Move Over, Kale: Healthier Veggies You've Probably Not Heard Of
Pragati Shukla , NDTV | Updated: May 29, 2015 10:50 IST
Well. Sorry, Kale. There are some new-ish kids on the block threatening to dethrone you for good. You had a good run, but your vitamin levels just weren’t enough. Since not everyone can love Kale, these alternatives are a perfect solution to squeeze in some greens in your otherwise dishonorable diet.
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Researchers at William Paterson University at New Jersey ranked Watercress as the most nutrient dense food, which is why it repeatedly tops health lists all across. Watercress is loaded with Vitamin K, it contains four times more beta-carotene and vitamin A than apples, tomatoes and broccoli, more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin E than broccoli and more iron than spinach. Still need convincing?
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Watercress also comprises of glucosinolate compounds - known to restrict colon, breast, lung and prostate cancers. It’s an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are plant chemicals, known as carotenoids that protect your retinas from the damage of aging. It’s also one of the richest dietary sources of cancer-fighting phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC).
2. Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard can throw a mean nutritional punch. A mere one cup contains than 700 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement! Its stems might be green, red, white or yellow – so needless to say, it is way prettier than Kale. It’s not only a good source of vitamins K, A, and C, it’s also loaded with antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and iron. A half cup of cooked Swiss Chard provides a considerable amount of both lutein and zeaxanthin, the plant chemicals that protect your retinas.
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According to Mercola, "Not all vegetables can lay claim to the phytonutrient power of Swiss Chard as well as its flexibility in the kitchen. Swiss Chard is a healthful source of antioxidants like vitamin C and Flavonoids, and it has shown promise in scientific research in blood sugar regulation.”
(Recipe: Swiss Chard Stir Fry by Vicky Ratnani)
3. Chinese Cabbage
Found in two distinct varieties, Napa Cabbage and Boy Choy, Chinese Cabbage is the answer to your health prayers. It’s rich in potassium, which is essential for the heart, kidneys, and other organs to work normally. It’s also known to strengthen blood vessels, help with digestion, fight anemia and regulate blood pressure. Moreover, it keeps your eyes healthy and boosts your immune system.
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More interestingly, it’s excellent for your skin and hair! Bok Choy helps keep skin disorders like blemishes, discoloration and wrinkles at bay. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties help treat skin disorders. Vitamin C and Vitamin E promote the growth of your luscious locks.
(Recipe: Steamed Chinese Cabbage Parcels by Divya Burman)
Kelp is a kind of sea vegetable that’s loaded with calcium (10 times more than milk), iron, magnesium, some zinc and selenium. Its high iodine content helps the thyroid function properly. It’s packed with 46 minerals, 16 amino acids and 11 micro-nutrients. “Kelp has been around for a while and is often taken by people 'in the know'. It is certainly getting more popular with the general public. Because kelp grows in a nutrient-rich water, it is packed full of nutrients”, said head nutritionist at NutriCentre, Shona Wilkinson. Kelp can also be purchased in powder form and can be easily added to smoothies.
5. Beet greens
Beet green are the top dark leaves of the beetroot plant and yes, they’re edible! It comes packed with more minerals, vitamins, and fiber than beetroot and is an excellent source of vitamin A. Just 100 grams or 30 mg of fresh leaves contain 50% of daily-recommended levels of vitamin C. They’re loaded with vitamin K that plays a major role in blood clotting. An average male requires 120 micrograms of vitamin K while female adults require 90 micrograms – one cup of beet greens provides a whopping 152 micrograms of this vitamin.
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Not a broccoli fan? Maybe you’ll get on the BroccoLeaf bandwagon. Broccoli leaves taste completely different than the vegetable, something on the lines of sweet peas! A serving size of just one or two leaves will give you 100 percent of your daily value of vitamin C requirement. It’s packed with folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin D - that’s essential for bone health. It also comes with phytonutrients like glucosinolates that help prevent cancer, and Kaempferol – a rich source of the flavonoid that offers anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits.
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Blessed with small amounts of nearly every essential vitamin, Chicory comes with a host of incredible benefits. The roots are also baked, grounded and used as a coffee substitute and additive, especially in the Mediterranean region. The outer leaves are green and bitter while the inner leaves are lighter and much milder. Traditionally, Chicory has been used to treat arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s known to reduce bad cholesterol, significantly improve various functions of the digestive system, detoxify the gallbladder, liver and prevent bacterial infections.
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They might be tiny but they’re Hulk-like when it comes to its nutrition value. Microgreens, as evident from the name, are tiny, young leaves, the young seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs harvested less than 14 days after germination. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that microgreens are concentrated with up to six times the nutrients of mature leaves of the same plant. They first came under the scanner when they started popping up on restaurant menus all over.
“The microgreens were four-to 40-fold more concentrated with nutrients than their mature counterparts,” says researcher Qin Wang, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland in College Park. “When we first got the results we had to rush to double and triple check them.”
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For example, red cabbage microgreens had 40 times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin C than mature red cabbage. Cilantro microgreens had three times more beta-carotene than mature cilantro.
Microgreens need to be washed thoroughly before eating and due to their high water content, cooking it isn’t recommended.
9. Romaine Lettuce
Forget fish oils, Romaine Lettuce has a two to one ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which is a great ratio. It’s good for your heart as well since the beta-carotene and vitamin C in it work together to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. It has vitamin A than a carrot and is loaded with B-vitamins. Moreover, the minerals in the lettuce helps remove toxins and keeps your acid and alkaline balance in order.
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10. Collard Greens
Not only do Collard Greens offer more than the daily recommended intake of bone-strengthening vitamin K, they also might have cholesterol-lowering potential, especially when steamed. Collard Greens also contain alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity. It’s also rich in fiber and water content, which helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and prevent constipation.
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