TASTE

The Best Salad Greens, Ranked By Nutrition

Eat better salads.

09/07/2017 06:10 EDT | Updated 09/08/2017 16:18 EDT

It’s pretty well understood that salads are good for you. As long as you’re careful with a restaurant’s menu options, you can count on doing right by your body with a bed of greens.

But, not all greens are created equal and some contain significantly more nutrition than others. What you choose at the salad bar can make all the difference between fully satisfying your daily recommended dose of nutrients and simply contributing to it. 

We ranked eight popular salad greens in order from least to most nutritious, according to the CDC’s powerhouse fruits and vegetables list.  

The CDC determined the nutritional density of these greens by looking at how well they fulfilled the average person’s daily requirement for 17 important nutrients: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.

They assigned each food a specific nutrient density score, on a scale of zero to 100, that calculates to what extent 100 grams of each green includes the daily recommended amount of these 17 nutrients, assuming a 2,000 calorie diet. 

Here’s what they found: 

  • 8 Iceberg
    fastudio4 via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 18.28

    Poor iceberg lettuce -- it doesn't have the best reputation. And while the salad green might be at the low-ranking end of this list, it still contains fiber, potassium, zinc, calcium, folate, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K. Plus, it has a high water content, which is always a good thing.
  • 7 Arugula
    fcafotodigital via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 37.65

    Arugula comes with the advantage of phytochemicals, which may inhibit the development of certain cancers. Not too bad for a bed of greens.
  • 6 Kale
    jrwasserman via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 49.07

    One cup of kale satisfies all your daily requirements for vitamins A, C and K. Plus, it has three grams of protein to boot.
  • 5 Romaine
    stephanie phillips via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 63.48

    Romaine is a solid source of Vitamin K and A, as well as folate.
  • 4 Leaf Lettuce
    nikamata via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 70.73

    Leaf lettuce is high in potassium and vitamins A and K.
  • 3 Chicory
    chengyuzheng via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 73.36

    Chicory greens are a good source of thiamin, niacin, and zinc.
  • 2 Spinach
    Lecic via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 86.43

    Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. It's loaded with vitamin K and A, as well as manganese and folate.
  • 1 Watercress
    rodrigobark via Getty Images
    Nutrient Density Score: 100

    Watercress contains 106 percent of your daily recommended intake for vitamin K, 22 percent for vitamin A and 24 percent for vitamin C. It also contains calcium, iron and magnesium.

Knowledge is power. Now go make some salads!

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