When you’re looking to get lean, exercise is only half the equation. You can do all the crunches in the world, but the foods you eat are every bit as important. As part of our Cook to Get Cut series, we’ll show you now to use some of the healthiest eats to sculpt your physique without sacrificing flavor. Getting fit never tasted so good.
Somewhere between the spinach and the kale, collard greens sit unnoticed by nearly everyone at the supermarket. Unless you grew up in the south, it’s likely you don’t really know what to do with these hefty greens. It’s time for a crash course because collards are as healthy as any popular green with loads of fiber, vitamins, and a pretty impressive dose of calcium. Like many other leafy veggies, they also go well with tons of different flavors. Taste how good they can be with these five nutrition-packed recipes.
1. Collard Green Slaw
A refreshing salad is a nice way to change up sturdy greens every so often. Kale’s the clear favorite, though it seems a little unusual since you have to spend all that time massaging the greens to get them tender enough. Our vote goes to collards because there’s no kneading required. Try this slaw flecked with pomegranate seeds and apple from The Kitchn, which is especially delicious. If you prefer your greens on the softer side, just let the veggies sit in the dressing for a few hours.
Eating more fruits and vegetables in general will help keep your ticker working properly, making this slaw a true standout. It turns out collard greens may be the best weapon of all. A 2008 study published in Nutrition Research found eating certain greens, including collards, improved the body’s ability to block cholesterol 13% more effectively than a medication designed to do so.
- 1 bunch collard greens, thinly sliced into 2-inch-long pieces
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1 ripe red apple, cored and julienned
- ½ bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds, plus more
- ½ small head red cabbage, finely shredded
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup toasted sesame seeds
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Kosher salt
Directions: Combine all slaw ingredients in a very large bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk tahini, mustard, vinegar, honey, and a pinch of salt to combine. If too thick or clumpy, thin with a splash or two of water.
Toss salad with dressing, top with additional pomegranate seeds, and serve.
2. Collard Green Pesto Linguine
As much as we love a good basil pesto, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of pasta with the same green sauce. For a heartier texture and a slightly richer flavor, try Sunny Anderson’s noodles tossed with a collard and pecan pesto, featured on Food Network. Whole-wheat pasta gives the dish even more fiber to keep you feeling satisfied. And going with a vegetable-based sauce is especially good for keeping your peepers healthy. A 2008 study found those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have a reduced risk of developing glaucoma.
- 1 pound collard greens, ribs discarded and leaves roughly chopped
- 1 (13-ounce) box whole-wheat linguine
- ¼ cup pecans
- 1¼ cups grated Parmesan, plus more
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Blanch collards until bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer collards to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove collards from water and pat dry with paper towels, then transfer to a food processor.
Add linguine to the same pot of boiling, salted water. Cook according to package directions, then drain.
Meanwhile, toast pecans in a dry skillet over low heat until fragrant. Add to the food processor along with Parmesan, olives, and garlic. With processor running, drizzle in oil until pesto comes together. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and black pepper.
Add enough pesto to coat pasta into a large serving bowl, you won’t need all of it. Add pasta, along with a bit of the cooking water. Toss to coat, adjusting pesto as needed. Serve garnished with additional Parmesan.
3. Collard Greens Stuffed with Turkey and Quinoa
Just like close cousin cabbage, collard greens make a fantastic wrapper for all kinds of fillings. For days when you need something comforting, The New York Times’ rolls filled with turkey and quinoa are the perfect dish. The filling is loaded with protein and fiber to fill you up, plus a bunch of great flavor from spices and sweet currants. Once filled, cook the rolls in a simple sauce, and dig in.
Though collard greens offer tons of nutrients, the most impressive is probably the whopping dose of vitamin K. According to Harvard School of Public Health, this nutrient helps support bone health. And since collards also contain calcium, they’re a great choice for warding off osteoporosis.
- 12 large collard greens
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup currants
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1½ cups cooked quinoa
- ½ to ¾ cup shredded turkey
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Freshly ground pepper
- ½ to 1 cup water
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
Directions: Fill a bowl with cold water and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stem collards, leaving leaves intact. Break off 1 to 2 inches at the bottom of the leaf. When water is boiling, salt generously and cook collards in batches, about 2 minutes. Transfer to cold water, drain, and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid. Set aside on paper towels.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet with a lid. Add onion and cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, currants, cinnamon, and allspice. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and mixture is fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine quinoa, turkey, mint, and parsley. Add tomato mixture and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
Oil a wide, deep, lidded skillet or saucepan with olive oil. Working one at a time, place collard leaf on a work surface, vein side up, stem end facing you. Tuck leaf so center where rib was doesn’t leave a gap. Fill with 2 tablespoons of filling over the bottom center, leaving ¾ inch at the bottom. Fold bottom up and over, fold over sides, then tightly roll. Place roll seam-side down in prepared pan. Repeat with remaining collards and filling. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Whisk together ½ cup water, tomato paste, and lemon juice. Season with salt. Pour over stuffed leaves. Rolls should just be submerged, so add additional water, if needed. Cover with a round of parchment or wax paper, and place a lid or plate over top to weight down. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes. Leaves should just be tender. Remove from heat and serve rolls with sauce spooned over top.
4. Almond Chicken Soup with Sweet Potato, Collards, and Ginger
Broth-based soups can be a great way to stick to a healthy diet, but only if they’re substantial enough to keep you from snacking on everything in your kitchen later in the day. This creamy soup filled with chicken, sweet potatoes, and greens from Martha Stewart’s Whole Living is up for the task. It uses almond butter to achieve a rich texture and taste instead of resorting to loads of cream or butter.
Stirring veggies into a pot of simmering soup can easily boost the health benefits, and collard greens are especially good for men. One review published in Nutrition and Cancer reported eating a diet rich in vegetables from the brassica family can help lower your chances of getting prostate cancer. Sounds like a winning dish to us.
- 4 cups chicken stock
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup smooth almond butter
- 1 cup collard leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
Directions: Combine stock, onion, garlic, and sweet potato in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add chicken, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk almond butter with ½ cup of the soup mixture. Add collard leaves and ginger to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in almond butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges.
5. Sweet and Sour Collards
Slowly braised collards is a staple dish in the southern states, often containing nearly as much bacon or other smoked meat as the leafy vegetable. Cooked greens can be just as flavorful and a lot lighter when you opt for Every Day with Rachael Ray’s Sweet & Sour Collards. This recipe gets its flavor from garlic, white balsamic vinegar, and bit of honey, which makes it both tasty and healthy.
Add this side to one of your favorite meals to help boost your vegetable consumption, which can help keep you slim. A recent analysis found those who ate a diet with plenty of non-starchy fruits and vegetables were less likely to gain weight.
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound collard greens, stemmed and chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
Directions: Heat olive oil in a large pot and cook garlic until fragrant. Add collards, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, adding water, until tender, about 15 minutes. Add vinegar and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.