Collards are green leafy vegetables that belong to the plant family Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group) and are categorized in the same cultivator group as spring greens and kale. However, the vegetable has its own distinctive features, such as its leaves are dark blue-green in color, with smooth texture. Also, the leaves are relatively broader as compared to the ones of kale and spring greens. The prime cultivators of this green vegetable are Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Kashmir, Montenegro, parts of Africa, and certain zones of southern America. A descendent of wild cabbage, collard is considered to have originated from Asia Minor, from where it spread to other regions, like the Europe in 600 BC and the U.S in the 17th century. The vegetable was also very popular during the period of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Moreover, the vegetable is a fundamental component of the traditional southern American cuisine. High in vitamin C and soluble fibers, collard greens are widely considered to be healthy foods and are renowned for their medicinal properties and beneficial effects against a number of immune related defects. If you want to know more about the diverse health benefits of collard greens, read on the pointers given below.
Health Benefits Of Eating Collard Greens
- Collard greens play a major role in promoting a healthy lung. It is a known fact that exposure to smoke, either primary or secondary, causes damage to normal lung function. A carcinogen present in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, leads to the deficiency of vitamin A in the body. This deficiency of vitamin A, in turn, induces the development of emphysema. To counteract this effect, one should take high amounts of vitamin A (as found in collard greens), as a regular part of the diet.
- Two major elements required for the cellular process of methylation are folate and vitamin B6. In this process, homocysteine, a potentially dangerous molecule, is converted to a benign one. The presence of high levels of this molecule causes damage to the walls of the blood vessels and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. To avoid this, it is essential to eat foods that are high on both the vitamins, such as collard greens.
- Collard greens are also rich in riboflavin (a vitamin B) which is not only important for the process of methylation, but also helps in the regeneration of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is regarded as one of the most important antioxidants in the body and helps protect lipids like cholesterol from free radical attack. As long as cholesterol remains untouched by free radical attack, this fat-containing molecule will not cause any damage to blood vessel walls.
- Another vitamin present in collards, which helps counteract cardio-vascular defects, is niacin. This vitamin is known to reduce high cholesterol levels and thus, helps prevent conditions like diabetes, heart diseases and atherosclerosis.
- Collard greens also help neutralize many side effects that many women face while going through the process of menopause. The magnesium present in the vegetable acts as a stress reducer and helps promote normal sleeping patterns, while the calcium content helps avoid the bone loss that is very common during this stage. Also, the high vitamin E content in collards is beneficial in decreasing the hot flushes that most women experience at the time of menopause.
- The role of calcium in maintaining the strength and density of bones have been known since long. A mineral complex, called hydroxyapatite, which gives strength and structure to bones, is formed by a complex process involving the combination of calcium and phosphorus. It is estimated that a single cup of cooked collard greens has around 2.2% of the DV for calcium and 4.9% of the DV for phosphorus.
- The mineral calcium, present in collard greens, helps protect colon cells from cancer-causing chemicals and reduces PMS symptoms during the second phase of the menstrual cycle.
- Research has revealed that certain phytonutrients present in cruciferous vegetables, like collard greens, help eliminate harmful elements from the body, by signaling genes to enhance the production of some enzymes involved in the process of detoxification.
- Individuals with pre-existing or untreated kidney and gall bladder problems should avoid the consumption of collard greens, as they contains measurable amount of oxalates. These oxalates, when too concentrated in body fluids, can crystallize and cause health problems.
- Studies have also shown that oxalates may interfere with the absorption of calcium by the body.
- Proper cleaning of collard greens is very important prior to their use. As the stems and leaves tend to collect soil and dirt, it is always advisable to clean them thoroughly.
- Before cleaning collard greens; cut the roots and place the leaves in a bowl containing lukewarm water. Clean properly, by using your hands, until and unless all the sand from the leaves have dislodged.
- If only the leafy portion of the vegetable is required, the stems can be removed easily, either by using hands or with the help of a knife.