For those of you who are from the warm south, where collard greens grow best, you know very well know that this veggie goes hand in hand with buttery cornbread and black eyed peas. Collard greens are a true staple of southern cooking, so much so that believe it or not, there are multiple festivals to celebrate them!
South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia are just a few of the states that pay homage to this gloriously nutritious greenery will barbecues, parades and entertainment. In 2001, a 9-year-old girl whose family farmed collard greens even convinced the South Carolina governor to officially name them the state vegetable. Some folks just know a good thing when they see it (and taste it)!
On the other end of the spectrum, collard greens are somewhat of a forgotten treasure in many of our kitchens, unlike its other cruciferous family members such as broccoli and cabbage which we eat so frequently. But it's time to change that because these greens are absolutely packed with essential nutrients!
Vitamins & Benefits Provided By Collard Greens
Eating these leafy greens is probably one of the best things that you can do for your body.
One cup of steamed greens provides:
- Over 50% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, to boost your immune system and help prevent flus and viruses.
- Over 250% of your daily vitamin A to help keep your vision, mucous membranes and skin in great health.
- Over 1000%, yes 1000, of your daily need for vitamin K! This is incredible for helping to clot blood and also strengthen bone mass to decrease the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures. Vitamin K helps to properly distribute calcium and vitamin D to the bones. This is not only great for women who are prone to osteoporosis, but for men too.
- Collard greens are also rich in the B vitamins, copper, manganese, zinc, calcium and selenium.
Collard greens contain sulfur compounds called glucosinolates, and phytochemicals, which research shows can help to prevent cancer by fighting off inflammatory toxins [I]. There is a link between the consumption of cruciferous vegetables and reduced incidences of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer.
Dark leafy greens like collards also contain high levels of chlorophyll which can help to block carcinogens and free radicals that can contribute to cancer development in the body.
Ok well maybe not totally calorie-free, but pretty dang close! One cup of this vegetable costs you less than 50 calories of your daily intake allowance. At that price you could eat as much as you wanted to if you were really hungry! In addition to all of the great vitamins and minerals in collard greens, it is the perfect food for those who are watching their weight.
If you are not particularly fond of green, leafy vegetables, are you starting to reconsider now?
Cook 'Em Up!
Traditionally collard greens are steamed, which will also salvage the most nutrients. Just be sure to only steam until they are bright green, so as not to get overcooked and mushy.
In my humble opinion, the best way to thoroughly enjoy collard greens is to lightly sauté them in olive oil (or bacon fat, yum) with minced garlic and onions. Simple! And if you're craving that southern style meal, pair this with No Hoppin' Johns and you just can't go wrong.
Oh, and needless to say, you don't have to move all the way to Georgia to enjoy the benefits of collard greens. You'll be sure to find them in a local supermarket or health food store.
So get smart about eating more cruciferous veggies and go green!
[I] Murillo G, Mehta RG. "Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention." Nutr Cancer. 2001;41(1-2):17-28. Web. July. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12094621>.