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Your Ultimate Guide to Leafy Greens

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Let’s be real, most of us are guilty of reaching for that greasy burger or sugary energy drink when we’re on the go. And you know what? That’s okay every now and then. But if you find yourself hitting up the drive-thru for lunch daily and guzzling down three cans of Red Bull just to keep your eyes open, it might be time to rethink your fueling strategy.

Sticking a readymade dinner in the microwave can be extremely tempting after a long day’s work,  but that sluggish feeling you get a few hours later is your body screaming out for a more substantial meal. And by “substantial” I don’t mean an extra large portion of fries. We’re talking about the natural energy-boosting, immune-boosting, heart health-boosting… everything-boosting nutrients you’ll find hanging out in the vegetable aisle.  

The USDA recommends two to three cups of vegetables per day for adults. So let’s have a look at the best kind of leafy greens to add to your diet, how to make them an enjoyable part of your daily routine (we’re talking how to sneak some wheatgrass in there without having to actually taste it), and all of the good stuff this is going to do for your body. 

Health Benefits of Leafy Greens

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

Leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals that are vital for overall health. They’re particularly high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients play key roles in supporting immune function, bone health, heart health, and energy production.

Loaded With Antioxidants

Leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Antioxidants also support healthy aging and promote radiant skin so you’ll be literally glowing from within.

Support Digestive Health

If you tend to get bloated after meals, you’ll see a big difference when you add some leafy greens. The high fiber content promotes healthy digestion by adding bulk to stools, preventing constipation and supporting regular bowel movements. In turn, it also helps to manage the symptoms of IBS. Fiber is also important for nourishing the good bacteria in your gut that play a crucial role in your digestive health and immune function. 

Better Heart Health

The high levels of potassium, magnesium, and dietary nitrates in leafy greens are excellent for boosting heart health. These nutrients help regulate blood pressure, improve blood vessel function, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Leafy greens also contain compounds like vitamin K and nitric oxide, which support healthy blood clotting and circulation.

Weight Management

These greens are low in calories and carbohydrates but high in fiber, making them an excellent choice for weight management. Adding them to your meals can also help you feel fuller for longer which reduces your overall calorie intake and promotes weight loss. Plus, the fiber in leafy greens helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes that can lead to cravings and overeating (in comparison to those ready-made meals that have you hungry/hangry again 2 hours later!).

Strong & Healthy Bones

The vitamin K in leafy greens plays a crucial role in bone health. Getting an adequate intake of this vitamin through foods like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard can help maintain strong and healthy bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Boost Immune Function

The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in leafy greens help strengthen the immune system and protect against infections and illnesses. Vitamin C in particular is known for its immune-boosting properties, while vitamin A supports the health of mucous membranes which act as a barrier against any nasties trying to get into your system. 

4 Leafy Greens You NEED In Your Diet

There are lots of leafy greens to choose from, so where do you start? Well, right here! Choose your favorites from this list and you’ll be ready to go. Make sure you add at least 2 of these and any that pass the taste test should be added to your shopping list. And if you see one you haven’t tried before, give it a chance before crossing it off!

  1. Kale: This stuff is jam-packed with nutrients thanks to its high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber, calcium, and antioxidants. You can do so much with kale that it’s virtually impossible not to find a way to add it to your diet. Add it to salads, smoothies, stir-fries… whatever floats your boat. Just get it in there!
  2. Spinach: Another nutritional powerhouse with lots of iron, magnesium, and folate. When it comes to incorporating it into your diet your options are endless. Pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads, omelettes, smoothies – you name it and you can probably add spinach to it.
  3. Swiss Chard: This one has taken a bit of a backseat in popularity compared to kale and spinach, so I wanted to bring it to your attention! It’s really versatile and can be sautéed, steamed, or even enjoyed raw in salads. And it’s as nutritious as it is yummy; packed with vitamins A, K, and C, as well as magnesium and potassium.
  4. Rocket: You’re probably very familiar with this peppery and slightly bitter leafy green. It’s a great base for salads or for adding a zesty kick to wraps and sandwiches. For cooked dishes, it works especially well with pasta. Rocket is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and calcium, so it definitely deserves a spot on your plate.

Incorporating Leafy Greens Into Your Daily Routine

Now that you’re aware of the incredible nutritional benefits leafy greens offer, let’s talk about how to seamlessly integrate them into your daily meals. Here are some practical tips and tricks to help you make leafy greens a regular part of your diet:

Start the Day With a Green Smoothie

A refreshing green smoothie packed with nutrient-rich leafy greens like kale, spinach, or Swiss chard is a quick and easy breakfast to take on the go. Add in your favorite fruits such as bananas, berries, or mangoes for sweetness and flavor. To make life even easier try a ready-to-go powder shake like Super Greens.

Salad Swap

You can upgrade your salads by swapping out lettuce for the leafy greens mentioned above. Toss in some nuts, seeds, avocado, and your favorite protein for a filling and satisfying meal that’s tasty too.

Sauté it Up

Transform your kale or Swiss chard into a flavor-packed side dish by sautéing them with garlic and olive oil. Just heat some olive oil in a pan, add minced garlic, and then toss in your greens until wilted and tender. Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice for an extra burst of flavor. This tastes amazing when paired up with grilled meats, roasted vegetables, or grains like quinoa or rice.

A Hearty Bowl of Soup or Stew 

Adding some leafy greens will seriously amp up the nutritional value of your soups, stews, and casseroles. Simply chop the greens and stir them into your favorite soup or stew recipes during the last few minutes of cooking. 

And That’s a Wrap! (…with extra greens, of course)

Whether you’re starting your day with a green smoothie, swapping out lettuce for leafy greens in your salads, or sautéing them to try a new side dish, there are plenty of yum ways to add more greens into your diet. And with so many varieties and recipes to choose from, you’re bound to find a few that hit the mark!

So why not give it a try? Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a bunch of leafy greens and get creative in the kitchen. Your body will thank you for it, and who knows, you might just discover a new favorite dish along the way.

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