Which are the Best Leafy Greens?

Winning the Toss—Your Action Plan

Consider visiting the salad bar as a free pass to join the dark side. Research shows that darker, loose or open-leaf lettuces (such as romaine, red leaf and butterhead) contain more antioxidants and nutrients than the typically lighter-colored, more tightly-packed heads (such as iceberg).

The Reason: The darker leaves are able to absorb more light and, in turn, synthesize more vitamins. And while there's no good way to pick and choose a store-bought salad leaf for leaf, at home, opting for the tops and outer leaves can guarantee a more nutritious base.

Ready to go darker (and healthier) still? While they're not stocked at most salad bars, check the produce aisle for tougher roughage like Swiss chard and kale, which beat out even spinach in the antioxidant game.

Be sure to give the leaves a good cold rinse before serving raw, boiled, or steamed, as the folds in these greens tend to accumulate dirt more easily than other veggies. Also keep in mind that high heat can strip veggies of their natural vitamin content.

The key to becoming a lean, green fighting machine: Dress for success. Hold off on the creamy dressings, croutons, bacon bits and layers of shredded cheese. Instead, opt for a lighter vinaigrette and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds for added crunch and protein.

What's in your go-to healthy salad? Will you rethink your choice of leafy greens? Share your thoughts (and go-green tips!) in the comments below.

More: Active Cookbook: Sustainable Food and Recipes for Athletes 

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