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Healthy lettuce: 14 Healthy Salad Greens Ranked From Best to Worst

14 Healthy Salad Greens Ranked From Best to Worst

Kale may be trendy, but is it really the most nutritious leafy green? Here, we grade greens from the absolute best for your health to the nutritionally blah.

By Alice MartinMedically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES

Reviewed:

Medically Reviewed

Planning to enjoy a healthy salad today? Select the right greens to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.

Sergey Narevskih/Stocksy

You already know that salad is good for you, and one of the main reasons why is that it’s usually built on a nutritious base of leafy greens. These frequently lauded vegetables have been linked to a number of health benefits. In particular, research has found that leafy greens are one of the top sources of dietary nitrates, compounds that bring cardiovascular benefits.

After analyzing data from more than 50,000 people over a 23-year period, Danish researchers found that those who ate just one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables a day had up to a 26 percent lower risk of heart disease, as reported in their study, published in April 2021 in the European Journal of Epidemiology. Another study, published in March the same year in the Journal of Nutrition, found that people who consumed one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables a day had significantly stronger muscle function in their lower limbs, and walked an average of 4 percent faster than people with the lowest nitrate intake, independent of their physical activity levels.

While nearly all greens have something to offer, they can differ somewhat in the type and amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals they contain, says Kelly Kennedy, RDN, the staff nutritionist for Everyday Health. Getting a variety of leafy greens in your diet is a good strategy to take advantage of everything they have to offer, but in general, the darker the leaf, the more nutrients it contains. This definitive ranking can help you when you’re ready to branch out from kale.

572

Kale Contains Vitamins, Phytonutrients, and Calcium

Cameron Whitman/Stocksy

Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 93

Carbs 1 gram (g)

Fiber . 8 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Kale is a trendy green for a reason — according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), just one cup of cooked kale meets 19 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin A, which helps maintain good vision, a healthy immune system and reproductive system, and proper functioning of the heart, lungs, and kidneys. It also contains 23 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, which is important for the growth and repair of all tissues in the body and helps maintain a healthy immune system; and kale also has more than four times your daily requirement of vitamin K, crucial to form proteins necessary for normal blood clotting, build stronger bones, and protect against osteoporosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. While slightly higher in calories than other greens, cooked kale provides about 14 percent of your daily requirement of calcium, which is essential for building and maintaining strong bones.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Kale is delicious raw or cooked,” says Kennedy. “It’s simple to prepare sautéed with some onions and garlic, amazing baked into ‘chips,’ and makes a great base for a salad.” For the salad, if you chop the kale into small pieces or allow it to sit in the dressing for a little bit before eating (or both), it becomes more tender, she explains. Kale also pairs well with roasted squash, nuts, seeds, and beans. “However you serve kale, just be sure to remove the tough ribbing first,” Kennedy says.

573

Spinach Has Vitamins, Iron, and Folate

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Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 7

Carbs 1 g

Fiber 0.7 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Subtle in flavor, spinach is anything but when it comes to nutrition. “The most nutritious salad greens are generally the darkest in color,” Kennedy says. And the deep, vibrant color of spinach hints at its nutritional profile: 1 cup has 16 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A, and all your daily vitamin K, according to the USDA. When spinach is cooked, it’s an excellent source of iron (more than one-third of your daily requirement), as well as vitamin C (20 percent of your daily requirement) and fiber, which is essential for digestive health, per the USDA. Cooked spinach also contains more folate than most salad greens, according to Kennedy, which helps convert the food you eat into energy and produces healthy red and white blood cells, according to the National Institutes of Health. Pair spinach with strawberries, balsamic, and a sprinkle of feta cheese for a flavor-packed salad.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Spinach makes a great salad base,” says Kennedy. “What I love about having spinach on hand is that it can easily be incorporated into so many dishes without ‘taking over’ flavorwise. It’s excellent on top of a sandwich, stirred into an omelet, and sautéed in olive oil.”

