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By Johannah Sakimura


Known for their A-to-zinc spectrum of vitamins and minerals, leafy vegetables like spinach and collards have long been rated among the healthiest foods on the planet. But those old standbys -- and their suddenly stylish cousin kale -- are hardly the only greens that should be in your diet. Shake things up with these four supernutritious leafy vegetable choices.

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  • Bok Choy

    <i>Mild, tender cabbage with dark green tops and thick, pale stalks</i> <b>Health Perks</b> Bok choy belongs to the cruciferous vegetable (or cabbage) family, a group known for its anticancer properties (which may be due, in part, to a high concentration of the antioxidant kaempferol). <b>Make It A Meal</b> The plant's stalks hold up well in soups, like this one from Susie Middleton, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Green-Table-Delicious-Vegetables/dp/1452102651" target="blank"><i>The Fresh & Green Table</i></a>: Season 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth with 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger, and 1/2 tsp. hot sauce and simmer. Stir in 4 cups chopped bok choy and 1 cup saut&eacute;ed shiitake mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add 6 ounces egg noodles, 3 Tbsp. cilantro, a dash of sesame oil, and a squeeze of lime. Serves 4.

  • Chard

    <i>Shiny, crinkly leaves with a hearty, spinach-like flavor</i> <b>Health Perks</b> Just one cup of cooked chard delivers almost 50 percent of your recommended daily value of magnesium, a mineral that may have the ability to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes. A scientific review of several studies found that increasing magnesium intake by 100 milligrams a day (that's just 2/3 cup of cooked chard) can lower the risk of stroke by 8 percent. <b>Make It A Meal</b> Take simple steamed chard to the next level with a pesto-inspired seasoning from Middleton. Steam 2 bunches of de-stemmed, chopped leaves in 2 Tbsp. water until wilted. Combine the cooked greens with 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and olive oil. Garnish with 1/4 cup chopped, toasted pine nuts.

  • Mustard Greens

    <i>Frilly fronds with a spicy bite that mellows during cooking</i> <b>Health Perks</b> During digestion these plants may be even more effective at lowering cholesterol and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer than cabbage, broccoli, and green peppers. But the way you cook them matters: According to a recent study in Food and Nutrition Sciences, mustard greens had greater cholesterol-lowering potential when saut&eacute;ed than when boiled, steamed, or served raw. <b>Make It A Meal</b> For a quick vegetarian dinner, Sara Foster, chef and owner of <a href="http://www.fostersmarket.com/" target="blank">Foster's Market in North Carolina</a>, uses the peppery greens in a warm grain salad. To make 2 portions, tear 1 bunch mustard greens into large pieces and saut&eacute; with 1 clove minced garlic in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the greens over 1 cup quinoa, prepared according to package directions; top with 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese.

  • Beet Greens

    <i>Red-ribbed leaves with a silky texture when cooked</i> <b>Health Perks</b> Leafy greens are good sources of potassium, a mineral that can help control blood pressure, but beets are among the best: One cup delivers nearly 60 percent more potassium than the same amount of spinach. The leaves also contain vitamin A, which promotes good vision, and vitamin K, which may strengthen bones. <b>Make It A Meal</b> Foster suggests adding beet greens to grilled cheese sandwiches: Between two slices of toasted whole grain bread, layer a few torn beet leaves, 1/2 cup thinly sliced apple, a slice of red onion, and a slice of Gruyère. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden at the edges.

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