Leafy Green Deception – Some Dark Greens Are Not As Nutritious As You Think

I mentioned recently that arugula was on the same level of iceberg lettuce from a nutritional standpoint and that I don’t use it in my green smoothies because of this. My statement, of course, raised a lot of questions.

How could arugula, a dark leafy green with a bitter flavor, possibly be considered nutritionally inferior to other greens? Is adding arugula to a green smoothie providing the same amount of nutrients as iceberg lettuce – which is pretty much just water with some plant fiber holding it together?

Let me explain:

Arugula vs. Kale = Kale Wins

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of raw arugula contains 5 calories, .5 grams of protein, 16% DV of vitamin A, 3% of vitamin C, 18% DV vitamin K, 3% DV of calcium and .3 milligrams of iron.

Arugula is not devoid of nutrition, but compare it to a cup of kale and arugula just doesn’t deserve the space in my blender. One cup of kale has 33 calories, 2.2 grams of protein, 343% DV of vitmain A, 89% DV of vitamin C, 456% DV of vitamin K, 9% DV of calcium and 1.1 milligrams of iron.

As you can see, you’ll get so much more nutrition from a cup of kale in a green smoothie than with a cup of arugula, and your smoothie will be much less bitter.

Augula vs. Iceberg Lettuce = A Tie!

So what about arugula being as nutritious as iceberg lettuce? Well, check this out:

One cup of shredded iceberg lettuce contains 10 calories, .6 grams of protein (more than arugula), 12% DV of vitamin A, 2% DV of vitamin C, 14% DV of vitamin K, 1% DV of calcium and .3 milligrams of iron. Compare iceberg lettuce to arugula and you’ll quickly realize that dark green and bitter aren’t always an indication of superior nutrition.

When somebody asks me how to mask the flavor of arugula in a green smoothie recipe, my generic response is, “Don’t bother”.

What About Herbs Like Dill And Cilantro?

Most herbs like dill and cilantro are in the same boat as arugula. They are both great for accenting the flavors in your smoothie (dill and pineapple, or cilantro and peach), but they don’t add much to the overall nutrition in the recipe.

The only exception to the low-nutrition herb group is parsley, which is actually quite potent and up there with kale and dandelion. One cup of Italian (flat leaf) parsley has 21 calories, 2 grams of protein, 168% DV of vitamin A, 89% DV of vitamin C, 820% DV of vitamin K, 8% DV of calcium and a whopping 3.7 milligrams of iron.

However, parsley is quite flavorful so you can only put up to one cup in your blender, but you can blend it with mild greens like lettuce or fresh baby spinach.

When it comes to herbs, I use them as flavor accents, or I use them in salads or other dishes. But I do not use them much in green smoothies and I don’t rely on them for their nutrition content.

Unleash The Power Of Greens

Since drinking a daily green smoothie, I have lost 40 pounds, lowered my cholesterol (by 50 points), cleared up my skin and never, ever get heartburn or indigestion (I used to buy antacids all the time). I am training for a marathon ran my first marathon and that’s amazing to me because I’ve never been able to become fit, or even enjoy working out. But now I love to run, and I have the energy to enjoy it!

Read more about my 40-pound weight loss and explore the health benefits of leafy greens.

Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.