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30 Common and Exotic Leafy Green Healthy Vegetables

Updated on June 27, 2018

Nutritionists say you need to add green leafy vegetables to your diet. This list will help you to identify them and choose the ones you prefer. It cannot hurt to taste all of them before settling on preferences. Have you ever encountered a diet plan which does not include a suggestion of ingesting green leafy vegetables? If there are such diet plans, they must be rare. Human beings need the nutritional value provided by leafy vegetables. The purpose of this article is to help you identify a variety of them. Some might be in your local environment, some might need you to have some unique enthusiasm for tasting and traveling for food. This is not a scientific article. The list you are about to go through is simplified.

Green leafy vegetables abound in nature and researchers in the botany and nutrition have estimated that there are over thousands of vegetables and edible leaves in the world. In exotic cultures, some green leafy vegetables are very nutritious and are part of everyday meals, probably such vegetables have no English names at the moment.

Firstly, types of vegetables according to their characteristics include:

  • Allium vegetables such as garlic, onions, and leeks
  • Asteraceae/flowery vegetables such as chamomile, chicory, and artichoke
  • Cucurbitaceae/guard) vegetables such as zucchini, squash, and cucumber
  • Solanaceae/potato family vegetables such as eggplant, pepper, and paprika
  • Apiaceae/parsley family such as parsley, coriander, and carrots
  • Amaranthaceae/beetroot family such as beetroot, amaranth, and quinoa
  • Fabaceae/legume vegetables such as peas, clover, and lentil
  • Brassicaceae/cruciferous family which include most green and leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts

    The focus of this article is on plants whose leaves are consumed even if other parts of the plant such as flowers, roots, stems, bulbs or fruits are edible too. The key term is 'leafy' which means containing leaves. Let's start by defining green leafy vegetables.

What are Leafy Green Vegetables?

Green leafy vegetables contain the magnesium-rich compound found in leaves which gives them the green color. When you here of green leafy vegetables, nutritionists are referring to the edible green leaves of plants.

Benefits of Leafy Green Vegetables

  • They have high vitamins contents which are necessary for boosting your immunity
  • They contain fiber which is needed to promote good digestion
  • They are packed with beneficial minerals which relieve your body from toxins
  • They have little calories, hence can boost your heart health and improve chances of losing excess body fat
  • They contain cancer-fighting chemicals known as phytochemicals

In short, you need to eat green edible leaves for optimum body health and functioning of life-supporting bodily processes.

How to Eat Leafy Green Vegetables

You can eat most dark green vegetables in their natural raw state. Also, they can be cooked slightly until they become tender. Nutrition experts recommend undercooking rather than overcooking them to keep them sweet and maintain the necessary nutrients. Cooking them with other vegetables like onions or tomatoes can enhance the taste. Do not forget the salt!

If you want to take a break from eating green vegetables in or as salads you can cook them by:

  • topping in stews
  • steaming
  • stir-frying
  • oven roasting
  • boiling
  • using as an ingredient in juices and shakes

Check out this list of leafy-green vegetables to get ideas for excellent additions to your daily meal plan. Please be careful about eating green leafy leaves as some of them can be toxic to your health perhaps because of geographical predisposition and personal body reactions. The following list is inclusive of green vegetables from around the world, hence, do not be surprised if you find plants that you probably consider to be weeds or cattle feed being mentioned here.

1. Kale

Kale is acclaimed for it's high antioxidant properties. It contains Vitamins A, K and C. The green leaves of kale is good for your lungs, eyes, stomach, immune system. Eat them raw in salads, stir-fry or steam them. If overcooked they develop a bitter taste. You can chop the leaves into smaller pieces or strings for aesthetics.

2. Beetroot leaves

Beetroots are red, their leaves are green and highly nutritious. They are a rich source of Vitamin A, calcium, potassium and antioxidants. Stir-fry, steam, sautee, boil or feast on them in their raw state and serve alongside your main meal.

3. Spinach

Spinach is fat free, cholesrtol free and low-calorie. It is a good vegetable for battling weight gain and promoting weightloss while maintaining high nuitrition. Spinach leaves are filled with vitamin A therefore promoting optimum bone, teeth and eye health. The raw leaves are the most nuitritious but they can be cooked in a variety of ways similar to other leafy greens.