574

Beet Greens Give You All Your Daily Vitamin K

Getty Images

Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 8

Carbs 2 g

Fiber 1. 4 g

Protein 1 g

Why They’re Healthy

While most people throw the beet greens away or buy beets with the greens already removed, they’re actually very nutritious,” says Kennedy, noting that beet greens contain 13 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A and all your daily vitamin K, per USDA data.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Beet greens can be eaten raw or prepared in the same way as spinach or kale, by sautéing them with olive oil, garlic, and onions,” says Kennedy.

575

Swiss Chard Has Plenty of Vitamins A, C, and K

Darren Muir/Stocksy

Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 7

Carbs 1 g

Fiber 0.6 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Swiss chard may be the healthiest green you’re not yet eating. A relative of the beet, chard tastes similar to spinach, and it’s growing in popularity. While it does have a higher sodium count than other salad greens (at 77 milligrams [mg] per cup, it still is just 3 percent of the maximum recommended daily amount), it also has more than double your daily requirement of vitamin K, 12 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A, and 12 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, per the USDA. Consider combining chard with a few other greens to make your own mix.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Swiss chard has a distinct flavor that not everyone appreciates,” says Kennedy. “It tastes great sautéed with garlic and onions, and mixes into a quiche or frittata well. If you’ve tried it one way and didn’t like it, try cooking it a different way — you may be surprised!”

576

Dandelion Greens Contain Vitamins, Calcium, and Iron

Madeleine Steinbach/iStock

Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 25

Carbs 5 g

Fiber 1.9 g

Protein 2 g

Why They’re Healthy

Dandelion greens are so much more than “weeds. ” According to the USDA, not only do they contain about 20 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, vitamin B6 (which helps the body convert food into fuel, metabolize fats and proteins, maintain proper nerve function, and produce red blood cells), calcium, and iron, they’re also high in prebiotic fiber, which helps to nourish the good bacteria in the microbiome, explains Kennedy.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Dandelion greens are excellent in a salad, and can also be sautéed and enjoyed warm,” says Kennedy.

577

Mustard Greens Provide Vitamin C and Folate

Arif Relano Oba/Shutterstock

Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 15

Carbs 3 g

Fiber 1.8 g

Protein 2 g

Why They’re Healthy

One cup of mustard greens gives you almost one half of your daily requirement of vitamin C, all your daily vitamin K, as well as some folate, per the USDA.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Mustard greens are excellent raw with oil and vinegar, and also sautéed with olive oil and herbs,” says Kennedy.

578

Collard Greens Are a Good Source of Vitamin C

iStock

Portion 1 cup chopped

Calories 12

Carbs 2 g

Fiber 1.4 g

Protein 1 g

Why They’re Healthy

Collard greens have all your daily vitamin K. They’re also a good source of vitamin C (14 percent of your DV), and have a small amount of vitamin E (an antioxidant), according to the USDA.

Meal Prep Inspo

“If you’re not used to preparing collard greens (they’re commonly consumed in the Southern United States), you’ll be surprised by how easy they are to cook,” says Kennedy. “Simply sauté them in olive oil and allow them to simmer for about 45 minutes. Collard greens take longer to cook than other greens, but are worth the wait! They taste great raw, too.

579

Watercress Has Vitamin C and Vitamin K

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Portion 1 cup chopped

Calories 4

Carbs 0 g

Fiber 0.2 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Popular in Europe, this salad green is often used in the United States as a mere garnish. But don’t underestimate the power of watercress in your diet. It’s more nutrient-rich than romaine and leaf lettuce; just 1 cup fulfills almost three-quarters of your daily value of vitamin K, and is a good source of vitamin C — 16 percent of your daily requirement — according to the USDA.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Watercress makes a delicious addition to a salad, and if you love its peppery flavor, it can even be enjoyed alone with just a touch of oil and vinegar,” says Kennedy. “Watercress can also be pureed into a soup for an extra dose of flavor and nutrition.

