Kale has become very popular in recipes and salads. There are now a wide range of leafy greens available in convenient ready to use packs and lots of options for growing your own in pots or in your own garden.
But, what is the most nutritious of the common leafy greens that is available apart from the lettuces?
Many of the these leafy greens can be used for pesto, salads, pies and flans, dropped into stir fries and curries, and even added to pizzas.
Surprisingly, it is hard to find comparable nutrition data in a convenient form.
This article presents detailed nutrition information for Kale, Baby Spinach, Mustard greens, Swiss chard (silverbeet), Collard greens, Arugula (Rocket), Endive and Watercress.
An overall nutrient rating has been developed by giving an equal weight to the major nutrients such as protein, fiber, calories, vitamins and minerals. These scores were added to produce an overall ranking.
This score was simplified as a percentage relative to the leafy green with the highest score - Kale.
Also included are the top five ranking leafy greens for 17 of the most important nutrients.
So, now you can choose the healthiest leafy green overall and the one with the highest nutrient that you are targeting in making healthy choices.
The table below provides details nutrition data for the commonly available leafy greens. Giving an equal weighting to 17 of the more important nutrients and adding the scores was used to provide and overall ranking. This was expressed as a percentage of the score for kale, the highest ranking leafy green vegetable. The scores for the 8 leafy greens included in the study were:
► Kale 100%
► Baby Spinach 85%
► Mustard greens 81%
► Swiss chard (silverbeet) 68%
► Collard greens 61%
► Arugula (Rocket) 50%
► Endive 50%
► Watercress 39%
Baby Spinach and Kale come out as clear winners over Rocket, Water Cress and Endive.
The table below provides the top 5 ranked leafy greens for 17 nutrients.
Certain vegetables are 'stars' for particular nutrients. A summary of the ranking for each leafy vegetable is proved below. Also shown is a summary of the macro nutrients in 100g serving. Iceberg lettuce is included at the end for comparison.
Kale ranks first or second for protein, Vitamins B, A, C and K; and also for the minerals: copper, manganese. It also has the highest ranks for the two antioxidants - beta Carotene and Lutein-zeaxanthin.
Energy (Cals) 50
Calorie breakdown: 71% carbs, 12% fat, 17% protein
Carbs (g) 10.01
Protein (g) 3.30
Total Fat (g) 0.70
Dietary Fiber (g) 2.00
Baby spinach is a good 'all-rounder' with top 3 ranks for: protein, folates, Vitamins A and E, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, beta carotene and Lutein-zeaxanthin
Energy (Cals) 23
Calorie breakdown: 56% carbs, 14% fat, 30% protein.
Carbs (g) 3.63
Protein (g) 2.86
Total Fat (g) 0.39
Dietary Fiber (g) 2.20
Swiss Chard (silverbeet) has low calories and high levels of the B-group vitamins and vitamin K. It also ranks well for minerals such as magnesium, iron and copper.
Energy (Cals) 19
Calorie breakdown: 70% carbs, 9% fat, 21% protein
Carbs (g) 3.74
Protein (g) 3.27
Total Fat (g) 0.20
Dietary Fiber (g) 1.60
Arugula (rocket) has good level of calcium, magnesium and zinc, but has low levels of vitamins.
Energy (Cals) 25
Calorie breakdown: 52% carbs, 22% fat, 26% protein.
Carbs (g) 3.65
Protein (g) 2.58
Total Fat (g) 0.66
Dietary Fiber (g) 1.60
Collard greens rank highly for fiber, Vitamins E, K, calcium and beta carotene
Energy (Cals) 30
Calorie breakdown: 70% carbs, 16% fat, 14% protein
Carbs (g) 5.69
Protein (g) 2.45
Total Fat (g) 0.42
Dietary Fiber (g) 3.60
Endive ranks second for low calories and has top 3 ranking for fiber, Vitamins B and Zinc.
Energy (Cals) 17
Calorie breakdown: 70% carbs, 10% fat, 20% protein.
