Collards basically refer to nutritious green leafy vegetables belonging to the Brassica oleracea plant family. They are classified under the group that also includes kale and spring greens. Nevertheless, collard greens possess typical characteristics, for instance the leaves of these plants have a deep bluish-green hue and their texture is smooth. In addition, compared to the leaves of spring greens and kale, the leaves of collard greens are wider.
This green leafy vegetable is mainly cultivated in Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Montenegro, Kashmir, some regions of Africa as well as particular areas in South America. Having its origin in wild cabbage, collard is said to be native to Asia Minor, from where these green leafy plants reached different regions, including Europe as early as in 600 B.C. and the United States as late as the 17th century. Collard greens were extremely popular among the ancient Romans and Greeks. In addition, it forms a basic element of the traditional cuisine of South America.
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In ancient times, the Greeks cultivated collards as well as kale, but they did not make any difference between these two varieties of green leafy vegetables. Much before the advent of Christianity, the ancient Romans also cultivated many different types of vegetables, counting those having large green leaves, elongated stalks and a gentle essence. They also cultivated a variety of green vegetables whose leaves were broad like collards as well as some others having curly leaves.
Collard greens are loaded with nourishments. Similar to other vegetables belonging to the family of cabbage, collard greens also possess anticancer attributes. In addition, they also form an excellent source of carotenes, several vitamins, including B6 and C, chlorophyll as well as manganese. Precisely speaking, consuming one cup of collards offer us over 70% of our RDA requisite for vitamin C. Collards also contain vitamin B1, B2 and vitamin E. Moreover, collard greens also contain sufficient amount of dietary fiber, many essential minerals, counting iron, calcium and copper.
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It is widely believed that collard greens are very nourishing foods and also well known for their therapeutic properties. These broad green leafy vegetables are very effective for treating several disorders related to the immune system.
Collard greens offer numerous health benefits and are especially useful for supporting the health of the lungs. As we all are aware, contact with smoking - whether primary or secondary smoking, impairs the normal functioning of the lungs. Cigarette smoke encloses a carcinogen called benzo(a)pyrene, which causes vitamin A deficiency in our body, which, consecutively, encourages the development of a condition called emphysema (an anomalous distension of the lungs due to gas). In order to neutralize this effect of smoking or exposure to smoking, we need to include elevated levels of vitamin A, which is present in collard greens, regularly in our diet.
Vitamin B6 and folate are two main elements that are necessary for the cellular process of methylation. During this process a potentially unsafe molecule called homocysteine is transformed into a benevolent molecule. When homocysteine is present in high amounts in the cells, it damages the blood vessels' cell walls and, thereby, augments the chances of developing strokes and heart attacks. In order to prevent these conditions, we should essentially consume foods containing high levels of folates and vitamin B6. Fortunately, collard greens contain these two vitamins in sufficient amounts.
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Besides vitamin B6 and folates, collard greens also enclose high levels of riboflavin (a variety of vitamin B), which is vital for the process of methylation and also regenerating glutathione within our body. It may be noted here that glutathione is considered to be among the most vital antioxidants in our body and it facilitates in protecting the lipids, such as cholesterol, from damage due to free radicals. So far the free radicals do not attack cholesterol, glutathione (a molecule containing fat) will not cause any harm to the walls of the blood vessels.
Niacin is one more vitamin enclosed by collard greens and it aids in neutralizing disorders related to the cardiovascular system. It is also said that niacin is effective in lowering elevated levels of cholesterol, thereby, putting off the occurrence of diseases like heart ailments, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
In addition to the above mentioned health benefits, collard greens aid in counteracting several side effects experienced by some women during menopause. This green leafy vegetable contains magnesium which works to reduce stress and aids in inducing regular sleep patterns. Calcium present in collards is helpful in putting off loss of bone mass, which is widespread during menopause. Collards also have elevated levels of vitamin E, which is useful for reducing incidences of hot flashes experienced by nearly all women during their menopause.
