Time to prep a salad for dinner—but what greens do you go for? Kale? Romaine? What kind of lettuce or leafy green will give you the most-nutritious bang for your buck?
TBH, you can’t exactly go wrong: All of them contain healthy doses of fiber, antioxidants, nutrients, and minerals, says Abby Langer, RD. “I think we don’t eat enough greens in general, so I’d recommend increasing your intake of them by choosing the ones you like, and not worrying about their nutrient profiles.”
That said, “certainly the darker, heartier greens such as kale and collards have more antioxidants and fiber in them, but if all you can tolerate are iceberg and romaine, by all means don’t avoid those.” She even recommends mixing a couple of lettuce types together, for a blend of textures and nutrients.
Another note: “You want to make sure the greens are fresh,” says Langer, “that means no brown parts, not wilted or soggy. And buy only what you think you’ll use.”
With all of that in mind, check out some of the best lettuces and greens (including some you’ve probably never heard of) to pick up at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Toss them in a salad, or cook them up for a warm, veggie-packed meal.
Steaming is the way to go with this collard cousin, as heat significantly increases the availability of vitamin A. And FYI: A squeeze of lemon tames their bitterness.
These weeds are edible and good for you, too. One cup has three times as much calcium as spinach, plus a ton of vitamin K, keeping your bones strong.
Often, you’ll find mâche in bagged lettuce mixes, so when you see it sold on its own, grab it. Add a few handfuls to your bowl for a solid dose of vitamin C.
Radish greens contain six times more nutrients than the radishes themselves. Boom! They’re also packed with vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and vitamin A.
These have a bit of a bite, so treat them like an herb and incorporate into salsas, soups, and pestos. Be sure to use them quickly, though, or they’ll wilt.
Pro tip: Look for beets, radishes, and carrots with tops attached so you can use the leaves!
One cup of watercress contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K. It also contains a high amount of dietary nitrate, which has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Don’t let the little leaves fool you—they pack a peppery punch. Top your chicken salad sandwich with the tangy greens. (Think of them as a sub for sprouts.)
This gorgeous leaf is like the love child of spinach and kale, and contains a number of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin A, and calcium.
To cook, divide and conquer: Chop and sauté the sturdy stems until tender and stir in the delicate leaves toward the end.
There’s a reason kale has been all the rage in health food: It contains a massive amount of vitamin A and vitamin C. In fact, one cup contains 133 percent of the recommended daily intake. Plus, it’s a good source of calcium, fiber and folate.
A close counterpart to kale, spinach is probably one of the most commonly used greens around. And for good reason: Spinach offers half your daily requirement for vitamin A, and nearly twice the recommended amount of vitamin K—which promotes blood, bone, and tissue health. Plus, it’s packed with vitamin C, folate, and iron.
Toss spinach in your salad, sauté it, or even incorporate it into a party dip. (Looking at you spinach-artichoke!)
The classic salad base has more nutrients than you might expect! While it may not be as vitamin-dense as its dark green friends, Romaine lettuce contains solid amounts of minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Plus, it has high levels of vitamin K and beta carotene.
This crunchy lettuce is great for refreshing salads, sandwich toppers, or even lettuce wraps.
While it sounds not-so-healthy, butter lettuce is a good source of vitamin A, and contains some iron and calcium.
As the name implies, this lettuce has a buttery texture and sweeter flavor that makes it pleasant to eat. Toss it in salads or sandwiches for a green touch.
Arugula is Langer’s favorite type of green, but she notes its peppery bite can be too strong for some people. That said, it pairs great with cheese in sandwiches, or salads with a nice balsamic vinaigrette.
And of course, this leafy green packs a nutritious punch: It contains dietary nitrate, which is shown to boost athletic performance. Plus, it contains ample vitamin K and A.
If you love wedge salads, you’re well-acquainted with iceberg lettuce. Although this type of lettuce gets a bad rap for being all water, no substance, it actually contains a significant amount of vitamins A and K. Plus, it offers calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and folate.
Not to mention, what it lacks in fiber, it makes up for in water—which can be hydrating and refreshing.