4. Mustard greens

Mustard leaves are rich in Vitamin K followed by Vitamin A. Mustard also contains calcium, iron and fiber in significant quantities to be beneficial to the body. The green leaves can be cooked in many ways including boiling.

5. Amaranth leaves

Amaranth leaves are easy to prepare because of their natural softness. They are a delicacy in Kenya and other African countries. Amaranth is an antioxidant and blood booster. It is a good choice for increasing iron in your body among other minerals like calcium.

6. Pumpkin leaves

Pumpkin leaves have a rough cating which must be removed before cooking. Break a section of the stem that holds one leaf and tear it towards the leaf to remove the rough threads. After that, cut the leaves into samller pices then cook them by stir-frying mixed with a softer vegetable like spinach, or you can boil it until soft. this leafy green vegetable is high in Vitamin K and iron.

7. Collard Greens

Collard greens contain Vitamin K and A in huge doses. Hence, these dark green veggies are great for your blood and skeletal tissues. Cook slightly so that they do not lose their firmness. They are a common food in the culture of Southerners.

8. Turnip greens

Turnip greens contain sulfur nutrients which help in detoxifying the body and fighting cancer cells. Rich in vitamin A like other cruciferous vegetables, they are a great carotenoid source. Remeber not to overcook them, it is important that they maintain their dark green color.

9. Brocolli

Brocolli is one of the vegetables reccommended for fighting colon cancer and hypertension since it is rich in calcium. The high content of Vitamin A and C, fiber and folic acid make it a great choice for everyone.

10. Cabbage

Eat cabbage frequently to improve your digestion and prevent constipation. Cabbages are said to be beneficial to your skin health, by minimizing skin disorders since it is an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory vege. These leaves are tasty when raw or minimally cooked.

11. Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)

Bok Choy has cancer-fighting properties, antioxidants, fiber, Vitamins A, K, C and minerals similar to cabbage. It has a sweet taste when stir-fried and can be eaten raw with other vegetables.

12. Dandelion Greens

Dandelions grow easily because they are classified as weeds. However, they are edible greens with a good taste and nutritional value. Cook them or eat them raw, either way, dandelion leaves will provide you with vitamins.

13. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts look like dwarf versions of cabbage. They have similar nutritional value as cabbages including their cancer-fighting properties. Modern medicine has extracted compounds from Brussels sprouts to use in manufacturing cancer drugs. Brussel Sprouts can be eaten raw in salads, lightly sauteed or stir-fried.

14. Lettuce

Lettuce is a leaf vegetable which can be eaten raw. It has insomnia healing properties, Omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins. Lettuce helps in detoxifying the body and maintaining a normal body pH.

15. Watercress

Green leafy vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidant phytochemicals. It grows best under aquatic conditions. It is a good choice for people who do not use dairy products because of its high calcium content.

16. Arugula

Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable with similar properties as the other leafy greens. Its high content of nitrates makes it beneficial to people who have high blood pressure, and those who engage in active physical exerting activity e.g athletics.

young arugula plant
young arugula plant

17. Cauliflower

Cauliflower leaves have similar properties to cabbages. It has many health benefits typical of leafy greens. Cauliflower helps to lower the risk of cancer and constipation. It is useful for pregnant women and enhancing brain health.

18. Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is similar to spinach and is referred to as "spinach" in some parts of the world. Young leaves are eaten raw while the more matured leaves can be cooked and served with other meals. It is low in calories, and good for fighting cancer and high blood pressure.

19. Rappini

Rappini (also known as broccoli rabe) is in the same family as broccoli and contains similar nutritional benefits. It contains Vitamins A, B, C and K, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids. You can cook it in a variety of ways including in form of Rappini soup.

20. Chickweed

Weeds are frustrating to garden owners unless they are edible like chickweed, they only cause undue stress. Chickweed has known medicinal properties and vitamins. Use it as an ingredient in soups or salads. As with other edible weeds, you have to be sure that what you want to add in your meal plan is actually edible chickweed. Not everyone can eat this because of allergies or taste preferences.

