Step aside salad. You’re no longer the only way to get dark leafy greens into my diet. I’m sharing a leafy green list of greatness with you as well as how to use greens in a smoothie like the best green smoothie (or salad or soup or anything) as well as why it’s good to rotate your greens and try something like a kale banana smoothie every so often. Ready, set, go green!

several kinds of leafy greens laid out on a white counter including cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, carrot tops, arugula and spinach.
Table of Contents
  1. What are Leafy Greens?
  2. The Ultimate Dark Leafy Greens List
  3. Crucifers
  4. Amaranth
  5. Asteraceae
  6. Apiaceae
  7. How Often Should You Rotate Greens?
  8. Freezing Your Leafy Greens
  9. Leafy Greens FAQs
  10. The Ultimate Green Smoothie App

What are Leafy Greens?

Leafy greens are super important for a healthy diet. They’re nutrient-dense, green veggies that provide tons of vitamins and minerals. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, a daily serving of leafy greens can lead to slower age-related cognitive decline.

Greens can be found as the tops of other plants (here’s looking at you, carrot tops and beet greens), or as plants in their own right. They come in all shapes, sizes, textures, shades and seasons. They aren’t even all in the same plant family.

If your taste buds have ever balked at something dark green and leafy, never fear! I’ve got some great new options for you to blend.

dark leafy greens in a circle with labels in the center including bok choy, kale, cabbage, chard, arugula, carrot tops, romaine, collard, beet tops and spinach.

The Ultimate Dark Leafy Greens List

I often talk about rotating your greens. This is because greens come from all different plant families, each offering different health benefits. Yet if spinach is your jam, no worries! Your body will tell you when it’s time for a leafy green change-up. Read on to learn about some different types of greens, as well as my favorite options in each family.

a pile of curly kale leaves.

Crucifers

Kale
Having a health issue? Kale can help with that. Seriously, kale is at the top of the superfood chain. With 684% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, 206% of the RDV of vitamin A and 134% of the RDV of vitamin C, this dark leafy green packs a health punch. Kale has the highest level of antioxidants when consumed raw, yet does retain some health benefits when cooked. Try kale in this fruity kale smoothie.

Collard
Like their other cruciferous family members, collard greens are great cancer fighters. They are also pretty good at helping your body digest foods properly with all the fiber inside. They are most popular steamed, but adding them raw to your smoothies will provide greater health benefits. Try some alkaline recipes to experiment with collards.

Cabbage
Cabbage is yet another example of a cruciferous cancer-fighting leafy green. This veggie can actually be purple, red, white or green, but is definitely still considered a leafy green. I love using cabbage as a plant-based taco shell, blended in a cabbage smoothie or roasted cabbage with light seasoning. Loaded with fiber, folate, vitamin B6 and antioxidants which help fight inflammation.

Bok Choy
This unique green vegetable is typically grown and harvested in China. Full of vitamins A and C, bok choy ranks high for nutrient density as well. All parts of the plant can be used: shredded in a salad, my vegetarian ramen, cooked in soup or blended in a smoothie.

Arugula
More than just a garnish, this leafy green has a peppery taste and a full nutrient profile. One cup contains 27.7% of the RDV of vitamin K. It has a stronger flavor than other cruciferous greens on my list, yet is fun in lemon arugula salad or strawberry arugula salad, homemade arugula pesto, or as a pizza topping on my incredibly delicious plant-based pizza recipe.

a pile of fresh spinach leaves.

Amaranth

Spinach
It’s hard to beat spinach when talking about nutrient-packed greens. Just one leaf contains a sampling of more than 20 different nutrients. The list of benefits is nearly as long as the number of nutrients:

  • cancer-fighting
  • blood pressure lowering
  • bone strengthening
  • cardiovascular helping
  • brain boosting
  • skin smoothing
  • vision improving
  • inflammation reducing
  • energy increasing

Beet Greens
I recommend branching out and trying beet greens for your next smoothie! They include a wide variety of nutrients, and can easily be substituted in any recipe with spinach, kale or chard. Our friends at Epicurious will kick-start your love for dark leafy beet greens with some of their favorite recipes.

