Dark green leafy vegetables are perhaps the most potent superfood on the planet.
When most of us make green smoothies, we reach for spinach or kale. And then that’s all we use…forever.
But there is a whole world of leafy greens out there that add a diversity of phytonutrients.
Some greens are more nutritious than others, and some have different antioxidant and phytonutrient profiles, so change things up by rotating your leafies!
Some Greens Are More Nutritious Than Others
For example, kale has more than twice the calcium and iron content of spinach. Dandelion greens have even more.
By using kale in place of spinach in some of your green smoothies, you’ll boost your calcium and mineral intake without having to eat more foods.
Also, certain greens have unique phytonutrients that you might not get at all, or in smaller amounts, by eating only one or two types of leafy green.
Again, I’ll use kale as an example.
Cruciferous vegetables (like kale and broccoli) contain sulforaphane, which has been shown to have chemo-protective properties. These plant compounds may help protect you from cancer and other diseases.
By switching up your leafy greens, you add variety to your diet, as well as additional minerals, vitamins, and unique, health-supporting phytonutrients that different greens provide.
How To Rotate Your Greens
Swapping kale for bok choy is not a good rotation because both are in the same family – cruciferae. Instead, rotate with leafy greens from different families.
For example, I might eat dandelion greens and romaine lettuce every day for two weeks, and then I’ll switch to beet greens and kale for a couple weeks. Then I might have leaf lettuce and spinach for a few days.
A better rotation for kale would be a non-cruciferous green like beet greens, lettuce, or chard.
Here’s a chart that sorts leafy greens into their families. I use this chart as a guide for rotating greens.
Here are some other leafy greens to consider adding to your green smoothies:
Next time you’re at the grocery store or farmers market to buy greens, get a little adventurous and try something a bit different!
The nutrition profiles below are for one cup – that’s about a small handful of leafy greens.
Kale is one of the most popular smoothie greens after spinach.
Kale is a nutritious green to use for smoothies and a great source of plant-based calcium.
Kale leaves are tougher and may be more difficult to blend in a low-end blender. I recommend chopping them first, and blending a little at a time until you have added the desired amount.
Kale Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Calories: 34 | Fat: 0.5 grams | Protein: 2.2g | Carbs: 6.7g | Vitamin A: 206% DV | Vitamin C: 134% DV | Calcium: 9% DV | Iron: 6%.
2) Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens are my absolute favorite green smoothie green!
If you are interested in making a detox smoothie, dandelion greens should be an ingredient you use.
Dandelions are used to cleanse the liver and gallbladder and to help support kidney function.
They may help stabilize blood sugar and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, K, calcium and iron.
Dandelion greens can be found growing wild but are also available in certain health food stores and farmers markets.
Dandelion greens have a bitter taste which might be difficult to mask with fruit in a green smoothie and some might find the taste undesirable. You can help hide the bitter taste by using pungent fruit and berries such as pineapple, oranges, banana, strawberries or other ripe berries.
Blending one cup of dandelion greens with one cup of other green such as spinach or kale might help even out the bitterness. Personally, I find that I do get used to the flavor and after the first couple sips and I soon don’t mind the flavor at all. I guess it’s an acquired taste.
If I haven’t yet convinced you to try dandelion greens in your next green smoothie, here are 10 more reasons why you should blend this leafy green.
Dandelion Greens Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Calories: 25 | Fat: 0.4 grams | Protein: 1.5g | Carbs: 5.1g | Vitamin A: 54% DV | Vitamin C: 32% DV | Calcium: 10% DV | Iron: 9% DV.
3) Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a great spinach alternative as it has a similarly delicate flavor and softer leaves that blend well in most blenders. Swiss chard is actually in the same family as spinach and beets.
Chard leaves have a slightly salty flavor that wont make your green smoothie salty, but will help cut the sweetness of the fruit and berries you add to it.
Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins A (as beta-carotine), C, K as well as magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron. Chard helps support bone, lung and heart health while boosting the immune system.
Swiss chard comes in a variety of colors including red, orange, yellow and white. “Rainbow chard” is simply bunched chard leaves from various color varieties.
Chard is extremely perishable so it should be consumed within a few days after you purchase it.
Chard is relatively easy to use in a green smoothie. However, since it does have a mildly bitter, earthy flavor, I would recommend only using four to five leaves in a large (32+ ounce) green smoothie. Two large leaves is about right for a 16-24 ounce recipe.
Chard is easily paired with most flavorful fruits like banana, pineapple, oranges, and even apple or pear.
