Eat Your Greens

Find out how green vegetables like spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale and Swiss chard rate on the "ANDI" (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) scale, and how you can eat more of them.

After a recent trip to Whole Foods I found myself mesmerized by an educational poster in the elevator on the power of greens. Whole Foods uses the "ANDI" (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to showcase healthy food options in their store and this particular poster was emphasizing the nutrient density of several varieties of greens.  I loved the fact that the poster highlighted some less-common greens, ones that rarely become make it to the average household's dinner table. So I'd like to elaborate the poster and teach you a bit more about some well-known and lesser known greens that will do your body good.

Collard greens (ANDI score=1000) Out of all the greens in the cabbage family, collards have the greatest cholesterol-lowering abilities. They also have amazing anti-cancer properties, are packed with Vitamin C, soluble fiber and many other vitamins and minerals.  Try sauteing them with a little olive oil, onions and garlic. They make the healthiest side dish out there!

Mustard Greens (ANDI score=1000) As you may have guessed, the seeds from the mustard plant are what we use to make the condiment we are so familiar with. But the leaves are used far less often. These amazing greens also taste like mustard and are a great addition to any Asian stir-fry.

Turnip Greens (ANDI score=1000) While most of us jump at the chance to cook up some turnips, turnip greens often get tossed aside. These greens have a similar mustardy taste to mustard greens and are great for braising, adding to a soup or throwing into a stir fry.

Kale (ANDI score=1000) Kale is actually the same plant as collards, just a different variety. Kale is great sauteed on its own, massaged with olive oil into a tender salad, or seasoned with salt, pepper and olive and baked into chips.

Watercress (ANDI score=1000) Watercress is an aquatic or semi-aquatic green with a nice peppery taste; it's from the same family as all of the previously mentioned greens. Because of its great health properties, it's mentioned in many ancient legends. Just one example is Roman emperors eating it to help with bold decisions.  Use watercress in a salad, on a sandwich or wilt it into pasta.

Bok Choy (ANDI score=824) Bok Choy is an Asian green found in many Chinese recipes. It has thin leaves on thick, edible stems. Bok choy is great stir-fried with broccoli, carrot, water chestnuts and oyster mushrooms so their stems have time to cook down and become tender.

Spinach (ANDI score=739) Spinach had its heyday with Popeye, but we’re still loving it! Spinach is a tender green that can be used in a variety of ways. Use it as a layer in lasagna, mix it with ricotta for stuffed shells or manicotti, chop it up and add it to pasta sauce, or just sauté it with some garlic as a side dish.

Brussels Sprouts (ANDI score=672) Brussel sprouts are one of the coolest-looking plants when you see them in the field. They spiral up a thick stem and look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. One trick I learned for cooking them is to sauté them in orange juice. Or try roasting them with olive, salt, pepper and a little maple syrup.

Swiss Chard (ANDI score=670) Swiss chard is one of the most beautiful greens, especially if you get the kind with the rainbow colored stems. Chard is actually related to spinach and can be used similarly: on pasta, sauteed, or on a sandwich.

Arugula (ANDI score=559) Arugula, also known as rocket, is a peppery green like watercress, that adds bold flavor to any dish. Replace lettuce with arugula on a sandwich or in a salad or use it in pesto, lasagna and egg dishes. Not only will the flavor improve, the nutrient level will skyrocket, too.

What's your favorite green vegetable?

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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