Leaves That We Eat

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You can bake kale leaves and make healthy chips in your oven.
You can bake kale leaves and make healthy chips in your oven. (Image: waymoreawesomer/iStock/Getty Images)

When you eat fruits and vegetables, you eat different parts of plants. Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds are some of the parts your produce could be. The "leaves" category contains a lot of foods that can add a bounty of nutrition to your diet.

Kale, Brussels Sprouts and Collard Greens

Collard greens, brussels sprouts and kale all belong to the Brassica Oleracea family, which includes broccoli and cauliflower. These three varieties all offer high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K and beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A. Vitamin K helps to support bone health, and vitamin C is an important antioxidant in your body. These leafy greens also contain a phytonutrient (a beneficial plant compound) called sulforaphane, which has anti-cancer properties.

Salad Greens

When you make a salad, you probably use leafy greens like romaine lettuce or arugula. Unlike romaine lettuce, arugula will have a bitter and spicy flavor. These leaves provide high amounts of beta-carotene, an orange-pigment antioxidant -- also found in sweet potatoes and carrots -- that's converted into vitamin A by the body. Just 2 cups of romaine lettuce will provide you with 45 to 58 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for adults.

Both romaine lettuce and arugula add crunch to salads.
Both romaine lettuce and arugula add crunch to salads. (Image: nickpo/iStock/Getty Images)

Spinach and Swiss Chard

The leafy greens of spinach and Swiss chard belong to the Amaranthaceae family. You can use spinach and Swiss chard in omelets, salads or by themselves sauteed with spices. Both of these plants have high amounts of the phytonutrient lutein. An article in "Experimental Eye Research" demonstrated that lutein may help reduce overall risk for age-related macular degeneration.

You can grow your own spinach plant that will be ready for harvest in about six to eight weeks.
You can grow your own spinach plant that will be ready for harvest in about six to eight weeks. (Image: Lecic/iStock/Getty Images)

Nutritious Herbs

An essential for any recipe is the inclusion of herbs, which can also be leaves. Cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaves and sage are all leaves. Although herbs are used in smaller quantities, they can still provide small amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

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