580

Romaine Contains Folate, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K

Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

Portion 1 cup shredded

Calories 8

Carbs 2 g

Fiber 1 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Romaine lettuce’s dark green color, long leaves, and crunchy texture make it a very popular salad base. Two cups of romaine fulfill about 30 percent of your daily vitamin A, and nearly three-quarters of your vitamin K, per the USDA. To boost the nutritional value of your salad, mix romaine with some spinach or kale to pack in more antioxidants, or opt for a premixed blend. “Prepackaged salad green mixtures offer a wide variety of nutrients without you having to buy large quantities of each type of green,” says Kennedy. Tossing your salad greens with a small amount of healthy oil is also a great idea, as the oil adds a dose of healthy fat (and flavor) and can also improve your body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from the salad, she adds.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Romaine lettuce has a great crunch and is delicious served in a salad or on top of a sandwich,” says Kennedy. “Romaine can even be lightly grilled for a unique, slightly charred flavor.”

581

Lettuce Gives You Almost All Your Daily Vitamin A

Yulia von Eisenstein/Shutterstock

Portion 1 cup shredded

Calories 5

Carbs 1 g

Fiber .5 g

Protein 0 g

Why It’s Healthy

Leaf lettuce, whether red or green, looks bright and cheerful on your plate and has a mild taste, making it a great choice for children and picky eaters. Just 2 cups of green leaf lettuce gives you about 30 percent of your daily vitamin A, says the USDA. Like many salad greens, it’s a little low in fiber though, so bulk up your salad with higher-fiber veggies such as broccoli, carrots, and legumes, Kennedy recommends.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Most people know that red and green lettuce can be served in a salad or on top of a sandwich, but it’s also delicious sautéed, steamed, or grilled,” says Kennedy.

582

Butter Lettuce Is a Good Source of Vitamin A

Jordi Calvera Sole/Getty Images

Portion 1 cup shredded

Calories 7

Carbs 1 g

Fiber .6 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Butter lettuce — including both Bibb and Boston varieties — has a soft, buttery texture and a slightly sweet flavor. It has a tightly folded head that is bright green on the outside and yellow on the inside, and it’s often sold with the roots attached to preserve freshness. The USDA indicates that butter lettuce is low in sodium and has 10 percent of the vitamin A you need in a day.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Also great as a salad or on top of a sandwich, the size of these lettuce leaves makes them a great bread replacement for anyone looking to go low-carb,” says Kennedy. “You can make a traditional sandwich and serve it on butter lettuce, or even roll the ingredients inside the leaves to create a sort of ‘wrap’ in place of a tortilla.

583

Endive Leaves Are a Good Source of Folate

Claudia Totir/Getty Images

Portion 1 cup raw

Calories 8

Carbs 2 g

Fiber 1.6 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Endive leaves are another good source of folate, with 1 cup fulfilling about 18 percent of your daily requirement, per the USDA.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Endive is excellent chopped and served in a salad,” says Kennedy. “Because of its firm texture, endive can be served in individual leaves with dip, or as a small roll-up.”

584

Arugula Tastes Great, but Lacks Nutrients

Olena Ivanova/Getty Images

Portion 2 cups raw

Calories 10

Carbs 2 g

Fiber 0.6 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

If you’re looking for a peppery flavor to spice up your salad, arugula is the perfect base ingredient. But it ranks near the bottom nutritionwise, says Kennedy. Arugula is a tasty choice with some vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium, according to the USDA, but it just doesn’t measure up to other greens for any of these nutrients. Mix arugula with more nutritious options to pump up the flavor and the antioxidant power of your salad.

Meal Prep Inspo

“Arugula has a strong, peppery flavor that some people can’t get enough of,” says Kennedy. “If this is you, it makes for a great salad all by itself. If the flavor is a bit strong for you, I’d recommend using it more as a condiment — adding a small amount to a salad or a few leaves on top of a sandwich.”

585

Iceberg Lettuce Is Low in Calories (and Nutrients)

Portion 2 cups raw

Calories 16

Carbs 3 g

Fiber 1.4 g

Protein 1 g

Why It’s Healthy

Iceberg lettuce may be the most popular of all the salad greens, but it’s definitely not the healthiest base you can choose. While the low calorie count is comparable to other greens, the nutrient totals are not, according to the USDA. Still, this crispy and inexpensive green doesn’t have to be removed from the menu entirely. “If it’s the only way you enjoy salad or it’s what’s being offered at a dinner you’re attending, then go for it and enjoy it as a nice contributor to your daily fluid needs,” says Kennedy. “However, if you like other, more nutrient-rich salad greens (and they’re available), you’d be better off nutritionally choosing one of those.”

