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Chef Pete

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The 5 Healthiest Greens for Your Salads

January 30, 2018
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Dressings aside, I think everyone can agree that salads are good for you.

They provide lots of nutrition and lots of fiber, and they make some great-tasting meals. They’re also pretty much fat and sodium free.

But, as you’re standing in the produce aisles at Nino’s looking at all the leafy choices, and if it’s your goal to choose the healthiest greens on the shelf, which ones do you choose?

Before you pick up that head of iceberg lettuce (which by the way is WAY down the list when it comes to the most nutritious), you might want to consider reaching for the greens on this list instead.

Not all greens are created equal.

Before you review the list of your best choices, if you remember nothing else from all the nutritional tables (the gram weights and percentages and all of the minerals, vitamins and fiber in each green), at least remember this:

  1. Choose a variety of greens for your salad.
  2. The darker the greens, the better.

After a good deal of personal research, I’ve found that there is one green that is generally acclaimed by ALL to be the BEST choice (and this shouldn’t come as a surprise).

It’s kale.

A one-cup portion of kale contains approximately 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein. That same one cup also gives you your daily requirement of vitamins A, C and K; some phytonutrients to help fight cancer and heart disease; and a healthy dose of iron, calcium and potassium for good measure. Needless to say, kale is good for you.

After kale, the consensus is a bit less unanimous, but leading in the polls for second place is spinach.

Popeye had it right all along.

A one-cup portion of spinach contains approximately 7 calories, 1 gram of carbs, ¾ grams of fiber and about the same ¾ grams of protein.

Among all of the healthiest greens, spinach is (in my opinion) one of the most unassuming and pleasant ones to eat (either fresh or cooked). It’s also packed with vitamin A, C and K and very high in iron and folic acid, which helps turn the food you eat into red blood cells and energy.

After spinach, my research left me with no single green in a clear third place but rather a handful that, for one great reason or another, could make their own case for the third-healthiest green you can choose in the produce aisle.

The candidates ALL tied for third place are:

Collard greens: which have similar nutritional attributes to kale. Think of collard greens as kale lite.

Swiss chard: a relative of the beet family, tastes a bit like spinach and also has most of spinach’s nutritional pedigree.

Arugula: In the radish family, arugula has small leaves that have a peppery, slightly bitter taste but are a GREAT add-in to a salad mix. Arugula has the A, C and K vitamins going for it, but it’s ALSO a great source of calcium and magnesium.

Mustard greens: We all associate mustard, collard and turnip greens with the south, and for good reason. They were and still are a staple in that part of the country. Mustard greens, like arugula, have a peppery, spicy taste and give off a slight mustard-like smell during cooking.

Watercress: A popular European green for salads but more often seen as a plate garnish in the states, watercress is more nutrient-rich than either romaine or leaf lettuce.

In fourth place is romaine.

Romaine’s sweet flavor and crunchy texture make it a popular salad choice, even though it can’t boast of kale’s nutritious attributes. While romaine doesn’t contain quite the same level of minerals as kale and spinach, it DOES have a good amount of vitamin A and K and lots of fiber.

In fifth place, still ahead of iceberg lettuce, is red or green leaf lettuce that, similar to romaine, has a good amount of A, D and K vitamins but a little less fiber.

All of these greens make a good case for being in your next salad, but again, variety is important as each type of green adds special nutritional gifts.

You’ll find ALL of these greens at Nino’s as well as a HUGE choice of fresh vegetables, dressings and garnishes to go with them. You can also choose from our terrific selection of prepared entrée salads, some of which include kale, spinach and red leaf lettuces.

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