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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 01, 2008

Smart Fuel: Dark, Leafy Greens

By Worker Bee
36 Comments

With earth day barely a week behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to a new way to Go Green. This time, however, we’re not talking about forgoing paper napkins or ditching the polystyrene cup. In fact, we’re actually talking about adding something in: Dark, leafy green vegetables, and lots of ‘em.

Now granted, we’ve discussed many of these nutritional powerhouses in previous posts – here, here and here, for instance – but you see, and not to get all girly on you here, but leafy green vegetables are like the little black dress of the vegetable world. They go with just about everything, they’re appropriate for every occasion, and, with very few exceptions, they are universally liked. And for that reason, they deserve a second look!

On the nutrition front, dark green leafy vegetables, calorie for calorie, are considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Specifically, they are an excellent source of several minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium as well as vitamins K (providing nine times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 1 cup serving) C, E, and many of the B vitamins. In addition, leafy greens provide a number of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin and also contain small amounts of fatty acids. Cementing their place on the nutritional honor roll, leafy greens contain very few carbohydrates, much of which is offset by its high fiber content (so much so that the leafy greens are generally considered a “freebie” vegetable in most low-carbohydrate diets).

In addition to their shared nutritional benefits, leafy green vegetables also have several medicinal benefits in common. According to recent research, for example, leafy green vegetables can help prevent age-related cognitive declines, can help prevent cataracts and boost eye health (you can thank the potent combination of lutein, and zeaxanthin for that one!), and may also reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Now let’s talk taste: Although they are all dark green vegetables and have similar appearances, the tastes actually differ significantly which, in turn, can dictate how you use them in cooking. Kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, broccoli rabe and collard greens, for example, have a more pungent flavor that can be used to add zip to stir frys, casseroles or soups or that can be served as a stand alone dish with salt and a touch of lemon juice. Bok Choy, meanwhile, has a milder, almost sweet flavor that goes well when sautéed with onions and garlic or again, to add texture to stir frys, casseroles or soups. Another great – but admittedly lesser known – leafy green are sea vegetables, or seaweed, which, with its salty flavor, make a great base for soups, salads or again, to add flair to a stir fry (are you seeing a theme here?). Still not sure? Consider using the leafy greens as a nutritious “bed” for just about any entrée. Finally, there’s the more salady-type greens, including romaine and endive, which make a great base for just about every salad but that can also be used as a substitute for bread to make sandwich “wraps.”

One good tip to remember, however you are eating your greens, is to always try and add a little fat (either in the form of oil, butter or salad dressing), as it helps promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamin K.

So, however you like ‘em – hot, cold or somewhere in between – consider adding leafy green vegetables to your next meal!

AmyMo, drdrewhonolulu, Pixie Dust Flickr Photos (CC)

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36 Comments on "Smart Fuel: Dark, Leafy Greens"

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Kurt
Kurt
8 years 4 months ago

Kale in stirfry is one of the best things going. Tempeh, kale, onions, garlic and ginger. That’s all you need.

Daniel
3 years 10 months ago

I just discovered Kale and really like how resilient it is in practically any cooking application. You can do anything with Kale including throw it in soup like Zuppa Toscana (the kind they serve at Olive Garden). I haven’t tried blending it in a green smoothie yet, but I’m looking forward to using it a lot more! Great suggestion!

Scott Kustes - Modern Forager
8 years 4 months ago
Great stuff. I love my greens. I have a salad with spinach or some type of dark green/green-red lettuce daily. And then I also have cooked greens of some other sort at least once or twice a week, usually kale, though sometimes collards, and typically some spinach anytime I make eggs for a meal. Nutritionally, there’s just nothing better than adding some greens…lots of vitamins, very little in the way of carbs. I have several types of sea vegetables in my pantry. I just forget to use them very often. I need to be more diligent about that. Cheers Scott… Read more »
Nikki
Nikki
8 years 4 months ago
MMMMmmm, greens! They are awesome. As a cash-poor graduate student, I love buying these. They are usually cheap compared to other vegetables, and you can get a whole lot of them at one time. I usually pick up at least one bunch a week, and I just go by which type looks best at the time. Mustard, turnip, and kale are the ones I tend to eat the most…but now that it’s springtime, I’m also out gathering young dandelions from my backyard! I like ’em simple – chopped and sauteed/steamed with garlic and red pepper flakes, and then served with… Read more »
raine1200
4 years 7 months ago

Hey all. Don’t forget the best green of all, it is free all summer. Dandelions. Cut with scissors soak over night fresh in salads is great to me.

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[…] Greens I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what nutritional powerhouses all of the various greens are. For salads, I make sure to keep a couple types of lettuce and spinach on hand, usually going […]

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[…] Smart Fuel: Dark Leafy Greens […]

Matt
Matt
6 years 5 months ago

I never really ate a lot of greens until I started coming to this site daily. Now I eat a huge salad with dark greens (Kale, Chard), throw in some Romaine and every veggie I can find. Not only is it amazing for you but I calculated how much money I save per day by eating this and since I started this I have saved over $300.00.

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[…] something especially tasty about the combination of crisp romaine lettuce with bacon. While not a “dark, leafy” green, romaine still packs a nice nutritional punch and pretty much everyone loves the mild flavor, which […]

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[…] essentially identical to mine – high SFA, moderate animal protein, low O-6, O-3 supplementation, leafy greens, some fruit and nuts. He also suggests probiotic usage, either in supplement or whole food form […]

Jenny
Jenny
6 years 4 months ago

I love this website… almost as much as I love dark leafy greens. Good to know that I should be adding some fat to the salads, since I generally bare-paw the leaves straight (no dressing).
Unfortunately, my boyfriend doesn’t love them so much. While I can sneak them into sandwiches or soups, it doesn’t seem like he eats enough of them. What kind of alternatives are there that pack a comparable amount of nutritional punch (if such magical vegetables exist)?

