The Pros and Cons of Your 5 Favorite Dark Leafy Greens

The Pros and Cons of Your 5 Favorite Dark Leafy Greens
Presented by Spartan Training®

As a dietitian, I am often encouraging people to get in a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. The easiest way to know that you’re getting a decent variety is to incorporate all of the colors of the rainbow. When it comes to the color green, we’ve got you covered.

Related: Athletic Greens: How to Eat the Rainbow Consistently


Pros: A Spartan has to be versatile. So if there were a vegetable that matched that trait, it would be spinach.

There is literally no excuse not to eat spinach, which is delicious chopped up in a salad, sautéed with garlic as a warm side dish, added to soups or sandwiches, and perfectly hidden in smoothies. It's is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as these minerals:

Related: These Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Are Ruining Your Workout

Cons: Spinach is considered high in oxalates, which may inhibit calcium absorption. If you are eliminating dairy from your diet, calcium becomes an important nutrient for which to find an alternate source. A quick fix: cook your spinach. The cooking process helps reduce the calcium-inhibiting oxalate effect.


Pros: Kale is a source of vitamin K. Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale supplies an abundance of glucosinolates, one of which is indole 3-carbinol (I3C). IC3 can reduce levels of harmful estrogens that may promote cancer growth in hormone-sensitive cells (such as breast cells). Kale also provides healthy carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Cons: As an abundant source of vitamin K, kale must be used with caution if you’re using blood thinners. Vitamin K assists in the process of blood clotting, and those using blood thinners should be aware that kale can be a contraindication for use. The vitamin K in kale will work against the effort for maintaining appropriate blood thickness. The old school of thought was that people on blood thinners needed to avoid food sources of vitamin K altogether. However, new research shows that maintaining a consistent amount from day-to-day can be an acceptable practice for those hoping to continue eating this staple green.

Related: Kale: What’s in It and How to Make the Most of Kale Nutrients

Collard Greens

Pros: Another source of vitamins A and K, this hearty green is a replacement for bread and tortillas. And, because collard greens are not as “sexy” as other greens, you don’t have to worry about their price skyrocketing due to high demand or trendiness.

Cons: Collards often have a “heartier” and chewier texture, so it can take some time to learn the best way to cook them. Since they aren’t trendy, healthy recipes aren’t as plentiful. Additionally, collards tend to have a stronger, cabbage-like taste, which can be a turnoff to some.

However, if you’re looking for a healthy collard greens recipe, we've got you covered.


Pros: Broccoli is another source of glucosinolates. In addition to being a source of calcium, broccoli also contributes to our blood-pressure-lowering potassium needs as well as more energy-producing B vitamins. Broccoli is also another source of folate and Vitamin K, which are good for your bones. Last, did you know that one cup of raw broccoli contains as much vitamin C as an entire orange? Try that out the next time you feel a cold coming on.

Cons: You’re not a fan of the taste of broccoli? It may be your genes. Studies have shown that people with certain gene types may be more sensitive to the bitter taste of broccoli. Additionally, those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may experience digestive discomfort, gas, and bloating after eating broccoli. This is due to the sugar raffinose that feeds bacteria in the large intestine. Taking digestive aids before eating may reduce these symptoms.

Swiss Chard

Pros: Swiss chard is an obscure and underappreciated source of nutrients that support bone health. It provides vitamins C and K, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Cons: Like collard greens, swiss chard’s only “con” may be its lack of popularity — and that’s not really a con. Again, that con is also a pro because it helps keep prices low.

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