There are few things that are as soul-soothing as a fresh bowl of savory collards. But, depending on how you prepare them, they can also be one of your body’s best friends.
Collard Green 101
Collards are leafy green vegetables that belong to the same family that includes cabbage, kale, and broccoli. While they share the same botanical name as kale, Brassica oleracea, and some resemblance as well, they have their own distinctive qualities.
The first mention of collard greens dates back to the late 17th century.
Collard greens are cruciferous vegetables, which are often touted for their many health benefits. Based on multiple studies, cancer prevention is just one of the things that helps make collard greens such a healthy choice.
Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and manganese, and vitamin E. This means that collard greens can provide some amazing antioxidant support. In addition, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol are key antioxidant phytonutrients that collard greens also contain.
Why is this important? Antioxidant support helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in the body’s cells.
Translation: cancer risk factor prevention.
Among all types of cancer prevention, studies have particularly linked the regular intake of cruciferous vegetables to the prevention of:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Collard greens contain fiber. Fiber helps keep your intestines and colon healthy, and it can also help lower cholesterol. Some studies show that steamed collards are the most beneficial for this.
Researchers have looked at a variety of cardiovascular problems—including heart attack, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis—and found preliminary evidence that cruciferous vegetables can help lower the risks of heart health problems.
Shopping For Collards
While generally available almost year-round, the peak season for collard greens is from January through April. When shopping for collards, look for greens that are firm, deep green in color, and have no brown or wilted leaves. Leaves that are smaller in size will be more tender and have a milder flavor.
Store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Collards should keep fresh for about three to five days.
This is a tough one: while yes, a pot of collards prepared with the rich flavor of ham hocks and/or salted pork is undeniably tasty, cooking them like this takes away from what makes them so healthy.
Some smarter (and still delicious) seasoning options include:
- 2-3 strips of regular or turkey bacon
- Red pepper flakes
- Fresh garlic
- Your favorite herbs
- Sea salt
Don’t forget to sprinkle a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar on top of your bowl of greens – not only for an added burst of flavor, but because apple cider vinegar has many health benefits as well.
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