Chard
Looking to put a pep in your leafy green step? Chard is a colorful, dark leaf known for its ability to regulate the body’s blood sugar. Translation? If diabetes or maintaining blood sugar levels is a concern, add this veggie to your regular rotation. Perfect for the afternoon smoothie pick-me-up!

lots of fresh romaine lettuce leaves on a towel.

Asteraceae

Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is good for the heart and low in calories. The vitamin C and beta-carotene content help to lower cholesterol and prevent build-up on artery walls, which reduces the risk of a heart attack.

Not a fan of lettuce salads? Then use romaine as a food wrap like I do in these Thai lettuce wraps or blend it into this gazpacho soup recipe.

pile of carrot greens and the tops of orange carrots.

Apiaceae

Carrot Tops
Who knew those frilly greens on the tops of carrots could come in handy? #NoFoodWaste. Filled with chlorophyll, which can fight against tumor growth and acts as a cleansing agent, carrot tops are the perfect addition to smoothies like this carrot top smoothie.

If you really want to boost your next smoothie, toss in the carrot and its top.

How Often Should You Rotate Greens?

Most of the smoothie and meal recipes I create use kale or spinach. That’s because these are the most easily found and affordable leafy greens available at the grocery store. Plus, they are in different leafy green families, so it makes rotating my greens easy-peasy.

Alkaloid Build Up

Why is it important to rotate through this leafy green list? All greens have small amounts of toxins. If you only consume greens from one family, your body may start to experience alkaloid build up. This is very rare and easy to avoid. Just try a different leafy green every once in a while.

I recommend rotating your greens once a week. This way, your body doesn’t get too much of a good thing in one leafy green family, and you get the chance to reward your body with new nutrients from a different green family.

Basically, by rotating greens on a regular basis, you avoid building up the toxins from one green. And, this gives you a reason to try that new fun green you’re always eyeing at the farmer’s market.

While our green smoothies are super easy to swap out one green for another, I’ve also got a meal planner full of plant-based recipes. Rawk the Year makes finding new recipes a breeze, and helps you incorporate the whole rainbow into your week. This meal planner also equips you with the kitchen skills to change up your veggies with ease!

several ziploc bags containing different kinds of leafy greens, ready to be frozen. The one on top is labeled 2 cups kale.

Freezing Your Leafy Greens

Ever wonder how to use up all that beautiful produce you just bought, before it starts to wilt? Even though I make green smoothies daily, I still find that my greens never stay fresh as long as I need.

To lengthen the shelf life of those leafy greens and make rotating your greens as easy as opening your freezer, I came up with a way to freeze your greens. This way, you can have your greens and eat them too! Since I typically buy spinach and kale at Costco, I found that freezing them in ice cube trays and then storing them in freezer containers is the perfect solution to maximizing the freshness.

Bonus: Frozen greens can help keep that smoothie cool.

Leafy Greens FAQs

What are examples of leafy greens?

You’ve probably heard of spinach, kale and lettuce, but leafy greens also include carrot tops, beet greens, swiss chard, arugula and more! They can grow all on their own, or be found on the tops of other plants (like broccoli, beets and carrots).

What is the healthiest leafy green?

All leafy greens are incredibly nutritious and great to mix into your diet. Kale and spinach are probably the most nutrient-dense, yet you need a variety of greens (and other fruits and vegetables) for the best health. Don’t be afraid to give a new one a try next time you’re at the store. You might be surprised by mustard greens, bok choy and more!

How do you eat leafy greens?

Greens don’t just take place in salads or garnishes for burgers. You can use them in green smoothies, all kinds of pesto, filling for stuffed mushrooms or potatoes. Pretty much anything you want! Next time you are grocery shopping, grab a new-to-you leafy green and get adventurous with how you prepare it.

a head of green cabbage.

The Ultimate Green Smoothie App

Our amazing app, Daily Blends, has hundreds of recipes ready for you to work your way through the leafy greens list! You can sort by the ingredients you have on hand or the type of smoothie you want to try. It’s a great app to try a new recipe and catalog your favorites.

What are your favorite leafy greens? Drop a comment below and let me know if this list has inspired you to try a new ingredient, or if you’ve got a new green for me to try!

