxin remover and aids the treatment of malaria, skin inflammation and other dermal diseases such as ringworm, itching and psoriasis.

12. Haak

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A popular local delicacy in Jammu and Kashmir, haak is a much-relished staple. Collard greens, as haak is known in English, are crinkly leaves with a green-blue hue that look quite a lot like spinach. However, this leafy vegetable is actually much more similar to cabbage and has a distinctive pungent flavour.

In Kashmir, haak is savoured in different textures — boiled, fried and mashed. While a stir-fry with mustard oil, asafoetida and chilli is a much-relished delicacy, the boiled version (known as the sewe haak) is a nourishing dish usually consumed by locals when suffering from respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough. It is also known to be an effective digestive aid.

13. Sushni Saag

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Known as sunsuniya saag or sushni saag, this aquatic plant look like clover but is actually a type of miniature fern. Its leaves are widely used in different traditional and folk medicinal systems for its curative value and is recommended for the treatment of insomnia, hypertension, diarrhoea, respiratory diseases, and skin diseases.

Widely consumed in West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand, it is mostly cooked with mustard oil and simple spices as a dry bhaji or a chutney. Interestingly, the fact that this saag has spawned the hit Bhojpuri song Kharo Khet Me Sunsuniya Guinya is indicative of its immense popularity in the region.

14. Takla

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As the first showers of the monsoon season in Maharashtra, the takla saag makes its way from forests or green patches around the tribal hamlets of Yeoor Hills to city markets. From mid-June till the last week of September, until the rains, these seasonal leafy vegetable grows in the wild.

A powerhouse of minerals, vitamins and natural anti-oxidants, takla saag is extremely beneficial for health and has great medicinal value in keeping monsoon-related illnesses at bay. The locals often consume them raw in salads, slightly cooked such as a quick garlic-and-cumin flavoured saute or as a simple and spicy tamboli (coconut chutney).

15. Gotu Kola

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A versatile medicinal plant that has been traditionally used in India for centuries, Indian pennywort is also known as gotu kola, brahmi, vallarai keerai, mandukaparni and manimuni saag. It is also called beng saag — a name inspired by baeng (the Bengali word for frog), for the chorus of frogs announcing the rains coincides with the appearance of this edible green.

Exceptionally rich in iron and dietary fibre, this powerful has many health benefits, from healing wounds and treating varicose veins to easing anxiety and enhancing memory power. In several India kitchens, these leaves (that have a mildly pungent taste with a hint of methi-like bitterness) are incorporated into lentil curries, coconut-based gravies and seafood stews.

Also Read: Super Greens — How to Grow Nature’s Own Super Food at Home

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The 10 best vegetables for protein

Protein is an essential nutrient your body uses to build and repair tissues.

Although animal foods are usually highest in protein, some plants also contain decent amounts.

Here are 10 healthy vegetables that contain a fair amount of protein.

1. Watercress

Share on PinterestSpinach is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy green vegetables you can eat.

Watercress is a cruciferous plant that grows in water and has a high protein content.

One cup (34 grams) of chopped watercress contains 0.8 grams of protein and 100% of your RDI of vitamin K. It also has good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, manganese, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C (1).

Moreover, watercress has been shown to offer antioxidant protection. It also contains phenolic compounds that may help prevent cancer (2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Avoid boiling watercress in water, since this will decrease the antioxidant content. Instead, try eating raw watercress in salads, stuff it in sandwiches or blend it in smoothies (7).

Protein Content: One cup (34 grams) of watercress contains 0.8 grams of protein, while 100 grams of watercress contain 2.3 grams. Protein accounts for 50% of its calories.

2. Alfalfa sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts are very low in calories, but rich in nutrients.

One cup (33 grams) of alfalfa sprouts provides 1.3 grams of protein. This vegetable also has decent amounts of folate, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and vitamins K and C (8).

