Navigating the greens section at the grocery store can be intimidating, especially if you tend to buy the same variety of produce at each visit. By learning more about the diverse tastes, textures, and nutrients in different salad greens, you will feel more confident in your purchase and hopefully comfortable enough to branch out of your comfort zone and try something new.
As you will read below, salad greens are a great addition to a healthy, balanced diet. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 1.5 cups of dark, leafy vegetables per week. Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just add some more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, salad greens are the perfect addition. They are low in calories and high in volume, helping you to feel more full and satisfied when including them in your meal plan. They are also very diverse. Greens can be used in salads, smoothies, wraps, and soups, to name a few. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, or baked in the oven as crisps.
Dark, leafy greens are high in several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. They are also rich in fiber, which helps keep the digestive tract regular and the colon healthy. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, romaine, rapini, and Swiss chard are all examples of dark greens.
Additionally, one serving of spinach has only 23 calories, but 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. One cup of kale has only 49 calories but 4 grams of protein. Their high fiber and protein content will leave you feeling fuller, longer. For more information on the health benefits of spinach and kale, check out the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Superfood Series.
Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.
Taste and Texture
Consider the texture of the green when thinking of a proper use for it. For example, kale is very durable and its leaves do not wilt easily. This makes it ideal for baking kale chips in the oven. It is also a good green for salads that have dressing added ahead of time, as the leaves will not get soggy and wilt. Romaine lettuce is crispy, and tender, without being bitter. This makes it ideal for strongly flavored dressings such as Caesar. Spinach has a rich flavor and tender leaf, which makes it great for eating raw in a salad or in a wrap. Swiss chard is slightly bitter, so it is best enjoyed when sautéed or added to a soup or casserole.