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Eat Greens for Your Health

Greens contain lutein and are excellent sources of vitamin C, A, and E. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, Vitamin A is crucial for night vision, plus boosts the immune system, and Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant that helps prevent heart disease and aging.


At this time of year, you might be thinking that it is impossible to find fresh mustard greens in our area. Lucky for us, they are available from local vegetable farmers.

Turnip Greens, spinach, Romaine lettuce, collard greens, kale, and broccoli are considered to be leafy vegetables, and should be eaten every day. Nutrition research suggests that the more green veggies you eat, the healthier you’ll be.     

But what makes green vegetables so healthy? They are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals, substances found only in plants which help fight diseases and improve health. Green vegetables contain lutein (pronounced LOO-teen) a powerful antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables that helps to maintain good vision.  

Researchers are finding that once we near the age of 65, there is some degree of vision loss. We can help slow that process by eating green vegetables rich in lutein, which helps reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. That's one reason that it's critical to eat green vegetables every day.

Greens not only contain lutein, they are also excellent sources of vitamin C, A, and E. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron by making it more soluble and helps the body produce collagen, which helps form connective tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy. Vitamin A is crucial for night vision, plus it boosts the immune system. One cup of cooked greens can almost meet a person’s daily requirement of vitamin A.

Vitamin E, found mainly in turnip and collard greens, functions as an antioxidant that helps prevent heart disease and aging. It works by inhibiting blood cells from clumping together which can block arteries and reduce damage caused by free radicals that destroy connective tissue.

Greens are generally low in calories and sodium, and contain no fat or cholesterol until added in cooking. In fact, one half cup of cooked greens contains only 18 calories and only 26 milligrams of sodium.

When purchasing your fresh greens, look for very young tender leaves. Choose smaller leaves, 6 to 12 inches long. Older, larger leaves are likely to be bitter. Mustard greens should be fresh, tender crisp and of good green color. Avoid those with brown or yellow spots. 

Greens are best used right after purchase due to a short life span. For best nutritional value, use within 1 to 2 days of purchase. If stored longer, Vitamin C may be lost.

When greens are first brought home, any rubber banding or ties should be removed to avoid damage. Greens do not require a lot of preparation. They basically require cleaning and drying before use or storage.

Greens should be washed and dried thoroughly. If washing just before using in a recipe that requires steaming or boiling, it is not necessary to dry them. When dried, the leaves can be served whole, shredded or in small pieces.

Here is an easy method to clean your turnip greens. 

  1. Remove any damaged, wilted or yellowed leaves and cut off tough or stiff stems.
  2. Fill a large bowl or clean sink with cold water and place greens in the water.
  3. Gently swish the greens around in the water and lift out. The dirt and sand will have settled to the bottom.
  4. Empty and fill with clean water. Repeat the washing process. Repeat until no sediments remain when the greens are removed from the water.
  5. Larger leaf greens can be washed by holding under cold running water. Unfold any folded leaves to be sure to remove all the dirt.
  6. When clean, shake excess water from the greens.

For your free copy of Enjoy Arkansas’ Fresh Greens, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or the web at

Find your locally grown, fresh greens and other produce at the Gateway Farmers Market at Jefferson and East 9th  on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 am until sold out.

If you are looking for a new recipe, try Turn It Up Greens. The bacon and onions give them a great flavor and you can add or delete the amount of red pepper to suit your taste.

Turn It Up Greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 slices turkey bacon

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon pepper

3 cups chicken broth, low sodium

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1 pound fresh greens cut into 2 inch pieces


Wash the greens as previously mentioned. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and return to the pan.  Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until just fragrant. Add greens and cook until they start to wilt. Add chicken broth and season with remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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