Collard greens are the humble superstar of American soul food. Just thinking of those delicious greens sauteed with crispy bacon is enough to make your mouth water. But they also pack some amazing health benefits.
And really, what would the customary yuletide eatathon be without Mom cooking chicken and collard greens? (Thanks, Run DMC.)
Here’s the lowdown on this leafy, green nutritional machine.
Men should be getting 120 micrograms of vitamin K, and women 90 micrograms, every single day.
Some studies found that eating lots of cruciferous veg (yep, like collard greens) may lower your risk of prostate and lung cancers.
Research has suggested that compounds called glucosinolates could be the key. These compounds might throw a wrench in the works of certain cancers at different stages of their development.
This is pretty complex stuff though. It’s not totally clear how effective against cancer these compounds are on their own. But a balanced, nutritious diet can help you reduce the risk of cancer regardless. So where’s the harm in stocking up on collard greens and their cruciferous pals?
May promote healthy blood sugar control
Green leafy veggies contain a whole bunch of fiber.
Adults over 18 years need anywhere between 22 grams and 34 grams of fiber depending on sex, age, and pregnancy status. (Check these USDA guidelines for the exact amount that applies to you.)
With 5.59 grams of fiber in a cup of boiled collards, you’ll be well on the way to meeting your daily recommended amount.
A 2013 study on rats who were prone to high blood pressure found that a diet involving 4 percent collard greens helped change the makeup of their liver fatty acids, reducing the kind that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
(Obviously, rats are not humans. But it’s promising for collard greens on the liver front.)
Fiber is essential for gut health. And collards have bags of the stuff. Famous, among other things, for helping you poop like a champ.
Glowing skin and hair
They’re loaded with vitamin A. This plays a super important role in the growth of all bodily tissues (including skin and hair).
Cruciferous veg are a great source of iron, particularly if you’re vegan or vegetarian. There’s roughly 2.5 milligrams of iron per cup of canned collards (a little less if using fresh). That’s around a quarter of your daily recommended amount.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to your collards to boost iron absorption.
Better sleep and mood
Collards provide folate — and not getting enough of the stuff might have links to depression, as a 2011 study on women with epilepsy and low folate levels demonstrated.
We’re not suggesting that a vegetable can treat depression or other mental health disorders. Although following a nutritious diet that’s rich in vegetables like collards is important for every aspect of health, including mental health, food can’t take the place of treatments like medication or therapy.
Speak with a mental health professional if you’re experiencing any symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Collards are an absolute nutrient bomb. One cup of cooked, fresh collards blasts your bod with the following:
|Protein||4.21 grams (g)|
|Carbs (including 5.59 g of fiber and only 0.64 g of sugar)||7.55 g|
|Calcium||324 milligrams (mg)|
|Vitamin C||34.4 mg|
|Folate||135 micrograms (mcg)|
|Vitamin A (RAE)||333 mcg|
|Vitamin E||3.15 mg|
|Vitamin K||609 mcg|
There’s an ongoing debate as to whether juicing veg provides any additional benefits.
If you find it difficult to get your daily recommended amount of veg, then juicing could be a time-saving way to get more vitamins and nutrients.
There’s also evidence for this. In a study from 2004, participants showed significant increases in beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and folate after supplementing with fruit and vegetable juices over 14 weeks.
But according to a different study, you could be missing out on the full health benefits of fiber by juicing. Depending on the juicer, as much as 90 percent of fiber vanishes in the juicing process. So it’s best to eat plenty of whole foods for that fiber punch.
However, if you enjoy fresh veggie or fruit juice, that’s fine, too. Just make sure that you’re consuming a variety of fruits and veggies in various forms — raw, cooked, juiced — to get the most benefit from your diet.
Cooking methods can negatively impact the availability of some nutrients and enhance others.
For example, boiling may reduce the vitamin C content of veggies, while cooking them with a fat source like olive oil can actually increase the bioavailability of fat-soluble nutrients like the antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene.
If you’re taking medications that thin the blood —– such as warfarin or Coumadin — watch out for foods that contain lots of vitamin K.
Suddenly increasing or decreasing your intake of vitamin K can be risky, as it plays an important role in blood clotting.
Remember, no single fruit or vegetable is going to turn you into Superman or Wonder Woman (although if it did, you’d definitely want to be Supertato). Eating lots of different fruit and veg will help you get the broad range of nutrients your body demands.
It’s hard to beat the classics, of course. But there are loads of vibrant new recipes using collard greens. Here’s a roundup of our faves:
- authentic Southern collard greens (try the veggie version too)
- Martha Stewart’s sauteed collard greens with garlic
- slow cooker collard greens and ham hocks
- stuffed collard greens
- vegan coconut curried greens
- creamed collard greens with peanut and chili
- softshell crab sandwich with collard slaw
- mean green collard terrine
Need some more inspo? Here’s how to bring life to your collard greens.
There’s more to collard greens than meets the eye. Much more than a basic Christmas dinner table side dish.
Packed full of nutrients, these cruciferous green vegetables boast an array of benefits for the body and brain. Used in soups, stews, stir-fries and sandwiches, there’s a ton of different ways to sneak them into your diet.
So get yourself in the kitchen and give this underrated vegetable a chance to shine.