A couple of studies performed in animals demonstrated that alfalfa sprouts can reduce cholesterol levels. This was thought to be due to their high content of saponins, a group of compounds that can lower cholesterol (9, 10).

One study treated 15 people who had high blood lipid levels with 40 grams of alfalfa seeds, three times daily, for eight weeks. These people had a 17% reduction in total cholesterol and an 18% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol (11).

Alfalfa sprouts have also been shown to decrease inflammation, reduce symptoms of menopause and help treat and prevent osteoporosis (12, 13, 14, 15).

Protein Content: One cup (33 grams) of alfalfa sprouts contains 1.3 grams of protein, while 100 grams of sprouts contain 4 grams of protein. Protein accounts for 42% of its calories.

3. Spinach

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy green vegetables you can eat.

Protein accounts for 30% of its calories and it contains all the essential amino acids. A 1-cup (30-gram) serving provides 1 gram of protein and 181% of the RDI for vitamin K (16).

It also contains high amounts of folate, manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C (16).

Besides its high protein content, spinach contains plant compounds that can increase antioxidant defense and reduce inflammation (17).

In one study, 20 athletes who took spinach supplements for 14 days experienced reduced oxidative stress and less muscle damage (18).

Another study gave nitrate-rich spinach to healthy participants and measured its effects on their levels of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule normally used in the body to widen the blood vessels.

The study also measured endothelial function and blood pressure. Nitrate-rich spinach was found to increase nitric oxide, improve endothelial function and lower blood pressure, all of which can improve heart health (19).

Lastly, regularly consuming spinach has been linked to as much as a 44% lower risk of breast cancer (20).

Protein Content: One cup (30 grams) of raw spinach contains 0.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of spinach contain 2.9 grams. Protein accounts for 30% of the calories in spinach.

4. Chinese cabbage or bok choy

Chinese cabbage, which refers to the napa cabbage and bok choy, is a good source of vegetable protein.

One cup (70 grams) of Chinese cabbage contains 1 gram of protein. It’s also an excellent source of folate, calcium, potassium, manganese, iron and vitamins A, C and K (21).

A number of cell studies showed that Chinese cabbage is rich in compounds with antioxidant activity. Its outer leaves appear to contain the most antioxidants. Plus, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (22, 23, 24).

It seems like some studies agree that high intakes of Brassica vegetables, like Chinese cabbage, can decrease the risk of prostate cancer (25).

Additionally, an animal study showed that taking supplements of Chinese cabbage powder reduced the risk of liver cancer (26).

Chinese cabbage is used in many Asian recipes, such as stir-fries, kimchi, soups and spring rolls.

Protein Content: One cup (70 grams) of shredded Chinese cabbage contains 1 gram of protein, while 100 grams of Chinese cabbage contain 1.5 grams. Protein accounts for 28% of its calories.

5. Asparagus

Asparagus is a very popular vegetable with a high nutrient content.

Asparagus is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties (28).

It also contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which provide prebiotic benefits, stimulating the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria (29, 30).

Asparagus can be cooked in the oven, grilled, boiled, steamed or pan-fried and it is wonderful in salads or as a side dish.

Protein Content: One cup (134 grams) of asparagus contains 2.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of asparagus contain 2.2 grams. Protein accounts for 27% of the calories in asparagus.

6. Mustard greens

Mustard greens belong to the Brassica family and are very similar to kale but with a distinct mustard flavor.

A 1-cup (56-gram) serving of mustard greens provides 1.5 grams of protein, as well as 348% of the RDI for vitamin K and 118% of the RDI for vitamin A. It is also high in manganese, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E (31).

Mustard greens, like other plants, contain phenolic compounds that give them antioxidant properties (24, 32).

A test-tube study demonstrated that steaming mustard greens increases their ability to bind to bile acids. This may help them reduce cholesterol levels (33).

The same study found that steaming may have similar positive effects on collard greens, kale, cabbage, green peppers and broccoli.