Meal Prep Inspo

“Iceberg lettuce can be used just like butter lettuce (as a salad, on top of a sandwich, or as a bread replacement),” says Kennedy. “I don’t usually recommend iceberg lettuce because there’s not much nutritional value to it — I usually tell people to just have a glass of water instead.”

The Healthiest Lettuces and Salad Greens, Ranked Kale and Spinach

The Healthiest Lettuces and Salad Greens, Ranked Kale and Spinach

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sweetgreen

When it comes to the leafy greens you put in your salads, not all are created equal.

So which leaves and lettuces should you use in your salad to justify the croutons, bacon, and tasty dressing you add?

We’re here to help you find the most nutritious ones.

In similar rankings published in the past, we’ve relied on  the CDC’s 2014 list of “powerhouse foods”. But this time, we factored in how many nutrients (specifically potassium, fiber, protein, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and B6) the greens pack per calorie. 

Of course, none of the veggies on this list are bad for you, and you won’t necessarily be worse off for picking one over another. 

This article was initially posted in June 2017. 

12. Arugula (sometimes called rocket)

Flickr/thebittenword. com

Arugula’s distinct peppery taste doesn’t quite correlate with a high nutritional content. While it does have some vitamins, it lacks other nutrients that other greens boast.

Calories per cup: 6

11. Iceberg lettuce

William Wei, Business Insider

It’s no surprise that iceberg lettuce is among the least nutritious greens to put in a salad. In fact, Chick-fil-A has even banned the veggie from its stores, allegedly because of its low nutritional value. Iceberg lettuce has about only 7% of your daily vitamin A per cup, and only 3% of daily vitamin C — among the lowest on this list.

Calories per cup: 10

10. Radicchio

Wikimedia Commons

Radicchio is a member of the chicory family. It’s packed with vitamin K, containing more than 100% of your daily value.

Calories per cup: 9

TIE – 8. Watercress

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Watercress, with its little round leaves, was considered the top powerhouse food in the CDC study. However, by our metrics, it didn’t pack in as many nutrients as others on the list. It’s high in vitamins A, C, and K and incredibly low in calories.

It’s also linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and is not too hard to grow.

Calories per cup: 4

TIE – 8. Leaf lettuce

Wikimedia Commons

One of the more nutritious of the lettuce family, leaf lettuce is low in calories and high in potassium and vitamins A and K. 

Calories per cup: 5

7. Endive

Flickr/Lablascovegmenu

Endive, also a kind of chicory, is fill of vitamin K, and a cup has 20% of your daily vitamin A intake. The frisée — or curly endive — in salads is also part of this plant.

Calories per cup: 8

6. Chard

Ulga/Shutterstock

With its defining red (or rainbow) stems, chard is among the top powerhouse foods because of its low calorie count and high levels of nutrients. It has the most vitamin K of any leafy green on this list, at nearly 300% of your daily value per cup. Chard also contains a fair amount of magnesium, which is important for things like muscle and nerve function, blood-glucose control, and blood-pressure regulation.

Calories per cup: 7

5. Butter lettuce

Flickr/Anita Hart

Also called Boston or bibb lettuce, butter lettuce is the most nutritious of the lettuces on this list. The leaves are higher in folate, iron, and potassium than iceberg or leaf lettuces.

Calories per cup: 7

4. Romaine

liz west/Flickr

Romaine ranked among the top 10 “powerhouse foods,” by the CDC, which are classified based on their associations with reduced risk for chronic diseases. It’s an especially great source of vitamin A — one cup has 81% of your daily intake — as well as some B vitamins. 

Calories per cup: 8

3. Broccoli leaves

sweetgreen

While most folks just eat the heads of broccoli (and maybe the stems) tossing some of the plant’s nutrient-packed leaves into your salad can be a good decision. The leaves are high in protein and have the highest fiber and vitamin A content of the greens on the list. 

Popular chain Sweetgreen even started featuring them in seasonal salads after conversations with farmers.

