Nutritionists often say that we shouldn’t look for the necessary vitamins and minerals for good health at a pharmacy but instead, in fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only is it important to have a diet that includes a variety of foods, but the intake of vitamins and minerals in their natural form leads to better absorption and a greater positive impact on our health compared to supplements.
We all have that friend who claims to dislike vegetables. The truth, however, is that there is no way to hate all plants and vegetables since there are hundreds of plant species with entirely opposing tastes.
Minimizing your vegetable consumption can only lead to unpleasant effects on your health. If you are one of those stubborn people that always skip on the salad or dislike vegetable-based dishes, we recommend trying some of the more uncommon vegetables out there. Without a doubt, there are those that would match your taste and desires for flavor.
With this said, allow us to present some of the most common (and healthiest) edible leaves that could potentially change your life and entire perception about vegetables.
So what are some leaves we eat? Some of the most common edible leaves we eat, also known as leafy greens, include spinach, kale, lettuce, chard, arugula, and microgreens. Each has its own health benefits and risks associated with it.
In the following guide, we will cover everything you need to know about some of the healthiest edible leaves you can consume. While we cannot cover every vegetable and plant out there, the following examples could have an irreplaceable positive impact on your health.
The Guide to Edible Leaves
While you are certainly familiar with most edible leaves that we will discuss, perhaps you are unaware of all their potential health benefits and actual tastes.
We are certain that you can think of many more vegetables whose leaves you have seen or eaten, but it would literally take days to discuss them all.
Here are the widely popular edible leaves that we will focus on:
Now, let’s focus on the background of these leaves, their health benefits, and the potential health risks that everyone should be aware of.
Thanks to the famous animated series about Popeye the Sailor, today even the youngest ones know about the benefits of consuming spinach.
It is true that the animation greatly exaggerates this benefit, but at least it helps caring mothers when they persuade their children to eat delicious hot soup.
Garden spinach is an annual plant that grows in temperate climates.
At the beginning of its growth, it forms a rosette of leaves of different shapes (oblong-ovate, smooth, grooved) that later form a flower.
The spinach you eat at home consists of these exact leaves before they reached their flower state.
- The low caloric content of spinach makes it an extremely suitable dietary food.
- For medicinal purposes and faster effect, it is preferable to take squeezed fresh spinach juice mixed with carrot juice.
- Spinach leaves are especially suitable for people suffering from anemia.
- Spinach is by no means the king of iron muscles as the famous animation claims but is a rich source of fiber.
The real potential risk of consuming spinach exists only for people with an established allergy, especially to iron since spinach contains a lot of iron.
Besides that, it could lead to stomach problems or diarrhea in people that eat an enormous amount of spinach.
As simple as lettuce looks, it is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, and E.
However, lettuce contains significantly less protein, fat, carbohydrates, and mineral salts than spinach, for example.
It turns out to be especially valuable in the spring when our body is in great need of vitamins.
It has been found that the outer, darker green leaves of lettuce contain much more carotene and vitamin C than the inner, lighter leaves.
In most varieties, lettuce has a slightly rounded shape, while Romaine lettuce has more elongated and thicker leaves.
Nutritionists recommend that lettuce be served at the beginning of the meal, before the main course, because it stimulates the secretion of gastric juices and facilitates the digestion of the food taken after it.
Chefs advise chopping the lettuce into pieces and season immediately before consumption with vinegar and olive oil.
The sequence of adding the spices is important – you should add the vinegar first so that it can penetrate the lettuce leaves, and then olive oil.
- Lettuce has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
- Lettuce provides water to the body.
- Lettuce is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Lettuce improves the condition of the skin and hair.
- Lettuce is ideal for dieting.
- Lettuce helps with insomnia.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health, prevent plaque, and promote blood flow. As a result, the risk of stroke and hypertension is reduced. Omega-3 also lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Due to its high nutrient content, lettuce can give you all the necessary vitamins and minerals that you might be missing when on a diet. Lettuce is rich in fiber, cellulose, but is low in calories and does not contain fat.
The property of lettuce to help with insomnia is associated with a phytonutrient, lactucarium, that calms the nervous system and promotes sleep. Lettuce can be included in the evening menu or consumed before bedtime.
As with spinach, some of the main health risks of eating lettuce involve stomach problems and diarrhea. These, of course, can happen if you eat too much lettuce daily or if you eat contaminated lettuce.
It is extremely important to always wash every lettuce leaf thoroughly before you start preparing your salad.
Microgreens are vegetables and herbs grown from seed and harvested at the seedling stage (before their adult leaves develop)
Microgreens are a popular culinary trend because of their intense flavor, high vitamin content, and ease and speed to grow.
А USDA study found that microgreens have from 5 to 40 times more nutrients than a mature plant.
These small plants have a great, bold taste. And it is this aroma that attracts chefs to microgreens and more and more restaurants in the USA grow microgreens in their lounges, in front of the customers. It is actually becoming a growing trend.
As for the taste, for example, microgreen basil tastes like basil, only slightly stronger. Parsley tastes like more ripe cherries and you should get the idea by now.
The cool thing about microgreens is that you can grow them at home and they only take from 1-2 weeks to grow enough to be harvested.
