Collard Greens Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Collard greens annotated

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman  

Collard greens—or just "collards"—are a member of the cabbage (Brassica) family of vegetables, which means they are a cruciferous vegetable. Their dark green pigment is a signal that they contain nutritious antioxidants. Collards are also an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including calcium. You can use them as you would any dark leafy green, like kale or spinach.

Collard Greens Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information was provided by the USDA for one cup of raw collard greens.

  • Calories: 11.5
  • Fat: 0.22g
  • Sodium: 6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Fiber: 1.4g
  • Sugar: 0.2g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Calcium: 83.5mg

Carbs

A cup of raw collard greens is very low in carbohydrates, containing just 2 grams. As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of collards. The glycemic load is estimated to be very low, just 1, for 1 cup of raw collard greens or a half-cup of cooked collard greens. Much of the carbohydrate in collard greens is fiber; it has a small amount of naturally occurring sugar.

Fat

Collard greens have only a trace amount of fat on their own. If they are cooked in fat (like lard or butter), the resulting dish will contain fat.

Protein

Like other vegetables, collard greens are not high in protein, but they do contain 1 gram per cup of raw collards.

Vitamins and Minerals

Leafy greens like collards are simply packed with nutrients. Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin K (half a cup of cooked collard greens has 8 times the daily requirement), vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, lutein, calcium, and magnesium.

Health Benefits

The cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and other leafy greens like kale and collards), as a group, have been shown to have numerous beneficial properties.

Lower Cancer Risk

Research is ongoing, but some studies have shown that higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of some cancers, including prostate, breast, and lung cancers.

Improve Heart Health

High intake of leafy and cruciferous vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (as much as 16% lower), according to an analysis of eight different studies.

One way cruciferous vegetables may help protect the heart is by reducing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). One study of women's vegetable intake found that only cruciferous veggies offered this benefit.

In addition, the fiber in collard greens can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which also improves heart health.

Lower Risk of Chronic Disease

That dietary fiber in collard greens offers an array of other health benefits. People who consume more fiber are at lower risk for stroke, diabetes, obesity, and some gastrointestinal diseases.

Promote Eye Health

One of the antioxidants in collard greens is lutein. This compound, related to vitamin A, is important to healthy vision and helps protect the eyes from age-related degeneration and diseases.

Repair Cell Damage

Along with lutein, collard greens contain other antioxidants that can help protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.

Low in FODMAPs

People who follow a low-FODMAP diet (a diet low in fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, which can help ease symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease) can safely consume collard greens.

Allergies

Though uncommon, allergies to foods in the Brassica family have been reported, sometimes with cross-reactivity to mugwort pollen or mustard. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction after consuming or handling collard greens, consult with a doctor about how to manage this sensitivity.

Adverse Effects

Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin K. While this is a useful vitamin, it can interfere with certain blood-thinning medicines. If you take Coumadin (warfarin), discuss your vitamin K intake with your doctor.

Collard greens are high in oxalates, which in some people can cause painful kidney stones. If you have any kidney problems, you may want to limit your consumption of collard greens. It is also helpful to consume high-oxalate foods along with foods containing calcium. Eating these foods together makes them less likely to form into kidney stones.

Especially when consumed raw, cruciferous vegetables contain naturally occurring chemical that may interfere with thyroid function. If you have a thyroid condition, you may need to eat fewer of these vegetables, or be sure to cook them prior to eating.

Varieties

Although there are various cultivars of collard greens, in general they are not sold as different varieties or names. You can also buy frozen or canned collards. Nutritionally, they are comparable to raw greens, except that canned collards have significantly more sodium.

When They're Best

Collard greens are a winter crop, but they are typically available all year round. When shopping, look for dark green leaves (without yellowing).

Storage and Food Safety

You can store fresh collard greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about five days. Avoid washing until you are ready to use. Rinse thoroughly or soak in cold water to remove dirt. To freeze, blanch first.

How to Prepare

There are lots of different ways to prepare collards, but lightly cooking is the way to get the most nutrients and cancer-preventing phytonutrients from them.

First, rinse the collards well. After that, separate the leafy part from the woodier stem. (The stem can be eaten, but it takes longer to cook.) Chop the collard greens into bite-sized pieces. At this point, you can include them in many recipes, or sauté, steam, or boil them. Try sautéing with garlic and olive oil, and dressing with a little lemon juice.

Recipes

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