Practically since birth, we’ve been told to eat our “greens” — but what does that even mean? One could argue that pistachio ice cream is green, but we all know our parents were talking about green vegetables. So do all green vegetables give us the same vitamins and nutrients? What’s the difference between them all? Let’s dig down into the world of veggies and unearth a little truth about the different types of greens out there.
Let’s Take a Look at Leafy Greens
We’ll start with the most common type of green vegetable: a leafy green. More often than not, this is what people reference when they say “greens.” As a general rule, the darker the green, the more healthy the vegetable. Light leafy greens tend to be things like cabbage and lettuce, whereas kale and spinach are on the darker side of things. Darker greens have more chlorophyll, which means there’s less water weight and more good stuff like the antioxidant beta carotene, which helps form Vitamin A. And although plants like kale and cabbage are commonly referred to as leafy greens, they also fit into a camp we’ll talk about next: cruciferous vegetables.
The Delightful Crunch of Cruciferous Vegetables
As you might have guessed, a lot of cruciferous veggies have a nice, hearty crunch to them: brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage and kale to name a few. But it’s not the consistency that ties these greens together — it’s their leaves. The word “cruciferous” comes from the term “cross-bearing” because the flowers of these plants grow to form the shape of a cross.
Some big benefits of cruciferous vegetables include anti-inflammatory properties, toxin elimination, antioxidants and possibly even cognitive enhancement. Plus, they’re chocked full of vitamins A, C and K.
Some Greens Refuse to Be Labeled
That’s right — some greens choose to live outside the constructs of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. But who needs labels when you’re nutritious and delicious? Let’s take asparagus for example: It’s literally in its own genus called “Asparagus.” Technically, it’s the young shoots of the plant that we eat and define as vegetables. If you’re looking for a versatile veggie, this is a good one to pick since it’s packed with vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, as well as folate, iron, copper, calcium, protein and fiber.
Then there are greens like okra and green peas, which are technically seed pods. But we consider them greens because of their dietary fiber and vitamin content.
So What’s the Right Choice When It Comes to Going Green?
There really isn’t one. Although all greens are unique in their own way, they share a lot of the same benefits: rich in vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. If it’s a green vegetable, it’s probably good for you — but if you’re trying to alter your diet for a specific reason, consult your physician to see what type of vegetables they recommend.
Do you have any favorite greens? How do you like to prepare them? Let us know in the comments below!