Carbs (g) 3.35
Protein (g) 1.25
Total Fat (g) 0.20
Dietary Fiber (g) 3.10
Mustard greens has a top 3 ranking for fiber, folates, Vitamins A, C, E, and Copper, manganese, beta carotene and Lutein-zeaxanthin.
Energy (Cals) 26
Calorie breakdown: 67% carbs, 6% fat, 27% protein
Carbs (g) 4.90
Protein (g) 2.70
Total Fat (g) 0.20
Dietary Fiber (g) 3.30
Watercress has the lowest calories for a 100g serving (only 11 Calories) and also ranks third for Vitamin C (after kale and mustard greens). However it has low ranks for minerals and the other vitamins.
Energy (Cals) 11
Calorie breakdown: 42% carbs, 8% fat, 50% protein
Carbs (g) 1.29
Protein (g) 2.30
Total Fat (g) 0.10
Dietary Fiber (g) 0.50
Energy (Cals) 14
Calorie breakdown: 71% carbs, 8% fat, 21% protein
Carbs (g) 2.97
Protein (g) 0.9
Total Fat (g) 0.14
Dietary Fiber (g) 1.20
|Nutrients||Rank 1||Rank 2||Rank 3||Rank 4||Rank 5|
|Calories (lowest)||Watercress||Endive||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Baby Spinach||Arugula (Rocket)|
|protein||Kale||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Baby Spinach||Mustard greens||Arugula (Rocket)|
|fiber||Collard greens||Mustard greens||Endive||Baby Spinach||Kale|
|folates||Baby Spinach||Mustard greens||Collard greens||Endive||Arugula (Rocket)|
|Vitamin B||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Kale||Endive||Mustard greens||Collard greens|
|Vitamin A||Kale||Mustard greens||Baby Spinach||Collard greens||Swiss chard (silverbeet)|
|Vitamin C||Kale||Mustard greens||Watercress||Collard greens||Swiss chard (silverbeet)|
|Vitamin E||Collard greens||Baby Spinach||Mustard greens||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Watercress|
|Vitamin K||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Kale||Collard greens||Mustard greens||Baby Spinach|
|Calcium||Arugula (Rocket)||Collard greens||Kale||Watercress||Mustard greens|
|Copper||Kale||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Mustard greens||Baby Spinach||Endive|
|Iron||Baby Spinach||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Kale||Mustard greens||Arugula (Rocket)|
|Magnesium||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Baby Spinach||Arugula (Rocket)||Kale||Mustard greens|
|Manganese||Baby Spinach||Kale||Mustard greens||Endive||Swiss chard (silverbeet)|
|Zinc||Endive||Baby Spinach||Arugula (Rocket)||Kale||Swiss chard (silverbeet)|
|Carotene-beta||Kale||Mustard greens||Baby Spinach||Collard greens||Swiss chard (silverbeet)|
|Lutein-zeaxanthin||Kale||Baby Spinach||Swiss chard (silverbeet)||Mustard greens||Collard greens|
|Nutrients Serving 100g||Kale||Baby Spinach||Mustard greens||Swiss chard (silver-beet)||Collard greens||Arugula (Rocket)||Endive||Watercress|
|Overall rating (%)||100||85||81||68||61||50||50||39|
|Total Fat g||0.70||0.39||0.20||0.20||0.42||0.66||0.20||0.10|
|Dietary Fiber g||2.00||2.20||3.30||1.60||3.60||1.60||3.10||0.50|
|Panto. Acid mg||0.09||0.07||0.21||0.17||0.27||0.44||0.90||0.31|
|Vitamin A IU||15376||9377||10500||6116||6668||2373||2167||3191|
|Vitamin C mg||120||28||70||30||35||15||7||43|
|Vitamin E mg||2.03||2.01||1.89||2.26||0.43||0.44||1.00|
|Vitamin K mcg||817||483||497||830||511||109||231||250|