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8 Delicious Leafy Greens & Their Health Benefits

Our team at dalci might just be the biggest fans of big salads. Yes, we LOVE dessert given we bake up brownies, but we’re also obsessed with getting our greens in. Even the Kardashians are major fans of munching on romaine and for good reason. We’re talking about the mysterious salad bowls that always made an appearance on practically every episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Why is America’s royal family so obsessed with sneaking leafy greens into their daily diets? We have the answer: leafy greens (think kale, spinach, and arugula) are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber, and great for your gut. Plus, leafy greens are a super versatile food staple that can be tossed into a morning smoothie, folded into an omelet, or used to bulk up and add some crunch to a midday salad.

Experts in the field of health and nutrition are even obsessed with dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or collard greens thanks to their versatility, taste and nutritional benefits. "I recommend collard greens to clients because they are delicious and pack a nutritional punch," explains April Panitz, MS, RDN, CDN. "They aid in bone, blood, skin, and eye health and provide immune support." 

From colorful swiss chard to crunchy kale, keep scrolling for a list of some of our team’s favorite go-to greens for upgrading a sad salad into a delicious bowl that’s packed with nutrients, texture, and flavor.

Our Favorite Leafy Greens to Pile Onto our Plates

1. Romaine

Vegan caesar salad

Who doesn’t love a classic caesar salad? Tangy, creamy, and crunchy– it’s the ultimate salad for when you’re craving a simple, yet satisfying meal. If you’re trying to avoid dairy, we recommend swapping a classic caesar salad for this gut-friendly vegan variation that’s packed with healthy (and delicious) ingredients like extra-virgin olive oil and crispy chickpea croutons. 

You may love romaine for its crunch, but this crowd favorite is packing some major health benefits. Low in calories but high in nutrients, romaine is a good source of:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium 
  • Potassium 

2. Kale

kale salad

All hail king kale, the trendy leafy green everyone (including your mom) is still obsessed with. Based on its many nutritional benefits, you can feel good about eating as many pounds of curly kale as physically possible. Just kidding, please don’t overdose on kale. But seriously, kale is the perfect green to munch on if you’re looking to up your intake of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body against inflammatory diseases triggered by oxidative stress. Kale is a great source of antioxidants, minerals, and flavonoids like:

  • Vitamin C
  • Beta Carotene (Vitamin A)
  • Iron
  • Quercetin
  • Kaempferol

3. Spinach 

green spinach smoothie

Ever wonder why Popeye had a strange obsession with eating as much spinach as possible? Turns out he was onto something, with spinach playing a key role in keeping your bones healthy and strong. To increase your calcium intake, feel free to ditch the dairy and load up on spinach instead. Not only does spinach benefit your bone health, this superfood is also a great source of major micronutrients like: 

  • Vitamin K
  • Iron
  • Zinc  
  • Magnesium 
  • Manganese

4. Arugula 

Avocado toast with arugula

We get it, everyone isn’t a fan of the distinctive peppery taste that sets arugula (also known as rocket) apart from other leafy greens that are milder in flavor. But, if you’re looking to add a kick and some nutrients to your salad, we recommend rocking with some rocket. Arugula is a great topping for spicing up avocado toast or perfect served as a simple side salad dressed in olive oil. This flavorful green is rich in a number of nutrients:

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Potassium
  • Calcium

5. Swiss Chard

Swiss chard

This tender green has a vibrant colored thick stem that isn’t just super pretty (and delicious), it’s also abundant in powerful plant compounds. Swiss chard is basically kale’s cooler cousin that’s pleasing to look at and won’t skimp on flavor. This low cal leafy green can be tossed into a stir fry, sautéed in garlic and olive oil, or even used as a replacement for a tortilla wrap. Increase your intake of important nutrients with a daily serving of swiss chard:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium 
  • Iron 

6. Watercress

watercress salad

Don’t overlook the little guy. Watercress might be small, but this little leaf packs some major nutrients (and flavor). Similar to arugula, watercress has a unique peppery taste and bitter flavor that adds a spicy kick to any salad, smoothie, sauce, or soup you add it to. Liven up your favorite foods and add in a healthy kick of key nutrients:

  • Beta Carotene (Vitamin A)
  • Vitamin K
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Folate

7. Bok Choy

stir-fried-baby-bok-choy

Not a salad topper, but we’re still crazy about this cruciferous veggie. A type of Chinese cabbage, bok choy is a versatile green vegetable that adds some major crunch to a stir fry dish or creamy slaw. While you may love bok choy for its fresh crunch, it’s also a great source of many immune-boosting vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Calcium 

8. Cabbage 

Pickled Red Cabbage

Cabbage is another cruciferous green veggie we had to throw onto our list of favorites. You might be thinking, “but cabbage is boring and bland.” Wrong, cabbage is far from boring, in fact, when fermented it’s the perfect food for a happier and healthier gut. A study conducted by Stanford found that a diet rich in fermented foods like sauerkraut “led to an increase in overall microbial diversity.” Increase the diversity of your gut microbes when you load up on nutrient-dense fermented cabbage. It contains the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium 

Potential Benefits of Eating More Leafy Greens

Beat the Bloat

Struggling with bloating, whether it's triggered by poor gut health, a hormone imbalance or an intolerance to certain foods like dairy or gluten is nothing short but frustrating. Luckily, leafy greens are abundant in potassium– a mineral that'll naturally help you beat the bloat. This magic mineral helps your body manage its sodium levels which helps you shed excess water weight, and in turn supports bloat management.   

Get Glowing Skin

Get your glow on with a daily dose of greens. Bet you didn't know a serving of leafy greens is packed with just as much beta-carotene as orange hued veggies like carrots or sweet potatoes. Improve your skin health and protect your skin against sun damage when you load your plate up with beta-carotene packed kale. One 2012 review found that incorporating beta carotene and other carotenoid-rich foods into your diet can defend your skin against UV radiation and help your skin maintain a healthier appearance. 

Relieve Stress and Anxiety 

When stressed, it's easy to swap a salad for a convenient (but unhealthy) meal. While a slice of pizza might be tempting to reach for when stressed, we recommend calming your nerves with a bowl of greens instead. "Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you keep calm," says Heather Mangieri, RDN. 

Improve Gut Health 

If you're battling leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability) you may want to rethink your diet. We recommend shifting your daily diet to include foods that are easy on the gut and void of common gut irritants like sugar, dairy, soy or gluten. Sautéed greens like spinach and kale are an easy-to-digest green option for improving your gut health. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, leafy greens contain a sugar that support the growth of healthy gut bacteria.