Swiss Chard Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Calories: 7 | Fat: 0.1 grams | Protein: 0.6g | Carbs: 1.3g | Vitamin A: 44% DV | Vitamin C: 18% DV | Calcium: 2% DV.
4) Collard Greens
Collard Greens have tough leaves that taste slightly bitter, but are easily masked by fruit in a green smoothie. I wasn’t sure that they would be good in a green smoothie after I sampled a piece of leaf, but I found that they are easily “hidden” by fruit. Collards are related to kale and are descendants of wild cabbage.
Collards provide an excellent source of vitamins A (as beta carotene), C, K and folate as well as manganese and calcium. Collard greens are a good ingredient for detox smoothies and they help support the heart, lungs and immune system while lowering cholesterol and protecting against cancer with powerful antioxidants.
Because collard greens have tough leaves, I recommend that you chop them up before adding them to your blender unless you have a high speed Vitamix.
Collard Greens Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Calories: 11 | Fat: 0.2 grams | Protein: 0.9g | Carbs: 2g | Vitamin A: 48% DV | Vitamin C: 21% DV | Calcium: 5% DV.
To most people, parsley is a garnish. It is that weird clump of green stuff stuck on your plate in restaurants that you toss to the side and forget about.
It’s too bad, too, because parsley is one of the super greens that you can absolutely use in your next green smoothie.
What’s so special about parsley?
For starters, one cup of fresh Italian parsley only contains about 22 calories. It has 2 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
Parsley is rich in calcium. One cup of fresh parsley in a smoothie gives you 83 milligrams (8% RDA) of calcium.
Blend it with oranges, kiwifruit, and/or figs and you’ll be on your way to exceeding the amount of calcium provided in a glass of cow’s milk.
Parsley is also rich in iron. One cup contains 3.7 milligrams of iron, adding a significant source of this important mineral to my green smoothies. Parsley is the richest source of iron from any leafy green that you’d get from the supermarket.
One cup of parsley will also provide up to 10% RDA of copper, 7% RDA of magnesium, 7% RDA of potassium, 6% RDA of zinc, and 5% RDA of phosphorus.
Parsley is rich in vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and provides up to 168% RDA in just one cup. Like most leafy greens, parsley is an especially rich source of vitamin K providing up to 820% RDA. it provides an excellent source of folate (23% RDA) and vitamin C (89% RDA).
Parsley has a distinctive, pungent flavor and aroma so it is best to use no more than one cup (60 grams) in a green smoothie.
Parsley is excellent when blended with spinach or kale (ie: 1 cup fresh, chopped parsley and 1 cup fresh, chopped baby spinach or kale).
Parsley pairs best with fruits like pear, coconut, pineapple, mango, oranges, and kiwifruit.
I prefer to use fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, but curly parsley also works fine.
Parsley Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Calories: 22 | Protein: 2g | Vitamin A: 168% DV | Vitamin C: 32% DV | Calcium: 8% DV | Iron: 3.4mg.
6) Beet Greens
If you’re ready to branch out from using spinach and kale in your green smoothies, beet greens are a great next step.
They are not as bitter as kale and dandelion, and they are easily hidden by just about any sweet fruit. Beet greens have a texture similar to Swiss chard, but with a milder flavor.
Beet greens are in the same plant family as chard and spinach.
Two cups (76 grams) of chopped beet greens (my recommend “smoothie dose”) contains about 17 calories and almost two grams of protein.
You’ll also get 160% RDA of vitamin A (as beta-carotene), 25% RDA of vitamin C, 253% RDA of vitamin K, and 8% RDA of vitamin E. They also contain small amounts of all B-vitamins (except for B12).
When it comes to minerals, two cups of beet greens provide 89 milligrams of calcium (9% RDA), 2 milligrams of iron, 16% RDA of copper, 13% RDA each of magnesium and manganese, 12% RDA of potassium, and 11% RDA of sodium.
Like most fruits and vegetables, beet greens contains all essential amino acids. They are particularly high in the essential amino acid, tryptophan, containing about 10% RDA.
Romaine lettuce can be used in green smoothies and I use it frequently. Romaine lettuce adds 10 calories per cup with 66% DV of vitamin A, 22% DV of vitamin C and 2% DV of calcium.
I generally add more than just two cups of chopped romaine lettuce for a green in smoothies because it is not as nutritionally dense as other leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Go ahead and stuff an entire head (the big ones) in your blender! Read more about romaine lettuce nutrition.
Leaf lettuce is another great option, with similar use and nutrition as Romaine.
8) Turnip Greens
Turnip greens are similar in taste and texture to collard greens and kale. Turnip greens add 17 calories per cup with 55% DV of vitamin C and 10% DV of calcium.
