Healthy Eating

It Ain't Easy Bein' Greens

Find out what nutrients are in romaine, cabbage, collards, spinach, endive, and watercress that can help fight off disease.

It Ain't Easy Bein' Greens
Pin it David Prince

Bonus points: 1,084 IU vitamin A, 157 mg potassium, and 26 mg calcium per 1-cup serving.

The innocuous-sounding name belies its sharp, peppery tang. "Watercress is a nice counterpunch to some of the blander salad greens," says Dianne Onstad, author of the Whole Foods Companion. It offers 959 mcg beta carotene per 1-cup serving, as well as generous amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and lutein--though almost no folate, so pair it with endive as shown.
Bonus points: Among cruciferous vegetables (yes, succulent, leggy watercress belongs to the same family as broccoli and cabbage), watercress has the highest levels of a compound called phenylethylisothiocyanate. According to researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, PEITC blocks cancer-causing chemicals; in laboratory studies, it appeared to protect the lungs of smokers from carcinogens associated with tobacco. Watercress is also one of the few greens with traces of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.