Parkview Health Logo

Medicine in the garden: greens

Last Modified: April 03, 2024

Nutrition & Recipes


This post was written based on a presentation by Rachel Reiter, RDN, LD, community outreach dietitian, Parkview Health.

Greens are versatile, nutrient-dense and delicious, dressed up with a tangy vinaigrette or layered onto a veggie-packed sandwich to lend a satisfying crunch. From arugula to collard greens and spinach to kale, these dark leafy powerhouses are brimming with benefits. Let’s learn more about the health gains provided by greens and some ways to work them into your menu.

The benefits of produce in our diet

Nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables are important components of our diets. When compared to calorie-dense, processed foods, fruits and vegetables provide maximum nutritional benefits in each serving.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have a positive effect on our health. Eating produce can:

How much produce should you eat?

Data suggests that 9 out of 10 Americans do not get the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables per day, which are:

  • Adults: 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of veggies per day
  • Children: 1 – 1 ½ cups fruit and 1 – 2 ½ cups veggies per day 

Why you should go for greens

Greens are their own classification of vegetables. They can be grown year-round in greenhouses and hoop houses but are typically grown outside from June to August.

How to store greens

Short-term storage: Place clean, dry leaves into an airtight container or zip-top bag with a paper towel. Bunches or heads of greens can be wrapped in paper towel before storage.

Long-term storage: Freeze greens and add them to soups, stews or baked dishes such as a casserole or lasagna.

Nutritional benefits of greens

Greens are the most nutrient-dense food! They contain vitamins K, A and E, as well as calcium, potassium, fiber, folate and bioactive compounds, which have been associated with health promotion and disease reduction.

Leafy greens offer:

  • Carotenoids – Supports vision, eye health and immune function
  • Polyphenols – Offers anti-inflammatory properties and protection against CVD
  • Glucosinolates – Prevents DNA damage and has potential cancer-fighting properties
  • Chlorophyll – Offers antioxidants
  • Coumarins – Anti-inflammatory properties that may play a role in preventing cancer and other diseases

Greens help protect our health at the cellular level. They contain properties that protect DNA and decrease oxidative stress which helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with DNA damage and cellular dysfunction.

A small study found that after eating greens five days in a row, the enzyme telomerase had an increased activity. Telomerase helps to maintain telomere length. As research grows, the evidence is mounting that consuming greens could be attributed to decreased aging.

Greens also benefit the microbiome due to the fiber content. The fiber found in greens helps to feed the cells lining the colon and maintain a healthy gut environment.

Powdered greens

Powdered greens can fit into a diet if individuals enjoy using them, but there’s limited research showing the health benefits. People shouldn’t view greens powder as a way to fix poor diet quality. Consuming nourishing food first is our best approach to getting the nutrition and health benefits of our fruits and vegetables.

How to eat greens

You can enjoy greens in many forms.


  • Salads
  • Smoothies (spinach and kale are great options)


  • Boiled: Add greens to boiling water for 2-3 minutes, add greens to soup
  • Sauteed: Add to pan with oil or water to cook down greens
  • Roasted: On a cookie sheet at 325 degrees to make kale or Swiss chard chips

Recipe to try

Audrey’s Salad

8-12 cups deep greens
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 green apple, cored and diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 avocado, diced


¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon mustard

1. Wash greens as needed. Allow to dry. Combine carrots, peppers, onion and cucumber.

2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients..

3. Toss salad with dressing and gently stir in apple and avocado

Serves 8

For more ideas on how to prepare greens or other great ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, browse our Pinterest profile for inspiration.

Want more Medicine in the Garden?

If you enjoyed this content, check out similar posts on carrotsradishescherriespumpkin and eggplant.

Related Blog Posts

View all posts