This veggie can be steamed, boiled, sautéed or simply eaten raw in salads.

Protein Content: One cup (56 grams) of chopped mustard greens contains 1.5 grams of protein, while 100 grams of mustard greens contain 2.7 grams. Protein accounts for 25% of the calories in mustard greens.

7. Broccoli

Broccoli is a very popular vegetable that also happens to be high in protein. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked.

A 1-cup (91-gram) serving of raw chopped broccoli can provide 2.6 grams of protein, including all the essential amino acids. It also contains plenty of folate, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins C and K (34).

For all these nutrients, a 1-cup serving of broccoli contains only 31 calories.

Broccoli also provides high amounts of plant compounds and flavonoids, like kaempferol. These can provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (35, 36).

Similar to all other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli has a high content of glucosinolates, compounds that may help reduce the risk of cancer (37, 38, 39).

Like mustard greens, broccoli has a higher capacity to bind to bile acids when it’s steamed than when it’s raw, so eating steamed broccoli may help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood (33).

Additionally, broccoli can help improve liver health by stimulating detoxification and the production of antioxidant compounds in the liver (40).

Broccoli can be steamed, roasted, baked or sautéed. You can use it to make tasty side dishes, soups and sauces.

Protein Content: One cup (91 grams) of chopped broccoli contains 2.6 grams of protein, while 100 grams of broccoli contain 2.8 grams. Protein accounts for 20% of the calories in broccoli.

8. Collard greens

Collard greens are a dark green, loose-leafed vegetable from the same family as kale, broccoli and cauliflower.

A 1-cup (36-gram) serving contains 0.9 grams of protein with only about 11 calories. The vitamin K content is particularly remarkable, with 230% of the RDI in a 1-cup serving (41).

Additionally, collard greens are an excellent source of calcium, potassium and manganese (41).

As another member of the Brassica family, collard greens are a good source of phenolic compounds and antioxidants (32, 42).

The high levels of antioxidants in collard greens have been linked to a decreased risk of developing prostate cancer (25).

One study reported that people who eat cruciferous vegetables like collard greens are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer (43).

Collard greens can also bind to bile acids in your gut, helping to reduce your cholesterol levels. One study showed that steam cooking boosts this benefit (33).

You can enjoy collard greens steamed or sautéed. They’re particularly tasty mixed with other veggies like onions and mushrooms.

Protein Content: One cup (36 grams) of chopped collard greens contains 0.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of collard greens contain 2.5 grams. Protein accounts for 20% of the calories in collard greens.

9. Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts can be a great addition to your diet. They’re a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins.

A study in animals showed that Brussels sprouts can promote the growth and health of intestinal bacteria and stimulate the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut (45).

People usually cook Brussels sprouts by boiling, steaming, grilling or roasting. They are an ideal side dish.

Protein Content: One cup (88 grams) of Brussels sprouts contains 3 grams of protein, while 100 grams of Brussels sprouts contain 3.4 grams. Protein accounts for 19% of the calories in this food.

10. Cauliflower

Like broccoli, cauliflower provides a high amount of protein for the number of calories it delivers.

One cup (100 grams) of cauliflower has 2 grams of protein and 25 calories. It is also a great source of vitamins C and K and minerals like potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron (46).

Cauliflower also contains a high amount of a particular glucosinolate compound called sinigrin. This is thought to have anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (38, 47, 48).

The glucosinolate content of cauliflower may drop significantly when it’s cooked. Therefore, cauliflower may be better eaten raw (48).

However, cauliflower is also high in other antioxidants that are preserved during cooking and may even increase after cauliflower is steamed or microwaved (49).

Like several other vegetables on this list, cauliflower has the potential to reduce cholesterol levels because of its capacity to bind bile acids. Steaming cauliflower increases this capacity (50).

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can be adapted to a variety of recipes. In many cases, it can be used as a substitute for starchy carbs.