About the Author

Jen Hansard

I went from exhausted mama to running across the Grand Canyon, riding & hiking to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America with my kids. How? I fell in love with the smoothies and plant-based meals you can find on my blog.

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Comments

  1. I tried carrot tops, say with pears and some apple juice, but they do not mix well when I put everything together in the blender. Do you have any tip for these tops?
    Thank you!

  2. 1. What are ur thoughts about using green powder product instead of raw greens if no access to fresh produce?
    2. What’s the 411 re spinach not allowing body to absorb calcium? I want to increase calcium intake to build bone density & not sure if spinach should be eaten separately from calcium-rich foods or if that’s false. Thx!

    1. Hi Jana,

      Personally, we’re all about fresh leafy greens. But when raw greens aren’t accessible, green powder is a great option! Worried about spinach preventing calcium absorption? While oxalates prevent calcium absorption from spinach, we reach for plant-based options like broccoli, okra, + almonds.

  3. If all leafy greens have a small amount of toxins, how does rotating help? It seems that Oxalate build-up would still occur unless you completely refrain from leafy veggies for a few days or week. Someone previously ask if cooking the veggies helps reduce or prevent toxin build-up, but the question wasn’t really answered. Instead, rotating veggies was again recommended. Months ago Dr. Oz recommended only consuming raw leafy green veggies 2-3 times a week. He advised to cook veggies slightly beforehand if you consume daily. Have you researched this option? If so, do you feel there is significant nutrient lost if you lightly steam veggies? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nd,

      Great questions! The leafy greens in each family have similar “DNA,” each including their own minor level of toxins. By rotating family types of leafy greens you’re not only preventing a toxic build-up, you are also feeding your body a variety of nutrients. Therefore it’s not necessary to take a break from leafy greens, but simply rotate between greens.

      We prefer to get our veggies raw to obtain the maximum nutrients and they make our smoothies super yummy. But if you want to cook your greens before blending to help further prevent toxin build-up, a light steam will help!

      Hope this helps!

  4. How much spinach or Kale should I add to smoothie? 1-2 cups of spinach? Is that too much?

    1. That’s perfect! We recommend 1 cup leafy greens for 1 serving of smoothie— and our recipes typically make 2 servings (so we say 2 cups leafy greens). Make sure to check out our recipes section where you’ll find a bunch of recipes to get you started!

  5. I have been doing green smoothies for almost 4 years now. These are amazing things I drink a quart in the morning and a quart in the evening. Same thing every day. Spinach, Kale, chard, flax seeds, sun flower seeds, chia seeds, avocado, and tofu. I can’t eat sugars or carbs except for what is in the nuts and seeds I eat. after reading your article I have decided to start rotating my vegetables not because of any problems from eating the same thing every day but to get the extra nutrients that this will give me.

    1. You’re a Rawkstar, John! So glad we inspired you to rotate your veggies. Happy blending! 🙂

  6. seems every time I make a smoothies of kale spinach and other greens I have a vertigo attack and heart starts beating

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Ek! That doesn’t sound good. And we definitely want you feeling great when enjoying your green smoothie. We suggest reaching out to your physician to ensure the leafy greens in our recipes are the right choice for you + your body.

  7. I can’t find kale, arugula, beet greens it’s near winter here!
    Can I just use a mixture of cabbage, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, cilantro and parsley as spring mix greens… also tell me the substitutes of kale… and the soy protein I got here contains sucrose, should I use it or not.

    1. Hi Sajid,

      We’re all about reaching for local leafy greens. Don’t have the greens we’ve listed above where you are? No worries! Swap in greens you love that are available where you shop! Our recipes are here to inspire you, so please don’t feel like you need to follow them to a T. We’d love to hear what you’re blending with. Reach out + let us know!!

  8. Hi. I know that fresh is best but can I use canned fruit instead when I can’t get fresh.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      That’s a question we get a lot. You can definitely used canned fruit. But, it’s important to know that when using canned fruit, even those stored in their own juice, contain additional sugar. So reach for low-glycemic fruits like berries, apple, or peaches.

      https://simplegreensmoothies.com/low-sugar-fruits-smoothies

      We love reaching for frozen fruit when our favorites are out of season. Or check out our Rawkstar Substitution Guide…

      https://simplegreensmoothies.com/substitution-guide

  9. I am new to this and was wondering, when switching up greens, can I go from spinach, kale and romaine lettuce? Spinach in a smoothie for breakfast, kale for lunch and the romaine lettuce at dinner? Or do I need to switch each week?

