There’s a new winter green in town, and it’s got a spicy, warming kick. Say hello to mustard greens.
Part of the Brassica squad — which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and collard greens — these bitter, spicy greens are packed with health benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about mustard green nutrition.
Mustard greens 101
Mustard greens are leaves from the same plant that gives us mustard seed and… mustard! 🌭 The greens’ bitter, spicy flavor will shake up your salad routine.
These are the basics (keep scrolling for details):
- 15 calories per cup
- < 1 gram of fat per cup
- < 1 gram of net carbs per cup (2.6 grams of carbs minus 1.8 grams of fiber)
Like most salad mainstays, mustard greens score a 10/10 on the health scale. They pack major nutrients into just a handful of calories.
Here are the deets for 1 cup of raw mustard greens:
- 15 calories
- 2.6 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.6 grams of protein
- 1.8 grams of fiber
- < 1 gram of sugar
- < 1 gram of fat
And the micronutrients?
- Vitamin K: 120% of the recommended daily value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 44% of the DV
- Copper: 10% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 9% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 8% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the DV
- Calcium: 4–5% of the DV
- Iron: 4–5% of the DV
- Potassium: 4–5% of the DV
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 4–5% of the DV
- Magnesium: 4–5% of the DV
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 3–4% of the DV
And that’s not even mentioning the small doses of selenium, phosphorus, niacin, folate, and zinc. Whew!
It’s worth noting that cooking your mustard greens changes the nutritional profile, boosting the vitamin A, vitamin K, and copper content and lowering the levels of vitamins C and E.
Pickling your greens also changes things. Pickled mustard greens — sometimes called takana — have less vitamin C. But some research from 2008 suggests that pickling mustard greens *is* a great way to preserve the plant’s antioxidant count.
Scientists are a busy bunch, and they haven’t done many studies on mustard greens alone. But we can still parse out several health benefits based on the micronutrients inside these little greens.
Ward off disease with antioxidants
Mustard greens are packed with antioxidants, which fight off the free radicals that can lead to major health probs like cancer and heart disease.
Different types of mustard greens offer different levels of antioxidants. No matter which one you pick, expect a hefty dose of beta carotene, lutein, flavonoids, and vitamins C and E.
Pro tip: Reach for the red variety if you want to boost your anthocyanins, which may help with heart and eye health, according to some studies.
Pack in the vitamin K
Vitamin K helps your bod in a lot of ways — most notably blood clotting. It’s also important for bone strength and heart health. Research suggests that a vitamin K deficiency can eventually contribute to osteoporosis or unhealthy blood loss.
A 2019 review of studies suggests that a vitamin K deficiency could also increase your risk of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But we need more focused research on humans to determine the exact relationship between brain health and vitamin K.
Nourish your immune system with vitamins A + C
An apple a day? How ’bout a salad a day?
Just a cup of chopped mustard greens offers more than a third of the vitamin C you need each day. Research suggests that a lack of vitamin C increases your chances of getting sick, so mustard greens make a great addition to your arsenal of immune boosters.
But wait — there’s more! Mustard greens also have vitamin A, which helps fight infection at the cellular level.
Give your heart some TLC
Mustard greens — and Brassica veggies in general — are brimming with heart-healthy perks.
Brassica bites (🥬 🥦 🥬!) all have plant compounds that could help lower cholesterol levels too — a double win for your heart!
Pamper your peepers
Back to the whole antioxidant thing: Mustard greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are great for your eyes.
Research suggests that these antioxidants shield your retinas from oxidative damage and help filter out blue light. Plus, lutein has been found to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a condition that causes some people to lose their vision as they age.
Keep the cancer away (maybe)
According to some research, the glucosinolates in mustard greens *might* reduce your risk of cancer. Take it with a grain of salt, though — more humans-eating-mustard-greens studies are needed to confirm the link.
Here’s what we’ve got:
- A 2018 review of test-tube studies suggests that glucosinolates can help prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
- A 2016 test-tube study revealed that mustard leaf extract helps protect against colon and lung cancers.
- Researchers have also noticed that humans who eat lots of Brassica veggies seem to have lower rates of stomach, colorectal, and ovarian cancers.
tl;dr: The jury’s still out, but mustard greens *seem* to have some anticancer properties.
Mustard greens are a safe, healthy food for almost everyone. But, as with any food, some folks might have allergies or bummer interactions with medications.
Remember that mustard greens are chock-full of vitamin K, which helps your blood clot. So if you’re on a blood thinner (like warfarin), don’t overdo it on the mustard greens salads. Also, chat with your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about the greens interfering with your meds.
Finally, mustard greens are one of the many plant foods that contain oxalates, which can increase the risk of kidney stones. So if you’re prone to stones (ouch!), you may want to steer clear.
At most grocery stores! You’ll find mustard greens in the produce section alongside other greens like lettuce and kale. They look more like the “greens” than the “mustard.”
Pick the crispest, brightest-looking bunch. Avoid wilted, slimy, or yellowing greens — that means they’re getting low-key stale.
Treat mustard greens like most other salad ingredients: Wash them thoroughly with cold water, and then keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.
Storing leafy greens is a pretty simple business. Blot away extra moisture with a paper towel before putting them in a zip-top plastic bag in the fridge.
Pro tip: Stick a clean paper towel in the bag with your greens. It’ll keep them fresh by absorbing excess water.
You’ve got three main choices: raw, cooked, and pickled.
How to eat raw mustard greens
Raw mustard greens add a spicy, peppery kick to salads. Mixing them with other greens helps temper the bitter aftertaste.
Just like kale and spinach, mustard greens can be blended into smoothies and green juices.
How to cook mustard greens
As noted above, mustard greens have a bitter, peppery flavor. Cooking them in olive oil or butter can mellow things out. On the other hand, you can cook them in vinegar or lemon juice for a tangy side.
Cooked mustard greens beautifully complement simple main dishes such as baked fish and roasted chicken. And if you’re making a soup or stew, you can add mustard greens toward the end of the cooking time.
How to make pickled mustard greens
Most mustard green picklers use a combo of vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, and chiles. But you can totally use your favorite pickling method or recipe with these hardy greens.
Looking for step-by-step instructions? Dive into this Fermented Chinese Mustard Greens recipe from writer Andrea Nguyen.
Wanna give mustard greens a whirl? Try one of these recipes from our internet friends:
- Mustard greens are deliciously peppery, with a bitter aftertaste.
- Mustard greens are packed with micronutrients — most notably antioxidants, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
- The greens have several health perks, from supporting your immune system to potentially warding off cancer.
- Eat them raw, steamed, or pickled. You’ll be glad you did.