Protein Content: One cup of cauliflower weighs 100 grams and contains 2 grams of protein. Protein accounts for 19% of its calories.

Take-home message

Even though vegetables are not very high in protein compared to some other foods, many of them contain good amounts of protein relative to their calorie content.

Plus, these vegetables are high in many other nutrients and have been linked to all sorts of health benefits.

These protein-rich vegetables are a great way to increase the protein and nutrient content of your diet without adding many calories.

Arlene Semeco, MS, RD

20 Vegetables Ranked By Protein

After sneaking in a much-needed post holiday workout, my friend Sarah and I hit up a restaurant in town for lunch. “I’ll have the lean chicken breast,” she told the waiter, “Gotta up my protein.” Smart choice: A solid serving of protein after a sweat sesh is crucial for building lean muscle mass and blasting away belly fat. “As for me,” I said, glancing past the meats, “I’ll have…. the roasted veggie salad.” Surprised? So was Sarah. “I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” I told her. “Protein-packed chicken isn’t the only food that helps you get toned. Veggies also pack a punch.” In fact, some high-protein vegetables have as much as 8 grams per cup. That may pale in comparison to a chicken breast (34 grams per 4 ounces) or burger (26 grams per quarter pounder), but vegetables are also high-fiber foods that contain antioxidants and vitamins.

They’re not only more affordable sources of the nutrient than fish and beef, but they can be healthier, too: People who consume higher amounts of vegetable protein are significantly less susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. What’s more, the study found that replacing about 5 grams of animal protein with plant protein daily would reduce the risk of diabetes by an impressive 18 percent.

That’s not all. Another Nutrients journal study found that plant protein could help dieters feel just as full and less hungry than the same amount of animal protein.

Looking to reap the slimming benefits? We’ve gathered up the most popular veggies on your plate and ranked them according to their protein content. So whether you’re a vegetarian or an omnivore just looking to pack on the protein without having to scarf down another baked chicken breast, bookmark this handy guide to always have your go-to plant-based sources on hand.

High-Protein Vegetables Ranked From Worst… To Best

Yes, we included some botanically-classified fruits like eggplant and pepper, but we put them on the list because people typically eat them like veggies. All protein content information was collected from the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

20

Eggplant

Protein, per 1 cup: 0.82 grams

While eating eggplant won’t be listed as one of the best weight loss tips from the world’s fittest men as it’s fairly low in the protein department, it’s still a great addition to your diet. The purple plant is packed with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that provide neuroprotective benefits like bolstering short-term memory.

19

Carrots

Protein, per 1 cup chopped (raw or boiled): 1.19 grams

What’s up, doc? Unfortunately, it’s not the protein content of carrots. That being said, munching on these veggies either raw or steamed will still serve up a healthy dose of inflammation-fighting vitamin A.

18

Red Bell Pepper

Protein, per 1 cup chopped (raw): 1.48 grams

Although bell pepper won’t directly increase your lean muscle mass, the vitamin-C-rich veggie will still help you turn off the stress hormone that’s causing you to put on belly fat.

17

Protein, per 1 cup (cooked): 2.47 grams
Protein, per 1 cup (raw): 0.68 grams

You’ll soon see that kale has more protein than the next veggie, but we docked it a spot because the majority of dieters eats this leafy green raw, in which case, you’ll only get a measly half a gram of protein out of a cup. To up your muscle-building power, we’d recommend adding some chickpeas to your next kale salad.

16

Zucchini

Protein, per 1 cup sliced (cooked): 2.05 grams

It may be low, but 2 grams of protein for only 27 calories and an additional 2 grams of fiber isn’t all that bad for zucchini. Saute it up in some olive oil for a side dish, or throw diced zucchini into one of these soup recipes.

15

Cauliflower

Protein, per 1 cup: 2.28 grams

It’s one of our favorite cruciferous veggies to roast, but pick it up to make a low-carb pizza crust rather than a replacement for your roast pork.