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for reaching out. We suggest switching leafy greens week to week. That way it gives your body plenty of time-off between each green.

      Hope this helps! Reach out with any questions!

  10. Hi!
    I have been drinking a green smoothie Monday to Friday for over two months now.
    What I normally put in it is:
    – One or One and a half hand fulls of Spinach
    – One or One and a half hand fulls of Kale
    – A small banana or half of a big one OR Half of a big apple
    – Hand full of strawberries OR Blueberries
    – Sometimes a bit of celery Or Cucumber Or half of an orange

    I do this as I find the smoothie is very easy breakfast on the go, and it keeps me satisfied by at least 3 hours.
    My question is…
    Will I get that Alkaloid Build up if I continue doing this?
    How much is too much leafy greens?
    Should I rotate one day just spinach and another day just kale? Will this prevent it?

    Ada S.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ada,

      Your smoothie sounds awesome! Worried about oxalate buildup? Simply switch up your leafy greens week to week. For example blend kale one week and the next week spinach, then blend kale the following week. This will give your body enough time to prevent any toxins from building up.

      Hope this helps!

  11. What are the symptoms of greens toxicity build up? I believe that’s what you called it. And is it possible to get it from the over consumption of any greens? I’m new to smoothies and looking forward to some new and awesome tasting smoothies. Also what are vegetables that can be added? Frozen carrots, peas, mushrooms? Just curious. Thanks for all your love and support!

    1. Hi Joyce,

      Thanks for reaching out. All raw leafy greens carry a small amount of toxins that protect plants from being entirely consumed by other animals—and wiping out the plant species. It’s a defensive trait, and something even we should be aware of. But if we rotate our greens we help prevent this build-up. Some symptoms of oxalate build up can be joint pain, kidney stones, or hives.

      You can definitely add veggies to your green smoothies! We especially love blendin’ with root vegetables. Learn more about our favorites here…

      https://simplegreensmoothies.com/how-to-make-vegetable-smoothies

  12. Greetings!! How do I know which greens go with what fruit…like do raspberries and arugula compliment one another? How do I know which greens best suit which recipe?

    1. Hi Shavonne,

      Know what’s great about our green smoothie formula!?! The ratio of fruit to leafy greens allows you to get really creative, without being overpowered by that “green” flavor, no matter what leafy green you’re blendin’ with.

      Check out our formula here…

      https://simplegreensmoothies.com/smoothie-101

  13. I’m new to your website. Your recipes look yummy, but I am pre-diabetic with orders to keep my smoothies low in sugar content where your recipes are high. I’ve been doing my own thing with smoothies, using only strawberries and cucumbers to enhance flavors, but honestly, the totally green flavor gets old. Is there a happy medium that would taste yummy but keep the sugars low?

    1. Hi Nillawilla,

      Thank for reaching out to us. Since we are not doctors or nutritionists, we suggest that any member of community with health concerns to speak to their healthcare provider to confirm that green smoothies and the natural sugars are okay for their eating plan. Here is a link to our favorite low sugar fruits.

      https://simplegreensmoothies.com/low-sugar-fruits-smoothies

      Hope that helps.

  14. I’m new to Simple Green and trying to replace all my meals with smoothies and salads to cure my diabetes and lose weight. I have plant-based protein formula and would like to know if I should be adding this to my smoothies and if so how much? Or, can I get enough protein from green leaf smoothies?

    1. Hi John,

      Looking to use your green smoothie as a meal replacement? We suggest adding protein + healthy fats to ensure you’re fueling your body with a complete meal. Learn more about adding protein + our favorite meal replacement booster combos here…

      https://simplegreensmoothies.com/meal-replacement-smoothie

      Also, we’re green smoothie lovers alright, but we’re not doctors or nutritionists. It’s always best to run green smoothies and our recipes past your personal physician before making changes to your diet.

      Thanks for blendin’ with us!