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[…] magnesium may reduce your need of D3 supplements. If you’re getting plenty of magnesium through leafy greens, nuts, and supplements, you may want to stick to D3 from sunlight or in smaller doses closer to […]

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[…] magnesium may reduce your need of D3 supplements. If you’re getting plenty of magnesium through leafy greens, nuts, and supplements, you may want to stick to D3 from sunlight or in smaller doses closer to […]

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[…] magnesium may reduce your need of D3 supplements. If you’re getting plenty of magnesium through leafy greens, nuts, and supplements, you may want to stick to D3 from sunlight or in smaller doses closer to […]

Betty
Betty
6 years 3 months ago

I have a kale “smoothie” every morning for breakfast, and I LOVE it!
Ingredients:
3 large leaves of kale (stem removed)
1 apple, cored
optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or fresh grated ginger
6 ice cubes
a little water
I blend them in the blender so I don’t lose any of the fiber. It tastes mainly like apple, but it’s very filling and satisfying. The kale has lots of nutrients including calcium and protein. I guess you could add a raw egg if you wanted extra protein, but this smoothies fills me for hours.

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[…] something especially tasty about the combination of crisp romaine lettuce with bacon. While not a “dark, leafy” green, romaine still packs a nice nutritional punch and pretty much everyone loves the mild flavor, which […]

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[…] drawn to colorful things, especially foods. Bright berries, verdant greens, multicolored fruits and peppers – these are the naturally occurring foods with the most […]

Jeff
5 years 10 months ago

Having a good dressing, spices and herbs brings a salad to life.

I love adding fresh chopped chilli to mine. Depending on the salad, I’ll add fresh coriander, parsley, basil, thyme…etc.

As for a dressing, just do 3 parts oil and 1 part vinegar. Olive oil and lemon juice is a great and simple one to do.

tomc
tomc
5 years 8 months ago

Dark green leafy vegetables are bursting with essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that provide important cancer-fighting benefits. It also has antioxidants that are also known to play a role in preventing other signs of aging. Just like having a windshield repair kit in the body.

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[…] sure I don’t need to tell you what nutritional powerhouses all of the various greens are. For salads, I make sure to keep a couple types of lettuce and spinach on hand, usually going […]

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[…] your greens, dairy (if you do dairy), organs, and bones. Get some sun. Lift and carry heavy things. If you feel […]

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[…] and pancakes to a Primal eater’s daily arsenal of grass-fed beef, coconut, liver, eggs, leafy greens, berries, and sweet potatoes? Do good things happen? Bad things? Neutral things? Now, some of us in […]

Marcus
Marcus
4 years 8 months ago

Hey Mark, what is your take on green smoothies with fresh greens?

My wife has MS and we follow a primal/paleo diet to help manage that but as well as what we take away we also look to optimise everything we put in us. Green smoothies allow us to get flaxseed, ginger, fresh organic greens & a whole bunch of fruit down us in one go.

I know you have covered green powders but would love to get your take on fresh, blended green smoothies.

Cheers & Grok On!
Marcus

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[…] you choose, you know you’ll be doing your body (and your brain) good- all of them are an absolute goldmine of nutrition, chock full of the most naturally occuring vitamins you’ll find in a food. So […]

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4 years 3 months ago
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[…] powerhouse of nutrients are the leafy greens. This article from Mark’s daily Apple Smart Ful: Dark, Leafy Greens explains how awesome and nutrient dense kale, spinach and arugula […]

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4 years 2 months ago

[…] shame. On the nutrition front, dark green leafy vegetables are considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Specifically, they are an excellent source of several minerals, including iron, calcium, […]

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[…] greens are generally considered a “freebie” vegetable in most low-carbohydrate diets. Source: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dark-leafy-greens […]

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[…] Dark, Leafy Greens Dark leafy greens are one of the most important parts of a healthy diet. The bulk of your nutritional intake will and should come from dark leafy greens. Dark leafy greens provide helpful longevity properties, will help you see better, and will help you avoid skin cancer. […]

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[…] or more of those awesome superfoods, “dark leafy greens” (kale, spinach, chard or […]

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[…] kale, spinach, chard, beet…I love ‘em all.  How could you not when they’re so good for you.  Well I do know a few people who won’t touch ‘em.  Their loss…my […]

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[…] grains and legumes to the inclusion of animal fat, protein, Primal starches, and leafy vegetables is a safe way to promote a healthy gut. Eating fermented foods and trying probiotic supplements […]

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[…] magnesium is pretty lacking in the modern diet. Fatty fish like mackerel offer good amounts, as do leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, but most people, paleo folk included, could stand to take in more magnesium. Dr. […]

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grisly atoms
grisly atoms
10 months 14 days ago

“always try and add a little fat (either in the form of oil, butter or salad dressing), as it helps promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamin K.”

Spinach or broccoli lightly steamed and drenched in butter is about as good as a vegetable gets, IMO.

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[…] Cucumbers, Parsnips, Arugula, Eggplant, Peppers, Asparagus, Endive, Pumpkin, Avocados, Fennel, Purslane, Beets/Beet […]

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