Every nutritionist knows that generally the more leafy greens a person incorporates into their diet, the better. In fact, many leafy green vegetables are considered “super foods” for their rich vitamin, nutrient, and phytonutrient content. In addition to containing power-packed amounts of these healthy diet essentials, leafy greens are also low in sodium and calories, two categories of particular interest to nutritionists. Eating a diet rich in light-absorbing leafy greens is critical for a person’s long-term health. According to WebMD, some greens may also help prevent heart disease and cancer. There are a variety of foods that fall under the super food umbrella by hitting the nutritional bulls-eye, and everyone should eat a healthy diet comprising a number of healthy food sources. However, if you’d like to get the most bang for your pound, the following five leafy greens should be added to your grocery cart each and every week.

Arugula

Originating in the Mediterranean, arugula is a leafy plant with a strong peppery taste that is packed full of potassium for heart health and vitamin C for promoting a healthy immune system. To add arugula to your diet, it can easily be used as an iceberg or romaine substitute in salads, or it can even be tossed in with pasta, tabouli, or potato salad for a flavourful and nutritional addition. Try these healthy and delicious arugula recipes: • Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Balsamic Vinaigrette • Goat Cheese and Arugula over Penne

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Kale

Kale seems to be gaining in popularity with each passing day. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably tried chopped kale salads, kale chips, and any number of kale concoctions. Unlike some other leafy greens, kale is hearty and easy to store. However, the best part about kale is that it can be used in a multitude of different ways. From salads and soups to stir-fries and everything in between, the meals using this leafy green are as diverse as its nutritional properties. When these attributes are added to kale’s undeniable nutritional benefits, it’s easy to see why this leafy green is all the rage these days. In an interview with WebMD, Jill Nusinow, an RD, MS, and author of “The Veggie Queen”, says kale is a nutritional powerhouse that “offers everything you want in a leafy green.” Here are some tasty kale recipes for every season: • Kale Puttanesca • Kale and White Bean Soup

Spinach

As Popeye’s favorite green for decades, spinach has long been popular for its super nutritional value. The refreshing leafy green is loaded with folate, iron, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C, all of which slow down the aging process and help prevent arthritis and other degenerative diseases. If you’re going to eat only one leafy green each day, spinach should be your top choice. According to Nussinow, cooked spinach provides more nutritional value than raw spinach, so in addition to salads, spinach can be added to soups, casseroles, pasta, and many other dishes. Try these light and filling spinach recipes for a savory and fulfilling meal: • Spinach Salad with Baked Goat Cheese • Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

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Collard Greens

A long-time staple in the southern US, collard greens are also eaten throughout Africa, Brazil, and Spain by those recognising their high nutritional value, which is similar to that of kale. According to the University of Illinois, “Hiding under the green chlorophyll pigment is an excellent source of beta carotene and some vitamin C and calcium. The darker the leaf the more beta carotene provided. Like broccoli and cabbage, the antioxidants and phytochemicals in collards may help to reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease.” Here are some collard green recipes to try: • Cumin-Dusted Shrimp with Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens • Lentil and Green Collard Soup

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Swiss Chard

Containing only 15 calories per serving and rich in vitamins A and C, Swiss chard definitely deserves a spot on the list. Similar to spinach, chard contains folate as well. With veiny leaves, stalks, and red stems, this leafy green has a soft texture and beet-like taste. Chard can be cooked a number of ways, but Nussinow says she likes to use vinegar and raisins to make a sweet-and-sour chard. However, when the leaves are lightly steamed, they’re terrific wraps for any grilled proteins. If you’re still wondering how to incorporate Swiss chard into your diet, these recipes may help: • Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese • Penne with Swiss Chard & Asiago Cheese Greens are an essential part of a healthy diet, and these greens are the best of the bunch. Stock up at the market and begin experiencing their wonderful health benefits in 2014.