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.
But there are some often overlooked leafy greens (and even some that get tossed in the trash without a second thought) yet are delicious and nutritious in a green smoothie.
So next time you’re at the grocery store or farmers market to buy greens, get a little adventurous and try something a bit different!
Here are some other leafy greens to consider adding to your green smoothies:
The nutrition profiles below are for one cup – that’s about a small handful of leafy greens.
To track the nutritional value of your entire smoothie, use a diet tracking website like Cron-o-meter.
I’ve written a lot about the health benefits of kale and posted some kale smoothie recipes. It’s one of the most popular smoothie green 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. You might also want to experiment with using vanilla bean or flavored protein powder in dandelion green smoothies.
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.
Read more about using dandelion greens in smoothies.
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. Chard is extremely perishable so it should be consumed within a few days after you purchase it.
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.
Parsley is more than just a fancy garnish for restaurant meals. Did you know that you can eat it just like any other green and that it’s a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants?
Parsley is a great source of vitamins A (as beta-carotene), C, K and folate as well as iron and calcium. There are two varieties of parsley – curly and Italian. Curly parsley is usually used as a garnish, while Italian parsley is less bitter and has flat leaves that make a great addition to green smoothies.
Parsley has a distinct flavor that can complement a variety of smoothie recipes. I made a simple parsley green smoothie with 1 banana, 1 cup pineapple, 1 cup parsley, 1 cup spinach and 6 ounces of filtered water the other day and it was delicious. Parsley is excellent when blended with spinach or kale (ie: 1 cup fresh, chopped parsley and 1 cup fresh, chopped baby spinach or kale). You might need to add slightly more water than a typical smoothie recipe calls for depending on the water content of the fruits that you add to the smoothie.
Read more about using parsley in green smoothies.
Parsley Nutrition (1 cup, raw): Calories: 22 | Fat: 0.5 grams | Protein: 1.8g | Carbs: 3.8g | Vitamin A: 101% DV | Vitamin C: 133% DV | Calcium: 8% DV | Iron: 21% DV.
6) Beet Greens
Beet greens are similar to Swiss chard and spinach and blend up well in a green smoothie. Beet greens add 8 calories per cup with 48% DV of vitamin A, 19% DV of vitamin C and 4% DV of calcium. Read more about using beet greens in smoothies.
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 is a bitter Asian green that is excellent in smoothies. The flavor is easily masked by sweet fruit and it’s right up there with dandelion and kale as far as nutrition. I prefer to use baby bok choy, but you can use up to two cups of regular bok choy leaves in a typical smoothie recipe. Read more about using bok choy in smoothies.
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!
Be sure to read my guide to washing and storing fresh greens. I’ll show you how I keep leafy greens fresh long after I purchase them.