Health Benefits of Collards

Collards are gaining new respect as nutrition powerhouses -- they're loaded with disease-fighting beta-carotene and offer respectable amounts of vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. All these attributes make cooking greens a wise choice for your diet.

Cook collards in this Southern Style Chicken and Greens recipe.
Cook collards in this
Southern Style
Chicken and Greens
recipe.

As fat-fighters, collard greens play the same role as most vegetables, providing few calories but filling stomachs with some fiber and furnishing nutrients galore. Just avoid the traditional way of cooking greens in bacon grease to keep your weight-loss routine sound, and turn collards into true fat-fighting foods.

If you're minimizing
calories
, you depend on certain foods to provide more than their share of certain nutrients. And cooking greens fill that role for two nutrients in particular.

First, greens contribute an important non-dairy source of calcium that's absorbed almost as well as the calcium found in dairy products. That's good news for those facing the threat of osteoporosis, as calcium is one of many factors crucial to bone health.

Second, collards are an excellent source of
vitamin A
, mostly in the form of beta-carotene, which has been shown to help protect against cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and other diseases of aging through its antioxidant properties. Vitamin A also helps keep the immune system strong. Other carotenoids found in greens may be just as potent cancer conquerors as well, but research is continuing. The outer leaves of greens usually contain more beta-carotene than do the inner leaves. Dandelion greens are bursting with twice the vitamin A of other greens.

Dark, leafy greens are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C. Many of the greens contain appreciable amounts of magnesium (good for bone and heart health) and the B vitamin team of folate and B6 (also good for heart health).

Folate by itself offers a few additional health boosters. It helps in the production of red blood cells and in normal nerve function. And by helping to reduce homocysteine levels in the
blood, it may help prevent dementia and bone fractures in people with osteoporosis.

These greens are also rich sources of phytochemicals, such as the carotenoid called lutein and lipoic acid. Lutein is proving itself to be a protector of
vision
-- helping to prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Lipoic acid is an antioxidant and also helps to regenerate vitamin C and vitamin E in the body. Because of the particular role lipoic acid plays in energy production, it's being investigated as a possible regulator of blood sugar.

To reap the benefits of all the nutrients in dark, leafy greens, include them often in your 21/2 cups of daily vegetables. They will be a boon to your health while helping with weight loss, since they are so low in calories.

Nutritional Values for Collard Greens, Cooked
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Calories 25
Fat <1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 5 g
Protein 2 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Sodium 15 mg
Vitamin A 7,708 IU
Vitamin C 17 mg
Calcium 133 mg
Potassium 110 mg
Carotenoids 9,271 micrograms

Want more information about collards? Try:
  • Collards Recipe: Southern-style chicken and greens made easy.
  • Nutrition: Find out if collard greens fit into your nutritional plan.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.