- Boosting the immune system – When you think about it, most vegetables boost the immune system to some extent. When it comes to microgreens, they possess the same minerals and nutrients but in larger quantities.
- Preventing cancer – If you grow microgreens of plants and vegetables that are rich in polyphenol, you can expect them to have the same effects in the fight against some types of cancer.
- Decreasing the risk of heart disease – Once again, polyphenol-rich vegetables are beneficial for heart health since this is a type of antioxidant. You can expect the same effects from microgreens of such vegetables and plants.
When it comes to microgreens, they are generally considered safe to consume but you should always purchase seeds from reputable stores that would not be contaminated with diseases like Salmonella.
If the seeds are clean and safe from the beginning, there are low chances of contamination at a later stage when you grow them at home.
Chard is a leafy vegetable common in Mediterranean cuisine.
It is especially popular in Italian food, including risotto and pizza.
Swiss chard is perhaps the most famous, but there are varieties, including red and gold.
No matter the color, this vegetable is easy to prepare and has many applications for human health.
What is often observed in chard are its varieties. The stems of each variety of chard are of different colors. White, gold, and red are the most common.
Young chard leaves are tender and go well with salads – the same way you would use spinach or other green leafy vegetables. The handles are cut because they are not suitable for raw consumption, but can be easily cooked.
Older leaves are better to be stewed or cooked – they become an excellent filling for pies, as an addition to dishes, soups or purees, and in Turkey, for example, they are wrapped in cabbage.
- Lowering blood pressure – Consumption of chard has been shown to increase athletic performance. People whose diets are low in calcium, magnesium, and potassium are more prone to high blood pressure while chard is rich in those exact minerals.
- Fighting cancer – Chard contains chlorophyll, which may be effective in blocking cancer-causing heterocyclic amines generated by cooking foods at high temperatures.
- Managing diabetes – Chard contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid. This has an impact on high glucose levels by lowering them and also increasing the insulin sensitivity.
- Protecting against osteoporosis – Adequate vitamin K intake can improve bone health. Vitamin K modifies the proteins in the bone matrix, improves the absorption of calcium, and reduces the excretion of calcium in the urine. Low vitamin K intake is associated with a higher risk of bone fractures.
It plays a major role in blood clotting, so it can interfere with the effectiveness of blood thinners.
This vegetable belongs to the family of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. Its color is green and has a pleasant taste.
An interesting fact about it is that it can be grown in areas with higher pollution.
Kale tolerates low winter temperatures well, which makes it a suitable fresh food choice in the winter months when fresh vegetables are mostly grown in greenhouses.
Kale has been around for many centuries. Today, it is a staple food in many cuisines and is used for salads, soups, and all sorts of traditional dishes.
Kale has many vitamins and minerals that place it in the “superfoods” column. Vitamins C, A and K and a high presence of carotenoids are found in kale.
If you want to go on a weight loss diet, then definitely consider eating this leafy green. A regular portion of kale has very few calories – only 36 calories per serving. At the same time, it compensates with a huge dose of nutrients for the necessary daily intakes.
- Fighting cancer cells – This plant actively fights free radicals and toxins in the body, which makes it extremely useful in the prevention of any cancer.
- Preventing obesity – By consuming kale, you can help the metabolism and the process of digestion of food. Peristalsis is also stimulated. This makes it a very preferred vegetable in the fight against obesity.
- Preventing osteoporosis – Due to the calcium content in the calculus, it stimulates and maintains the strength of the skeletal system. By consuming it, you reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Since kale is an incredibly powerful source of Vitamin K, it should be avoided by people using blood thinners. This is because the vitamin has a large role in blood clotting.
People with weak or damaged kidneys should also avoid kale. This is due to the high potassium content which would remain in the kidneys if they fail to remove them properly. The results could be fatal.
Arugula was known thousands of years ago in Ancient Rome, where it was used as a spice.
Even then, the seeds of the plant were considered an aphrodisiac.
Nowadays, arugula is popular all over the world.
It is grown in many places, and the love for its peppery leaves is due to the abundance of useful properties.
This plant does not leave anyone indifferent as to its specific taste will either captivate you or disgust you.
Arugula is used as an ingredient in mixed green salads. In countries like Italy, it has become a widely popular addition to pizza.
Arugula has a rich, peppery, and extremely strong taste, unlike most leafy green vegetables.
- Strengthening the immune system – Arugula is rich in vitamins and minerals that support the immune system. The body is stimulated to create white blood cells with the help of copper in arugula. Also, consuming it will provide you with vitamin C, which we know makes us healthier and more energetic.
- Fighting free radicals – Arugula is a rich source of antioxidants that fight the damage caused by free radicals.
- Improving vision – Another health benefit of consuming arugula is that it favors vision thanks to carotenoids. These are naturally occurring pigments in plants that slow down the process of macular degeneration (a disease that leads to a reduction or loss of vision).
Like several of the previously discussed vegetables and leaves, arugula is rich in Vitamin K which could interfere with the effects of blood-thinning medicine.
Other than that, arugula is absolutely safe to eat with little to none potential health risks.