9) Bok Choy
Bok choy, also called pak choi or “Chinese cabbage”, is a cruciferous vegetable related to cabbage, kale, and broccoli. It has flat, dark green leaves with a long, wide white stalk.
Bok choy tastes a bit like spinach, or “greener”. It’s sort of like a combination between spinach and kale. It’s not too bitter. I like it!
It’s not as “leafy” as curly kale or spinach, but bok choy definitely adds a powerful dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your green smoothie.
Five leaves of bok choy (about 1 cup, shredded) only contains 9 calories, but provides 104% RDA of vitamin A (as beta-carotene), 35% RDA vitamin C, 27% RDA vitamin K and 12% RDA of folate.
When it comes to minerals, five leaves contain 70mg of calcium (7% RDA) and small amounts of most other minerals.
Bok choy has a distinctive, mildly-bitter flavor. It tastes somewhat like spinach, only stronger. I actually really like the flavor.
In a green smoothie, bok choy is easily masked by just about any fruit that you add to it. You can use bok choy interchangeably with baby spinach. I’d say it’s less bitter than kale, and certainly a lot less bitter than dandelion. Be sure to use the entire white stalk/bulb part too!
You’ll get a good helping of vitamins and minerals if you use about 10 leaves in a typical smoothie.
You can also use baby bok choy, which is smaller than regular bok choy. For a typical meal-replacement green smoothie, I’ll use 2-3 heads of baby bok choy, cutting off about an inch or so of the white bulb part.
10) Broccoli Raab/Rapini
Broccoli Raab, aslo known as Rapini, is a leafy green in the Brassica/Crucifer family. It’s related to kale, turnips, and broccoli.
Two cups of raw rapini provides an excellent source of vitamin A as beta-carotene, as well as vitamin K. It also contains all B vitamins (except B12) and vitamin E.
Rapini is also a good source of minerals providing calcium and iron, as well as manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
Broccoli Raab/Rapini Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Vitamin A: 35% | Vitamin K: 75% | Calcium: 4.5% | Iron: .9mg
11) Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are not for the faint of heart. If you want to ad some spice to your smoothie, these will do it. While they are nutritious, I do not recommend using them in your green smoothie recipes, although I have heard of some brave souls who have made mustard green smoothies.
And Don’t Throw These Leafy Greens Away!
12) Strawberry Tops
If you buy organic strawberries (and you should since they tend to be high in pesticide residues), then go ahead and leave the green tops on.
The greens are just as edible and they provide vitamins and minerals just like any other leafy green! Adding seven or eight strawberries with tops to your smoothie isn’t going to add a significant source of extra nutrients from the green tops alone, but there isn’t any reason to toss them unless the berries are not organic.
13) Carrot Greens
Okay, these greens are controversial. While many people eat raw carrot greens and even juice them, there is a nagging rumor out there that they are toxic. Yes, toxic!
But you’ll have a hard time finding any hard evidence to support the rumor. And you’ll find plenty of first-hand accounts of people who eat both raw and cooked carrot tops in soups, salads, and juices, and who are alive and well.
So I guess it’s up to you if you want to throw in a sprig or two of carrot greens in your smoothie.
14) Radish Greens
I have never made the mistake of blending radishes in my green smoothie. That would be a hard smoothie to drink!
When it comes the radish GREENS, however, that’s a different story.
If you are like me, you’ve thrown away radish greens for years. Unfortunately, we have thrown away a significant source of calcium, iron, magnesium and folate, as well as vitamins A, C, K and other nutrients.
Not only are radish greens edible, the leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant!
And they aren’t bitter, either. Radish greens have a mild flavor and taste a lot like lettuce. When I added the greens from an entire bunch of radishes in a green smoothie I made, I couldn’t even taste them.
Radishes are super rich in calcium with 200mg (20% RDA) of calcium in just a 3 ounce, 44 calorie serving.
You’ll also get 2 grams of protein, no fat and 13% of your RDA of iron as well as vitamins A (280% RDA) and C (173% RDA).
15) Celery Greens
Before I got into green smoothies, I always thought of celery stalks as something to put peanut butter on. And I’d always throw out the small, leafy stalks in the center, as well as the leafy tops, because I thought they were “useless”.
I mean, you can’t smear peanut butter on a leaf so into the trash they went!
Well, not anymore. The inner stalks and leaves of celery go into my blender with other greens since they are nutritious just like the outer stalks. They provide a good source of vitamins and minerals without an overpowering celery flavor.
You might need to experiment or mix new greens with your familiar spinach at first. Try not to get stuck in the spinach rut. Branch out and discover a whole new world of green smoothie nutrition and variety!