Calories per cup: 13

TIE – 1. Spinach

Flickr/Ccharmon

Spinach is a staple green in many salads that feature sweet ingredients like beets or fruit. It’s also one of the top-ranking greens when it comes to all-around nutrition content. It’s packed with vitamins and nutrients, particularly potassium and iron, which are important for regulating your blood cells and blood pressure. Unfortunately, spinach is not as high in protein as Popeye may have led you to believe. 

Calories per cup: 7

TIE – 1. Kale

Kale, salmon, and chard are all on the list of foods that may help your body cope with stress — and they are delicious together.

Laurel F/flickr

Trendy for a reason, kale kills it in vitamin content, especially A, C, and K. Vitamin K is especially important in helping blood to clot. 

Calories per cup: 33

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Greek salad – easy and delicious recipe with step by step photos

  1. Recipes
  2. Salad recipes
  3. Greek salad
  • We will need:
  • 4 large tomatoes or 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3-4 medium cucumber
  • onion (blue is best)
  • 200 g feta cheese (tofu)
  • 150 g pitted olives
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper

In Greece, this salad is called Horiatiki (Horiatiki), which translates as “village salad”, because its main ingredients are olives, fresh vegetables, olive oil and, of course, feta cheese. That is, everything that can always be found in the house of any Greek peasant. During fasting, feta is replaced with soy cheese tofu.

There are at least three versions of the origin of Horiatiki. According to one version, the salad was invented in the era of the Hellenes. But this version is very doubtful, since Greece learned about tomatoes only at 19century. And they are an important ingredient in a salad.

The second version says that some Greek, who lived in America for a long time, came to his homeland for the wedding of his nephew. In a foreign country, he really lacked his favorite products: olive oil, olives, fresh vegetables and country cheese. But on the way, his tooth ached badly and it was difficult for him to chew. So he decided to chop all the vegetables in a bowl, added feta cheese, olives and poured everything with olive oil. He liked the dish so much that he treated it to his sister, and she already put this salad on the wedding table for the guests.

According to the third version, Greek salad appeared in the last century, approximately in the 60-70s, when tourists “chosen” Greece. Enterprising tavern owners quickly cut a salad of traditional Greek products for their visitors and seasoned them with fragrant olive oil.

We will probably never know which version is correct. But that doesn’t matter. The main thing is that we have this wonderful recipe and we can all enjoy the wonderful taste of Greek salad.

Recipe step by step

  • Show as large photos with description

Step 1

1

1. Cut the onion into thin rings or half rings.

Step 2

2

2. Cut the tomatoes into large pieces. If you have cherry tomatoes – just cut each one in half.

Step 3

3

3. Cut the cucumber lengthwise, then cut into thin slices.

Step 4

4

4. Peel the peppers, cut into strips or small squares.

Step 5

5

5. Add olives, diced feta cheese, olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Light but hearty Greek salad is ready.
Bon appetit!

Recipe Category: Salad Recipes

Tags: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, greek salad, salad recipes, greek cuisine, new year recipes, valentine’s day recipes, lenten recipes, healthy eating, vegetarian recipes

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Tabbouleh salad – simple and delicious recipe with step by step photos

  1. Recipes
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  3. Tabouleh salad
  • We need:
  • 0. 5 tbsp. bulgur
  • 1.5 tbsp. water
  • juice from 0.5 lemon
  • 2-3 tomatoes (250 g)
  • fresh mint to taste
  • olive oil
  • sweet pepper optional
  • green onions
  • 90 013 salt

  • large bunch of parsley

No dish is as controversial as Taboule Salad . In the comments under each salad recipe, everyone proves that only his cooking recipe is truly correct. In fact, tabbouleh is prepared in different countries and everywhere it has its own differences: in Lebanon, tabouleh is made from bulgur, in Morocco and Tunisia they prefer to cook from couscous, on Russian-language sites they even offered to cook with millet or pearl barley.

I cooked tabbouleh for the first time and, in order not to get confused about which recipe is correct, I went to a Lebanese culinary website and, with the help of a translator, translated the recipe and cooked it.