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People are familiar with the function of calcium in sustaining the strength as well as compactness of bones for a long time now. A compound mineral known as hydroxyapatite, which is responsible for providing structure and strength to bones, is developed by means of an intricate course that involves combining phosphorus and calcium. According to estimates, one cup of prepared collard greens contains roughly 4.9 per cent of the daily value (DV) for phosphorus and 2.2 per cent DV for calcium.
Calcium contained by collard greens aids in safeguarding the cells of the colon for chemicals that lead to cancer, while decreasing the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during the second stage of one's menstrual cycle.
Scientific studies have shown that particular phytonutrients (nourishments present in plants), which are found in cruciferous vegetables, such as collard greens, are helpful in getting rid of detrimental substances from our body. These phytonutrients work by sending messages to the genes to augment the making of specific enzymes that have a role in the detoxification process.
While you can purchase fresh collards from the stores throughout the year, generally, the best quality of this vegetable is available during the period between November and April. In normal conditions, collard greens can be harvested after six to eight weeks of planting them. Usually, the entire plant is cut leaving about four inches from the ground and dispatched for markets in bundles. The plant ends that are left behind during harvesting normally sprout once again and produce new stems from their sides. These new plants can be harvested again following some weeks.
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While purchasing collard greens from the stores, you ought to seek those having fresh, vivid and crispy leaves with stout stems. As far as possible, you should opt for purchasing these green leafy vegetables from any organic farm close to your home so that you obtain the utmost health benefits.
When you have brought the collard greens home, you need to clean them in the same manner in which you clean other green leafy vegetables, for instance, spinach. Rinse the entire cluster for some minutes in normal running water till you are able to remove the dust and dirt from the leaves. Subsequently, bathe the vegetable in saline water for roughly 30 minutes to eliminate the germs and cysts, if any are present, as well as remove all remaining pesticides.
At any time, you should use only use fresh collard greens. Remember, this vegetable can be stored for a fairly good period of time, provided you keep it in a refrigerator. When stored in refrigeration, the shelf life of collard greens can extend till four days.
The leaves as well as the stalks of collard greens are edible. Use a paring knife to trim hardy stalks and chunky leaves, if any are present. Slice the leaves into small pieces in order to facilitate fast cooking. Remember, cooking these green leafy vegetables for a long time may deprive you of some nutrients, especially vitamin C and folates.
Collard greens can be blended excellently with salads or prepared fish and meat dishes. Juice of the fresh leaves of this plant can be extracted and blended with other green vegetables, fruits as well as herbs that go well with collard greens.
Prior to using collard greens, it is imperative to clean them thoroughly, especially because the leaves and stems of this vegetable have a propensity to collect dirt and dust. Cut the roots of the plants and put their leaves in lukewarm water in a bowl before cleaning the greens. Clean the leaves and stalks manually till you have completely removed all the soil lodged in the plants. Provided you are only using the leaves of collard greens, you can easily get rid of the stems either using a knife or your hands.
Similar to all other vegetables belonging to the Brassica plant family, collard greens are also likely to enclose goitrogens - a substance that may possibly result in the distension of your thyroid gland. Hence, it is advisable that you should keep away from consuming collards raw, especially if you have a thyroid dysfunction. However, people who are healthy may consume this vegetable.
It has been found that consuming roughly 100 grams of uncooked collards supplies us with vitamin K in excess of 500 µg than the daily recommended value. Therefore, people taking anticoagulants, such as warfarin, should use this vegetable cautiously.
People who are already suffering from problems related to the kidneys and gall bladder and not undergoing any treatment for these conditions ought to stay away from eating collard greens, because this vegetable has reasonable amounts of oxalates. When oxalates are present in excessive concentration in our body fluid, they may form crystals and lead to health troubles.
Findings of many studies have revealed that oxalates may also retard the assimilation of calcium into our body.