14

Avocado

Protein, per 1 cup (cubes): 3.00 grams

To get those three grams of protein, you’ll also have to scarf down 240 calories, so don’t go too crazy. Rather, a more reasonable serving size is ½ an avocado, which will still give you 2 grams of protein. Slice some of this healthy fat to serve on a slice of sprouted grain bread, on a side salad, or throw it into a smoothie!

13

Broccoli Rabe

Protein, per 1 cup (cooked): 3.26 grams

If you can get passed the bitter taste, broccoli rabe is a great addition to your diet. If not for its protein content, do it for the calcium: A cup of the steamed high-protein vegetable has a whopping 301 milligrams of bone-protecting calcium—that’s 30 percent of your recommended daily intake! Calcium doesn’t just help protect your bones, it also plays a role in maintaining proper muscle function and boosting endurance.

12

Beet Greens

Protein, per 1 cup (sauteed): 3.70 grams
Protein, per 1 cup (raw): 0.84 grams

Commonly found in mixed greens, seek out a package of exclusively beet greens to reap their satiating properties. A sauteed cup of the high-protein leaves will serve up close to four grams of protein along with an additional four grams of belly-filling fiber.

11

Broccoli

Protein, per 1 cup: 3.7 grams

This cruciferous veggie packs a whole lot of protein. We like it steamed (to preserve most of it’s water-soluble nutrients!) until al dente and topped with low-sodium soy sauce and sesame seeds. Yum! As an added bonus, chomping on steamed broccoli just a few times a week is clinically proven to lower rates of breast, lung, and skin cancers—that’s why it’s one of the best foods for women!

10

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a favorite of vegetarians thanks to their unctuous umami flavor that’s also found in meat and cheese (and what makes each taste so good!). Not only do these fungi offer up a decent serving of protein, but they also are one of the few non-animal-based sources of vitamin D—a vitamin that boosts immunity and is essential for bone health.

9

Brussels Sprouts

Protein, per 1 cup (cooked): 3.98 grams

These crucifers shouldn’t be reserved for your Thanksgiving table. Add Brussels sprouts to your diet to supplement your protein intake as well as help decrease bad cholesterol levels due to their high fiber content.

8

Sweet Potato

Protein, per 1 cup (baked with skin): 4.02 grams

Sweet potato? More like sweet protein! Add this tuber as a side dish to your typical chicken breast meal to up your protein content even more and you’ll also reap the benefits of their carotenoids: disease-fighting compounds that give you glowing skin.

7

Corn

Protein, per 1 cup: 4.21 grams

This sweet veggie is also packed with an equal amount of fiber. The only problem is it’s higher in calories than other veggie-based protein sources, coming in at 134 calories. At least you’ll be ingesting loads of free-radical fighting antioxidants! Sweet yellow corn is full of lutein and zeaxanthin—two phytochemicals that work in tandem to promote healthy vision.

6

Asparagus

Protein, per 1 cup (cooked): 4.32 grams

Who knew that so much protein could be stuffed into a 32-calorie cup of these skinny spears? Besides the protein, we also love that asparagus is jam-packed with inulin (a type of prebiotic fiber that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut) and potassium, which can help you look slimmer by keeping bloating at bay.

5

Protein, per 1 cup (cooked): 5.35 grams
Protein, per 1 cup (raw): 0.86 grams

Now we know why Popeye had such large muscles! Baby spinach might be small, but it packs a powerful protein punch. We’d recommend eating it sauteed for the most hunger-quelling benefits: while one cup of cooked spinach has over five grams of fiber, the same cup of raw spinach doesn’t even make it to one.

4

Hubbard Squash

Protein, per 1 cup (cooked): 5.08 grams

You’ll start squashing your workout routine when you add Hubbard squash to your diet. With five grams of protein per cup, this roasted squash makes a great, filling addition to your favorite veggie-filled soup recipe or tossed with pine nuts, arugula, and bow tie pasta.

