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Mustard Greens: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Food
Bunches of mustard greens at the farmer's market. BruceBlock / iStock / Getty Images

By Kelli McGrane, MS, RD

Mustard greens are peppery-tasting greens that come from the mustard plant (Brassica juncea L.).


Also known as brown mustard, vegetable mustard, Indian mustard, and Chinese mustard, mustard greens are members of the Brassica genus of vegetables. This genus also includes kale, collard greens, broccoli, and cauliflower.

There are several varieties, which are usually green and have a strong bitter, spicy flavor.

To make them more palatable, these leafy greens are typically enjoyed boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or even pickled.

This article provides a complete overview of mustard greens, including their nutrition, benefits, and uses.

Nutritional Profile

Mustard greens are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, as they're low in calories yet rich in fiber and micronutrients.

One cup (56 grams) of chopped raw mustard greens provides:

  • Calories: 15
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Carbs: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram
  • Vitamin A: 9% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 6% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 44% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 8% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 120% of the DV
  • Copper: 10% of the DV

Additionally, mustard greens contain 4–5% of the DV for calcium, iron, potassium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, and thiamine (vitamin B1), as well as small amounts of zinc, selenium, phosphorus, niacin (vitamin B3), and folate.

Compared with raw mustard greens, one cup (140 grams) of cooked mustard greens has much higher levels of vitamin A (96% of the DV), vitamin K (690% of the DV), and copper (22.7% of the DV). Yet, it's lower in vitamins C and E.

Pickled mustard greens, often referred to as takana in Japanese and Chinese cuisines, are similar in calories, carbs, and fiber as raw mustard greens. But they do lose some nutrients during pickling, especially vitamin C.

However, one study found that pickling was an effective method for retaining important plant compounds with antioxidant properties.

Summary

Mustard greens are low in calories yet high in fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals. In particular, they're an excellent source of vitamins C and K.

Health Benefits of Mustard Greens

There's currently limited research on the specific benefits of eating mustard greens.

Still, the individual nutrients found in mustard greens — and Brassica vegetables in general — have been associated with numerous health benefits

Rich in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants

Antioxidants are naturally occurring plant compounds that help protect against oxidative stress caused by an excess of free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your cells. Research suggests that over time, this damage can lead to serious, chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

While levels of specific antioxidants vary between the different varieties of mustard greens, these leafy greens in general are a rich source of antioxidants like flavonoids, beta carotene, lutein, and vitamins C and E.

Additionally, red varieties are rich in anthocyanins, which are red-purple pigments found in fruits and vegetables that have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Overall, including mustard greens in your diet may help protect against diseases related to oxidative stress.

Excellent Source of Vitamin K

Both raw and cooked mustard greens are a phenomenal source of vitamin K, providing 120% and 690% of the DV per one cup (56 grams and 140 grams), respectively.

Vitamin K is best known for its vital role in helping with blood clotting. It's also been shown to be essential for heart and bone health.

In fact, inadequate vitamin K has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, a condition that results in reduced bone strength and an increased risk of fractures.

Recent studies have also suggested a link between vitamin K deficiency and brain health. Inadequate vitamin K may be associated with an increased risk of impaired brain functioning, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. However, more research is needed.

Could Boost Immunity

Mustard greens may also be good for your immune system.

Just one cup (56 grams raw, 140 grams cooked) provides more than a third of your daily vitamin C needs.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that's essential for a strong immune system. Research shows that not getting enough vitamin C in your diet can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick.

Additionally, vitamin A in mustard greens also supports your immune response. It does this by promoting the growth and distribution of T cells, which are a type of white blood cell needed to help fight off potential infections.

May Benefit Heart Health

Mustard greens may also be good for your heart.

They're loaded with antioxidants like flavonoids and beta carotene, which have been associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from heart disease.

One review of eight studies found that a high intake of leafy green Brassica vegetables is associated with a significant 15% reduced risk of heart disease.

As with other Brassica vegetables, mustard greens contain compounds that help bind bile acids in your digestive system. This is important, as preventing the reabsorption of bile acids leads to lowered cholesterol levels (24).

According to one test-tube study, steaming mustard greens significantly increases their bile acid binding effect. This suggests that steamed mustard greens may have greater cholesterol-lowering potential, compared with eating them raw.

May Be Good for Eye Health

Among the antioxidants in mustard greens are lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to benefit eye health.

Specifically, these two compounds help protect your retina from oxidative damage, as well as filter out potentially harmful blue light.

As a result, research suggests that eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin may help protect against age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

May Have Anticancer Effects

In addition to powerful antioxidants, which may have anticancer effects, mustard greens are high in a group of beneficial plant compounds called glucosinolates.

In test-tube studies, glucosinolates have been shown to help protect cells against DNA damage and prevent the growth of cancerous cells. However, these benefits haven't been studied in humans.

Similarly, a test-tube study of mustard leaf extract found protective effects against colon and lung cancers. Still, studies in humans are needed.

As for research in humans, observational studies have shown a link between overall intake of Brassica vegetables — but not mustard greens specifically — and a reduced risk of certain types of cancers, including stomach, colorectal, and ovarian cancers.

Summary

Mustard greens are rich in important plant compounds and micronutrients, specifically vitamins A, C, and K. As a result, eating them may have benefits for eye and heart health, as well as anticancer and immune-boosting properties.

How to Prepare and Eat Mustard Greens

There are many ways to enjoy mustard greens.

Raw mustard greens are often added to other mixed greens to provide a peppery, spicy boost of flavor to salads. Some people even enjoy using them in smoothies and green juices.

While cooked mustard greens make for a delicious side dish to serve alongside roasted chicken or baked fish, they also work well in soups, stews, and casseroles.

To help balance out their sharp flavor, these spicy greens are often cooked with a source of fat, such as olive oil or butter, as well as an acidic liquid, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

Mustard greens can also be pickled using a mixture of sugar, salt, vinegar, chilis, and garlic.

Regardless of how you use them, mustard greens are best stored in the fridge and then washed just before using.

Summary

Mustard greens are a versatile leafy green that can add a peppery, bitter flavor to raw or cooked dishes.

Potential Downsides

Although research is limited, mustard greens are generally considered very healthy and safe. However, they may cause adverse reactions in certain individuals.

As mustard greens are high in vitamin K — a vitamin that helps with blood clotting — eating them could interfere with blood-thinning medications.

Therefore, individuals who are on blood thinners, such as warfarin, should consult their doctor before incorporating large amounts of these leafy greens into their diets.

Additionally, mustard greens contain oxalates, which may increase the risk of kidney stones in some individuals if consumed in large amounts. If you're prone to oxalate-type kidney stones, you may want to limit mustard greens in your diet.

Summary

Mustard greens are generally very safe to eat. However, as they're high in vitamin K and contain oxalates, large amounts may trigger side effects in individuals who take blood thinners or have a high risk of oxalate-type kidney stones.

The Bottom Line

Mustard greens are the peppery leaves of the mustard plant and are incredibly nutritious.

They're particularly high in vitamin K, vitamin C, and plant compounds that may have antioxidant and anticancer effects. Additionally, incorporating mustard greens into your diet may be beneficial for heart, eye, and immune health.

With their peppery, spicy flavor, mustard greens are a delicious addition to salads, soups, or casseroles. They can also be steamed and tossed with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice for a simple side dish.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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