A testimony to the concept of things that are better than their names suggest, bitter greens don’t sound great at first mention. Who’s particularly keen to jump on board for anything labeled as bitter? But truthfully, bitter greens are simply a group of vegetables that fall within the larger, looser category of leafy greens, and they’re the subset considered more punchy and bitter in their flavor–which doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Most importantly, these greens are known for being packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a range of health benefits including liver detoxification, so mixing them into more of your weekly meals is a smart move. When it comes to bitter greens, kale gets a lot of attention. But let’s explore a few of the bitter greens you may not be eating on the regular, and why that should change.
As the name suggests, the leafy green portion of the mustard plant happens to be both edible and delicious. These peppery-tasting greens are a bit under-appreciated (as they’re not always easy to find in every store), but are worth picking up. In the same genus as kale, broccoli, and collard greens, they’re in great healthful company, and are packed with nutritional benefits.
They’re considered a great source of antioxidants (along with their Brassica family counterparts) and have high levels of vitamin K, which supports blood clotting and heart health. Because of high vitamin C levels, they’re also considered helpful for your immune system. A serving of cooked mustard greens also provides a particularly high dose of vitamin A, while raw consumption provides more vitamin C and E.
To try this leafy green, start with a recipe for simple sauteed mustard greens.
Though you may only picture dandelions as a backyard weed, they’re actually totally edible and a valuable nutritional option! Dandelion tea is popular among many, but the greens are also a member of the bitter greens category and great for adding some health benefits to your meals.
Those backyard dandelion greens are actually packed with vitamins A, K, and C, among others in smaller quantities. They’re also mineral-rich, providing impressive servings of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Like their cousins the mustard greens, they offer antioxidant benefits, but they may also help fight inflammation or ward off diseases. No matter what, they’re adding up to be something of a superfood.
Why not try these with some eggs and feta, with this recipe.
Slightly more popular, but perhaps most known as a food you probably didn’t like as a kid, collard greens are a delicious addition to the bitter greens crew, and a little easier to come by than something like mustard or dandelion greens.
Like most of the others in this category, collard greens offer up plenty of vitamin A, C, and K, as well as powerful things like iron, vitamin B-6, and niacin, each providing health benefits across your body. Briefly-steamed collard greens will retain the highest levels of nutrients, but the only thing to be really wary of is cooking them in fat or overcooking, as that bitterness will really start to come out in a less tasty way.
A great place to start your collard green journey is by including them in a fresh dish, like this pasta recipe.
A leafy green a bit on the lighter side, with an appearance a bit between cabbage and romaine lettuce, endive is a tasty member of the bitter greens group that deserves a bit more love. Particularly great for raw uses like salads, or roasted up in side dishes, endive offers up a similarly long list of vitamin content and health benefits. A great source of fiber, this greenery helps ease digestion. It also has antioxidant properties and supports bone health. Like all bitter greens, it’s a great choice for weight loss, low in calories but packed with nutritional value.
Try endive in this salad, alongside another bitter green, arugula.