Dark green leafy vegetables are some of the best foods around for their vitamin and nutrient contents, but what about the numbers? Which one has the highest vitamin K content, for example, and which one has the most of all available nutrients? Great questions!
Read this countdown list of green leafy vegetables to find out which has the highest count of your most essential nutrients and vitamins. Get the data, the details, and what dishes they’re best served in, and in the end you’ll find out the one super-veggie that stands out from the rest.
This article will explore the vitamins A, C, K, and folate to help rank the top 10 green leafy vegetables. Let’s see what makes each of these well-known nutrients so important to health.
- Vitamin A: A fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for healthy vision, skin, and bones, as well as healthy immune and reproductive systems. Vitamin A frequently works as an antioxidant, fighting against cell damage and helping the heart, lungs, and kidneys function properly.
- Vitamin C: Another name for ascorbic acid, vitamin C is necessary for the growth and repair of all body tissues, including the formation of collagen, the absorption of iron, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, teeth, and bones.
- Vitamin K: Found mainly in green leaves, vitamin K is essential for blood-clotting, and helps regulate insulin in the body. While vitamin K deficiency is quite rare, in severe cases the condition can increase blood clotting time, which could lead to hemorrhage or excessive bleeding.
- Folate: A B-vitamin that your body needs for cell division, folate is required to make DNA and other genetic material. Folic acid (a form of folate) is used in fortified foods and many dietary supplements.
10. Romaine Lettuce
Vitamin A: 10%
Vitamin C: 2%
Vitamin K: 8%
While iceberg lettuce is also a leafy green vegetable, romaine lettuce is a dark green leafy vegetable, and that is what makes all the difference. Romaine lettuce beats iceberg lettuce across the board in nutrient content, especially with vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate.
As far as recipe ideas, you don’t just have to stop at salads: whether charred or raw, romaine lettuce can be used as a boat-shaped base with any topping you like—some tuna and mayo, rice and cheese, or hummus and garlic! Think of it like a long, nutritious edible spoon.
Vitamin A: 56%
Vitamin C: 14%
Vitamin K: 181%
Whether sautéed in olive oil or disguised within smoothies or protein shakes, spinach is a great way to add vitamins to your diet. Widely popularized by cartoon character Popeye the Sailorman due to an accidentally misplaced decimal regarding spinach’s iron content, it’s nevertheless a leafy green that’s still full of health benefits, including beta-carotene. Chop it up, sauté it down, or stuff it into other foods to reap its reward.
8. Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
Vitamin A: 144%
Vitamin C: 74%
Vitamin K: 72%
A Chinese cabbage with smooth-edged tapering leaves, bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning that it’s part of the cabbage family (like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale). When it comes to cabbage vs. lettuce in the nutrients’ department, the better choice depends on which vitamin you’re after. But what’s nice about all these leafy greens is that they can be mixed together in one big salad, so you don’t have to choose at all! Traditional recipes with bok choy involve including it with soy sauce in a skillet or wok stir fry.
7. Beet Greens
Vitamin A: 48%
Vitamin C: 19%
Vitamin K: 190%
When purchasing fresh beets at the grocery store, you’re likely to find them with their leaves still attached. Not just roughage to be discarded, beat greens are as edible and nutritious as any other dark leafy green, and can be prepared in the same way and the same sorts of dishes as spinach, including adding either (or both) to juicing recipes along with other high-value healthy foods. When preparing a dish of beet greens, you’re also welcome to keep pieces of the beet stalk in for extra nutrients and texture.
6. Collard Greens
Vitamin A: 48%
Vitamin C: 21%
Vitamin K: 230%
Another of the cruciferous cabbage family, and with all the same nutrients and health benefits, collard greens are a staple of Southern cooking in American cuisine. They are available year-round for inclusion in soul food recipes that involve chicken or pork or in vegan and vegetarian recipes that recreate classic flavors without the meat.
5. Swiss Chard
Vitamin A: 44%
Vitamin C: 18%
Vitamin K: 374%
An extremely nutritious vegetable, Swiss chard has numerous health benefits that include providing antioxidants, supporting bone health, and positively impacting blood sugar levels. Closely related to beets, Swiss chard is cultivated more for its leaves (while beets are usually grown for the roots), and is popular in Mediterranean dishes. In fact the first known use of chard in a cooking capacity was found in Sicily, and it’s been a part of the region’s recipes ever since.
4. Mustard Greens
Vitamin A: 118%
Vitamin C: 65%
Vitamin K: 348%
The dark green leaves of the mustard plant, mustard greens have a strong, peppery taste that make for a wonder ingredient. Like kale, it has a high concentration of isorhamnetin, a flavonoid of special interest in cancer-related studies. Included in U.S. Southern recipes and Asian-inspired dishes, mustard greens are a highly versatile vegetable.
3. Dandelion Greens
Vitamin A: 112%
Vitamin C: 32%
Vitamin K: 535%
Whether as wine, tea, or food, the dandelion is a real wonder weed. Added perks beyond the vitamin content include antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and blood sugar control benefits. Dandelion greens may also reduce cholesterol, aid weight loss, and promote liver health. Whether cooked with eggs, sautéed in oil, or combined in stews, this is a powerful ingredient most people don’t even think of as a food option—let’s fix that!
Vitamin A: 101%
Vitamin C: 133%
Vitamin K: 1230%
The whopping winner when it comes to vitamin K content, parsley is much more than a garnish. Parsley’s benefits include fighting inflammation and acne, and it can also help detox the body, prevent diabetes, and protect your heart. Moreover, studies have shown that individuals with diets that include greater amounts of vitamin K have 22% fewer bone fractures than those with low vitamin K levels. For vitamin K, the only way to get a higher percentage than parsley is to use spices like basil, sage, and thyme; other than that, parsley is unbeatable.
Vitamin A: 206%
Vitamin C: 134%
Vitamin K: 684%
Based on the off-the-charts numbers kale has for vitamins A, C, and K, it’s our top choice as a leafy green nutritional powerhouse. Kale also brings to the table potassium, omega-3 fatty acid, and the ketogenic amino acids lysine and leucine (in case you’re looking for food that will help aid the keto diet). With blood sugar-lowering abilities and cancer-fighting attributes, this cruciferous leafy green is a fighter, so why not let it fight for you?
Green Leafy Vegetables for Life
So now you know! For further information, you should keep in mind that leafy green vegetables are most nutritious when eaten raw or lightly steamed, and yet with such high levels of vitamins, no matter how you cook or prepare these foods, they’ll be an excellent boon to your dietary health.
Dark green leafy vegetables are a great source of the vitamins A, C, K, and folate, as well as minerals like iron and calcium. They’re also an excellent source of fiber and an invaluable part of a healthy diet. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just interested in making sure you get the proper balance of vegetables in your daily meals, get to know these highly nutritious green leafy veggies.