Integrative Nutrition Blog

Are Collards the New Kale?

March 20, 2015

St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but there’s no reason to stop the celebration of green – when it comes to collard greens, that is! 

The world of nutrition is full of conflicting dietary advice. Is it healthy or not to eat meat? Do saturated fats really cause heart disease? Are carbs health-promoting or health-destroying? There’s little consensus among nutrition experts about the best way of eating, which is why at Integrative Nutrition, we teach the concept of bio-individuality – there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. 

But there’s one food on which even the most opposing dietary theories have common ground. Whether you’re vegan or Paleo, Atkins or high-carb, pretty much everyone agrees on one thing: you should eat plenty of leafy greens. 

Leafy green vegetables are packed with fiber along with vitamins, minerals, and powerful phytochemicals that can protect you from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. There’s good reason Popeye derives his mythical strength from spinach! 

In the world of leafy greens, kale is the biggest celebrity, and no wonder – it’s a nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins, A, C, and K as well as calcium, folate and potassium. 

But what about collard greens, kale’s under-appreciated leafy green sister? Long a traditional staple of Southern home cooking, collards have a similar nutritional profile to kale. Some benefits of eating collard greens include: 

They’re anti-inflammatory: Inflammation on a cellular level is at the root of nearly every illness, whether it’s cardiovascular disease, arthritis, or Crohn’s disease. The nutrients in collard greens are incredibly anti-inflammatory, meaning it significantly aids in the reversal and prevention of disease. 

Steamed collards lower cholesterol: A recent study shows that when steamed, collard greens have a unique ability to bind to bile acids in the intestines, which are made of cholesterol. The bile acids are then passed through the bowels rather than absorbed into the body, which has the total effect of lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

They aid in digestion: Collards are great for digestion not just because of their high fiber content, but also because they may help prevent the overgrowth of Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria that has been linked to ulcers. 

So what’s the best way to enjoy collard greens? In traditional Southern cooking, collards are cooked with ham hocks and other pork for flavor and richness; in Brazil and Portugal, thinly sliced collard greens are the base of the popular soup caldo verde; in East Africa, collards are the main side dish to a popular dish known as sima, a maize flour cake. And if you’re not in the mood to cook, raw collard green leaves make a great wrap or roll in place of a tortilla or sandwich bread! 

Do you eat collards? What’s your favorite green vegetable? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear!

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