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Collard greens nutrition facts

Collard greens are highly nutritious staple green “cabbage-like leaves” vegetable. Collards are one of the most popular members of the Brassica family, closely related to kale and cabbage and could be described as a non-heading (acephalous) cabbage.

Botanically, the greens are named as Brassica oleracea L. (Acephala group).

collards collard plant
Collards leaves.
(Photo : by i like plants)
Collard plant at its
natural habitat
(Photo by:Lorri37 )

Collards are probably originated in the eastern European or Asia Minor region and now days grown almost all parts of the cooler temperate regions. The plant grows up to 3-4 feet in height and bears dark-green leaves arranged in a rosette fashion around an upright, stocky main stem.

Several cultivar types of collard greens are grown around the planet depending on the soil type, climate, etc.

  1. Blue Max:  It has very attractive savoy- like blue-green leaves.

  2. Georgia:  It is also known as Georgia LS or Georgia Southern.  It has blue-green and slightly savoy-leaves.

  3. Vates: Plant is compact and leaves are smooth and dark green.

  4. Champion: Low growing plant, featuring smooth, dark-green leaves with short internodes.

  5. Flash: It is a very uniform Vates type with smooth, dark-green leaves.

  6. Heavy-Crop:  It has very large, slightly savoy like, blue-green leaves. Leaves have close internodes spacing so bunching can be more difficult.

Health benefits of Collard greens

  • Wonderfully nutritious collard leaves are very low in calories (provide only 30 calories per 100 g) and contain no cholesterol. However, its green leaves contain a very good amount of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber that helps control LDL cholesterol levels and offer protection against hemorrhoids, constipation as well as colon cancer diseases.

  • Widely considered to be wholesome foods, collards are rich in invaluable sources of phyto-nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane that have proven benefits against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition and cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.

  • Di-indolyl-methane has also found to be effective immune modulator, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties by potentiating Interferon-gamma receptors.

  • The leaves are also an excellent source of folates, provides about 166 µg or 41.5% of RDA. Folates are important in DNA synthesis and when given during the peri-conception period can prevent neural tube defects in the baby.

  • Fresh collard leaves are also rich in vitamin-C, provides about 59% of RDA per 100 g. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural anti-oxidant that offers protection against free radical injury and flu-like viral infections.

  • Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin-A (222% of RDA per 100 g) and carotenoid anti-oxidants such as lutein, carotenes, zea-xanthin, crypto-xanthin, etc. These compounds are scientifically found to have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is also essential for healthy vision. Consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • This leafy vegetable contains amazingly high levels of vitamin-K, provides staggering 426% of recommended daily levels per 100 leaves. Vitamin K has a potential role in the increase of bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bone. It also has the beneficial effect in Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.

  • Collards are rich in many vital B-complex groups of minerals such as niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and riboflavin.

  • Further, the leaves and stems are good in minerals like iron, calcium, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Collard greens (Brassica oleracea L. Acephala group),
fresh, raw, Nutrition value per 100 g
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 30 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 5.69 g 4%
Protein 2.45 g 4%
Total Fat 0.42 g 1.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3.60 g 9%
Folates 166 µg 41.5%
Niacin 0.742 mg 5%
Pantothenic acid 0.267 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.165 mg 13%
Riboflavin 0.130 mg 10%
Thiamin 0.054 mg 4.5%
Vitamin A 6668 IU 222%
Vitamin C 35.3 mg 59%
Vitamin E 2.26 mg 15%
Vitamin K 510.8 µg 426%
Sodium 20 mg 1%
Potassium 169 mg 3.5%
Calcium 145 mg 14.5%
Copper 0.039 mg 4.5%
Iron 0.19 mg 2.5%
Magnesium 9 mg 2%
Manganese 0.276 mg 12%
Selenium 1.3 µg 2%
Zinc 0.13 mg 1%
Carotene-ß 3842 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 80 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 8932 µg --

Selection and storage

Although fresh collard greens are available year around in the stores, they are at their best from November through April.  The plant is generally ready to harvest at 6-8 weeks after planting. Generally the whole plant is cut about 4 inches from the ground and sent to market in bunches. Usually, the cut ends sprouts again and bears new stems from the sides which can then be harvested again after few weeks.

In the stores, look for fresh, bright, crispy leaves with stout stalk. Avoid those with yellow discolored, sunken leaves. Whenever possible, choose these greens from the nearby organic farm in order to get maximum health benefits.

Once at home, collard greens should be cleaned as the same way as you do in any other greens like spinach. Wash the whole bunch in cold running water for few minutes until the dust, dirt rid off from the leaves and then rinse in salt water for about 30 minutes to kill any germs, cysts, and to rid off any residual pesticides.

Whenever permitted, use collards while they are fresh. Collards have a relatively good shelf-life; can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Preparation and serving methods

Both stalks and leaves are edible. Tough stalks and thick leaves are trimmed using paring knife. The leaves should be chopped into smaller sections to aid quick cooking. Extensive cooking may result in loss of some amount of vitamins like folates and vitamin-C.

Here are some preparation tips:
  • Collard greens blend very nicely with either salads or with cooked meat or fish dishes.

  • Its fresh leaves can be also used as juiced mixed with other complementing greens, fruits and herbs.

Safety profile

  • Like other members of the Brassica family, collards may contain goitrogens, which may cause swelling of the thyroid gland. Eating raw collards, therefore, should be avoided in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. However, it may be used liberally in healthy person.

  • It should be used sparingly with people suffering from oxalate kidney stones.
  • 100 g of raw collard greens provide more than 500 µg of vitamin K well above daily recommended value; it is therefore, should be used cautiously in people taking anticoagulants like warfarin.

(Medical disclaimer: The information and reference guides in this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications).

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Further Reading:

1. USDA National Nutrient Database. 

2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.