Kale has become a vegetable superstar in the past handful of years, and it’s certainly considered a King of Greens. However, there are a whole family of greens that are just as good for you – and equally as versatile as the celebrated Kale – and collard greens are a prime example.
What Are Collard Greens?
Collards are in the greens family – the same one where we find kale, cabbage, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. They have large, beautiful green leaves on a very thick stalk – visually they look like what you would get if spinach married a rubber plant and had a baby.
Want to get excited about adding a new vegetable to your diet? Take a look at these nutritional facts, brought to you by Medical News Today:
Calories: One cup of cooked collard greens has about 63 calories, 5 grams of protein (yes, plants have protein too!), 1 gram of fat and and 11 grams of carbs (the large majority of which are fiber).
Vitamins and minerals: Here’s what that cup of cooked greens will yield in terms of nutrient content (RDA) – it’s pretty impressive.
- Vitamin A – 250%
- Vitamin B6 – 10%
- Vitamin C – 50%
- Vitamin K (100+%)
- Calcium – 26%
- Magnesium – 10%
- Iron – 1%
They are also a good source of choline, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorous and potassium.
Collard Greens Are Great For Your Body
In recent studied, collard greens have been associated with facilitating weight loss, and reducing the risk of developing serious, epidemic-esque health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Speaking of the heart, here’s another amazing fact about collards – they reduce bad cholesterol levels. The bile binding acids in your digestive tract “capture” bad cholesterol from the foods you eat. When these acids bind to bile binding acids, they are more easily excreted by your body, preventing them from getting into your vascular system. Steamed collard greens are one of the most effective foods for facilitating bile binding acids, and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels in recent studies.
Collards and other cruciferous greens have repeatedly been associated with lower risks of cancer, specifically lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers, and possibly melanoma, esophageal and pancreatic cancers.
We could go on and on about the health benefits of collard greens but you get the idea. Let’s move on to more important information – like the best ways to prepare them.
Ideas for Preparing Collard Greens
- Eat them raw. Eating raw veggies is the best way to optimize their nutritional value. Read, Why You Should Be Eating More Raw Foods, to learn more about that topic. While collards can be tough and/or bitter when eaten without any prep, they become delectable when massaged for a few minutes with a little olive oil and lemon juice – or apple cider vinegar – and then thrown into your salads. You can also use them in place of basil (or in addition to) in your favorite pesto recipe.
- Steam them. If you love greens, then you’ll love collards. Green lovers are happy to keep it simple, removing the tough stems, rough chopping the leaves and throwing them in a steamer for about 5 – 7 minutes, but no more than 10. Like other cruciferous vegetables, all of which contain sulfur (Click Here to read about the health benefits of sulfur), overcooking will yield that sulfurous odor that gives healthy greens a bad rap.Once they’re done, you can eat them tossed with a smidge of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), salt and pepper – and perhaps a little red chili flake. Some people like to sprinkle them with apple cider vinegar.
- Braise them. Collard greens are a southern staple and you’ll be hard pressed to find a southern-style BBQ that doesn’t include braised collards. You can braise yours a myriad of ways. Traditionally, collards are braised with ham hocks but vegetarians can braise them in a flavorful veggie stock for equally delicious effect.
- Use them as wraps. Try removing the leaves from the stalks and blanching whole leaves to make them malleable. Now you can use them as a nutritious exterior for your favorite wrap recipe. Or, try one of our favorites – Raw Thai Spring Rolls w/ “Peanut” sauce (actually made with almonds). We’ve yet to have a single bit left over, now matter how many times we’ve doubled or tripled the recipe – they’re that good.
In truth, collards can be substituted for kale in any recipe, so go wild and start experimenting. Look for collards in the green section of your local grocery produce aisles. Let us know what you think!