3

Protein, per 1 cup: 5.15 grams

You won’t reserve this southern staple to solely be served with barbecue anymore. Collard greens are also a great source of folate (serving up 75 percent of your recommended daily intake). The B vitamin helps with the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that keeps us happy, as well as aids with focus, energy, and alertness—not to mention, increases sexual stamina.

2

Russet Potato

Protein, per large potato with skin (baked): 7.86 grams

All hail the humble potato! Still “clothed” in its skin, the tuber provides almost 8 grams of protein and plenty of slow digesting carbs to help your muscles rebuild and recover after an intense workout. We like serving our baked potato with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt, some chopped scallions, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

And the most protein-packed veggie is…

1

Green Peas

Protein, per 1 cup (frozen then cooked): 8.24 grams

Although, yes, technically peas are part of the legume family, many people eat them as they would other high-protein vegetables: steamed with carrots, thrown into a veggie fried rice, or added to a chicken pot pie. And we’re all for it. These tiny green beans will not only tone your muscles with over eight grams of protein, but they’ll also provide seven grams of satiating fiber—all for a mere 125 calories. Adding non-starchy veggies like peas to your diet can help you lose inches of belly fat.

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mindbodygreen

There are so many different varieties of fresh sprouts available and the thing I love about them is that they are living until you pick them. (You can’t get any fresher than that.) Sprouts make a healthy addition to sandwiches, salads and soups. Try mixing the various kinds of sprouts that are available, as the different varieties are all delicious.

6. Mushrooms

With a firm texture and immune boosting properties, especially the cordycep, reishi and maitake varieties, mushrooms make a tasty, nutritious and filling main meal. I like to cook them under a hot grill with a drizzle of olive oil. When they are almost done, simply top them with a little freshly chopped garlic and parsley and then bake them a little longer (to cook the garlic). Serve them with freshly scrambled organic eggs for a healthy weekend brunch.

7. Brussel Sprouts

This cruciferous vegetable is not only high in protein, but also fiber. I remember as a little girl not being very keen on Brussels sprouts. Fortunately, my taste buds have evolved! Try roasting them in a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and a dash of sea salt for a delicious variation.

8. Artichokes

You can eat artichokes in many different ways including blended, steamed or roasted. They are so delicious and filling (thanks to the high protein) that you may very well may make them the main part of your meal, as happened in the ancient Jewish Ghettos in Rome many years ago!

9. Asparagus

Not only are asparagus high in protein, but they also assist your body with detoxification. Asparagus are also high in fiber, which fills you up and leaves you feeling satisfied and satiated after eating.

10. Corn

In addition to its high fiber content, a serving of corn packs a solid protein punch. Best eaten fresh from the cob, you can also get the benefits off-season through frozen or canned kernels.

For more ideas on how to heal your body and life naturally, you can download a free chapter of my book called Losing Weight is a Healing Journey here.

Hungry? Check out this list of the best leafy greens and salad vegetables. These are edible plants in which the leaves, stems, flowers, or roots can be made into delicious snacks. This list does not include edible plants that are fungi, seeds, or treated as fruits. Something to consider: the word vegetable is based on culinary tradition. It is not scientific. Edible plants traditionally used to make savory dishes are typically considered vegetables. That said, some vegetables are occasionally used to also make sweet dishes, such as carrots, rhubarb, and even avocados.

What are the best vegetables for salad? While some of the edible greens on this list may be eaten raw, more often than not, vegetables are cooked. So whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or just a well rounded carnivore, enjoy this list of leafy greens and salad vegetables. Maybe you’ll be inspired to go outside and hunt for your own leafy greens. Or maybe you’ll just learn a few new things about the different types of salad greens before you eat that burger you really wanted anyway. Whatever the case, learning about these salad veggies may help you make healthy decision in the future. Eat up!

What does green vegetables do for your body?

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