What are collard greens good for?

Colloquy on collard greens
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea

Collard Greens Nutrition Facts

Collard greens hold a revered place in the hearts and on the tables of every true American Southerner, but they have such remarkable qualities that they’re a food everybody should add to their diet.1

Originating from the Mediterranean, collard greens are believed to have been consumed since the prehistoric times. They were first cultivated by the Greeks and Romans and were eventually introduced to France in 400 B.C.2

Collard greens are one of several cruciferous vegetables, along with broccoli and cabbage.3 A 1997 article from The New York Times notes that kale is more “crinkly,” while collard greens have a more leathery texture. Because of the similarities in the appearance of both kale and collard greens, these two were often used interchangeably, although the two vegetables actually have different textures.

While these two vegetables can be used as alternatives to each other, collard greens are said to have a more muted flavor than kale.4 When planted, collard greens thrive better under the heat, requiring a lot of sunlight while they’re growing.5

There are more than a thousand steamed collard green recipes. Luckily, that's the style which nets the most nutrients.6 While the most popular dish that consists of collard greens is the “mess o’ greens,” known as a soul food in the South, this cooking method actually creates a bitter flavor and may even deplete the greens of most of their nutrients.7

Health benefits of collard greens

Collard greens, together with purslane and sweet potato greens, are loaded with antioxidants and active compounds that give them their free radical-fighting properties. In a 2009 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers isolated about 45 flavonoids in collard greens, kale and Chinese broccoli. It was found that collard greens contain high amounts of phenolic compounds, such as kaempferol.8 This flavonoid is famous for its anti-oxidative stress mechanism, which helps fight against age-related chronic diseases.9 Collard greens may also help:

And if that's not enough, collard greens also provide 58 percent of the vitamin C, 44 percent of the folate, 41 percent of the manganese, and 27 percent of the calcium needed on a daily basis. What's incredible is that the nutrients don't stop there. Impressive amounts of vitamin B6, magnesium, riboflavin, and iron are part of the bargain, offering more nutritional benefits than the average plant-based food.

  • Lower risk for cardiovascular disease – A 2019 animal study from Nutrients stated that green leafy vegetables, including collard greens, significantly lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease. They were found to improve lipid metabolism and blood pressure regulation in rats who had heightened risk for hypertension.10

    A 2012 study out of Lipids in Health and Disease also linked the consumption of collard greens and other green leafy vegetables to better modulation of liver fatty acid composition, which keeps atherogenic fatty acids in control.11

  • Fight glaucoma – In a 2012 study, the diet of African-American women were observed to determine which vegetables affected the incidence of glaucoma. Results showed that regular consumption of collard greens and kale may lower the risk of glaucoma due to their vitamin A and C content.12

To learn more about the nutrients that you can get from collard greens, check out the table below.13

Collard greens nutrition facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 35  
Total Fat 0 g  
Saturated Fat 0 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 18 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 5.88 g  
Dietary Fiber 3.5 g  
Sugar 0 g  
Protein 3.53 g  
Potassium 176 mg Vitamin C 30 mg
Calcium 153 mg Iron 0 mg

Studies on collard greens

Together with other cruciferous vegetables, collard greens have been the subject of numerous studies in relation to cancer, inflammation and obesity. In a 2018 animal study from Lipids in Health and Disease, green leafy vegetables, including collard greens, were found to interfere with the adverse effects of the American diet. Adding a considerable amount of green leafy vegetables to your diet may help curb inflammation and disease pathogenesis.14

A 2008 study from Nutrition Research discussed how steaming collard greens, kale and other leafy vegetables affected the binding capacity of these vegetables, which limited the possibility of secondary bile utilization. Secondary bile acids have been linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer. As steamed collard greens allow better bile acid binding, they may help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

A 2010 study suggests that crucifers, such as broccoli or collard greens, and carotenoid-rich vegetables may lower the risk for breast cancer in African-American women.15

Collard greens healthy recipes:
Southern-style collard greens

Collard Greens Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

1 pound chopped collard greens

2 tablespoons organic coconut oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

Procedure:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add collard greens to bowl. Simmer for five minutes. Drain greens and place in a separate container.
  2. In the same pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown and fragrant.
  4. Add the collard greens and sauté for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

(Adapted from Vegetarian Times16)

Collard greens fun facts

While collard greens may have been available when the colonists arrived, the cooking style that turned them into a "mess o’ greens" came from African slaves. They're slow-cooked down to a juice, which turns to gravy, sometimes with a little help from ham hocks or pig jowls. In fact, collard greens became the official vegetable of South Carolina on June 2, 2011, enacted by Senate Bill No. 823 (S823).17

Summary

The surplus of active compounds and antioxidants found in collard greens can provide  numerous health benefits, from your cardiovascular system to eye health. However, the manner of cooking is important to preserve the many nutrients these vegetables contain.