21. Quinoa

Quinoa is primarily grown for the seeds like Amaranth. However, its green leaves are and nutritious containing a high amount of vitamins and protein. You can eat them raw in vegetable salads or cooked.

22. Rutabaga greens

Rutabagas are related to turnips and their leaves are edible too. The leaves have the highest nutritional value when young. Rutabaga greens are mostly mixed in vegetable salads although you can cook them. The vegetable is an excellent source of Vitamin C.

23. Bean leaves

The green young leaves of lima beans and green beans are edible with many nutritional benefits. Since the leaves are coarse, they should be cooked to soften and bring out their taste. Mixing them with other vegetables, like spinach, can improve the taste as well.

24. Radish leaves

Radish leaves are a great source of iron, vitamins, and minerals. Consuming these leaves is likely to lead to increased blood in your body and reduce high blood pressure. Radish greens mix well with spinach or turnip leaves when cooked. They are safe to eat raw.

25. Okra leaves

Okra leaves are best served when cooked because the raw leaves are rough and spiny. They become slimy when cooked. Raw okra is edible especially if combined with other vegetables in salads. Okra leaves are a good source of vitamins, calcium, iron and proteins.

26. Sweet potato leaves

Yes, sweet potato leaves are edible and nutritious. Prepare them like spinach or turnip greens. They are best served cooked. Sweet potato leaves have a naturally bitter taste, you might find it useful to use tomatoes while cooking them.

young sweet potato plant
young sweet potato plant

27. Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is similar to turnips in appearance and has similar compounds as cabbages, kales, and collard greens. In fact, it is also known as turnip cabbage. Kohlrabi leaves are prepared in the same method like kales, collards or cabbage.

28. Cowpea/Black-eyed pea leaves

Cowpea is mainly grown for its seeds, but the leaves are also edible and highly nutritious. These leaves resemble bean leaves and they must be cooked to make them tasty. Young leaves (when the pod has not developped) are the best cowpea leaves to eat. Older leaves are bitter and tough. When removing the leaves from the stalks, remove the sticks because they are hard. Mix with soft vegetables, like spinach, when cooking by boiling and/or stir-frying. The softer vegetables will help to soften the cowpea leaves.

29. Yuca (cassava leaves)

Just as the cassava root, cassava leaves are used as food especially in Indonesian and African cooking. Before you eat cassava leaves, make sure that they are safe. Never ever eat them raw because they are poisonous in their fresh state. Boil them until tender then discard the water. They contain a lot of vegetarian protein, Vitamin C and fiber. Cassava leaves have a bland taste, you might need to spice it up by stir-frying with spices after boiling.

30. Fennel leaves

Fresh fennel leaves are delicious when added to food. Fennels originate from Italian kitchen culture. They are in the carrot family (did you know, carrot leaves are also edible and can top up your salads.) Fennel leaves are yummy when raw, but they can also be sauteed with other vegetables.

This list of 30 edible green leafy vegetables is barely exhaustive. Tread carefully even before inserting new green leaves into your tummy. Nutritionists say you need to add green leafy vegetables to your diet. This list will help you to identify them and choose the ones you prefer. It cannot hurt to taste all of them before settling on preferences.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Centfie


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    • centfie profile imageAUTHOR


      5 months ago from Kenya

      Audrey Hunt, thank you for your reply.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      6 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Mix me up a big bowl of everything on this list and I'm in heaven! I like this helpful, informative article. Thanks.

    • centfie profile imageAUTHOR


      8 months ago from Kenya

      Yogitech, thanks for your comment.

    • Yogitech207 profile image


      9 months ago from Mumbai

      Hey centfie

      Nice hub on helath care loved it.

      Looking forward for more hubs from you

    • centfie profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Kenya

      Welcome, Dred Cuan. Challenge your taste glands.

    • dredcuan profile image

      Travel Chef 

      2 years ago from Manila

      I didn't even know that okra leaves are edible too. I grew up eating only the fruit of the plant. I will definitely try this one next time. Thanks for sharing!


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