Health and Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens

What’s New and Beneficial About Mustard Greens

 

  • The cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed mustard greens is second only to steamed collard greens and steamed kale in a recent study of cruciferous vegetables and their ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract. When bile acid binding takes place, it is easier for the bile acids to be excreted from the body. Since bile acids are made from cholesterol, the net impact of this bile acid binding is a lowering of the body’s cholesterol level. It’s worth noting that steamed mustard greens (and all steamed forms of the cruciferous vegetables) show much greater bile acid binding ability than raw mustard greens.
  • For total glucosinolate content, mustard greens rank high on the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables, and in one study, were second only to Brussels sprouts in terms of total glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are phytonutrients that provide us with unique health benefits because they can be converted into isothiocyanates (ITCs) that have cancer-preventive properties. All cruciferous vegetables have long been known to contain glucosinolates, but it’s recent research that’s made us realize how valuable mustard greens are in this regard.
  • The cancer protection we get from mustard greens may be largely related to two special glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: sinigrin and gluconasturtiian. Sinigrin can be converted into allyl-isothiocyanate (AITC) and gluconasturtiian can be converted into phenethyl-isothiocyanate (PEITC). Both AITC and PEITC have well-documented cancer-preventive and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

WHFoods Recommendations

 

You’ll want to include mustard greens as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy mustard greens and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week and increase your serving size to 2 cups.

We recommend Healthy Sautéeing mustard greens rather than using the more traditional methods of boiling or steaming mustard greens. Healthy Sauté helps to keep them from getting soft and watery and retains their flavor. Chop mustard greens and let them sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting benefits before cooking. See Healthiest Way of Cooking Mustard Greens in the How to Enjoy section below.

Nutrients in
Mustard Greens
1.00 cup cooked (140.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value


 vitamin K524.1%


 vitamin A177%


 vitamin C59%


 folate25.5%


 manganese19%


 fiber11.2%


 calcium10.3%


 tryptophan9.3%


 vitamin E8.4%


 potassium8%


 vitamin B67%


 protein6.3%


 copper6%


 phosphorus5.7%


 iron5.4%


 vitamin B25.2%


 magnesium5.2%


 vitamin B14%


 vitamin B33%


Calories (21)1%

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Mustard greens provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Mustard greens can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Mustard greens, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

  • Health Benefits
  • Description
  • History
  • How to Select and Store
  • Tips for Preparing and Cooking
  • How to Enjoy
  • Individual Concerns
  • Nutritional Profile
  • References

 

Health Benefits

 

Unlike some of their fellow cruciferous vegetables, mustard greens have not been the direct focus of most health-oriented research studies. However, mustard greens have sometimes been included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that have been lumped together and studied to determine potential types of health benefits. Based upon several dozen studies involving cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including mustard greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for mustard greens when summarizing health benefits.

This connection between mustard greens and cancer prevention should not be surprising since mustard greens provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body’s detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of mustard greens: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Detox Support Provided by Mustard Greens

 

The detox support provided by mustard greens includes antioxidant nutrients to boost Phase 1 detoxification activities and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 activities. Mustard greens also contain phytonutrients called glucosinolates that can help activate detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity. At least three key glucosinolates have been clearly identified in mustard greens in significant amounts: sinigrin, gluconasturtiian, and glucotropaeolin.

If we fail to give our body’s detox system adequate nutritional support, yet continue to expose ourselves to unwanted toxins through our lifestyle and our dietary choices, we can place our bodies at increased risk of toxin-related damage that can eventually increase our cells’ risk of becoming cancerous. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to bring mustard greens and other cruciferous vegetables into our diet on a regular basis.

The Antioxidant Benefits of Mustard Greens

 

As an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese, mustard greens give us highest level support for four conventional antioxidant nutrients. But the antioxidant support provided by mustard greens extends far beyond these conventional nutrients and into the realm of phytonutrients. Hydroxycinnamic acid, quercetin, isorhamnetin, and kaempferol are among the key antioxidant phytonutrients provided by mustard greens. This broad spectrum antioxidant support helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells. Chronic oxidative stress—meaning chronic presence of overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules and cumulative damage to our cells by these molecules—is a risk factor for development of most cancer types. By providing us with a diverse array of antioxidant nutrients, mustard greens help lower our cancer risk by helping us avoid chronic and unwanted oxidative stress.

Mustard Greens’ Anti-inflammatory Benefits

 

As an excellent source of vitamin K and a smaller but reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), mustard greens provide us with two hallmark anti-inflammatory nutrients. Vitamin K acts as a direct regulator of our inflammatory response, and ALA is the building block for several of the body’s most widely used families of anti-inflammatory messaging molecules. While glucobrassicin (a glucosinolate found in many cruciferous vegetables, and the precursor for the anti-inflammatory molecule indole-3-carbinol) does not appear to be present in mustard greens in significant amounts, other glucosinolates present in mustard greens may provide important anti-inflammatory benefits and are the subject of current research.

Like chronic oxidative stress and chronic weakened detox ability, chronic unwanted inflammation can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases (especially cardiovascular diseases).

Mustard Greens and Cardiovascular Support

 

Researchers have looked at a variety of cardiovascular problems—including heart attack, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis—and found preliminary evidence of an ability on the part of cruciferous vegetables to lower our risk of these health problems. Yet regardless of the specific cardiovascular problem, it is one particular type of cardiovascular benefit that has most interested researchers, and that benefit is the anti-inflammatory nature of mustard greens and their fellow cruciferous vegetables. Scientists have not always viewed cardiovascular problems as having a central inflammatory component, but the role of unwanted inflammation in creating problems for our blood vessels and circulation has become increasingly fundamental to an understanding of cardiovascular diseases. While glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate found in many cruciferous vegetables, and the precursor for sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate with important anti-inflammatory properties) does not appear to be present in mustard greens in significant amounts, other glucosinolates present in mustard greens may provide important anti-inflammatory benefits and are the subject of current research.

A second area you can count on mustard greens for cardiovascular support involves their cholesterol-lowering ability. Our liver uses cholesterol as a basic building block to product bile acids. Bile acids are specialized molecules that aid in the digestion and absorption of fat through a process called emulsification. These molecules are typically stored in fluid form in our gall bladder, and when we eat a fat-containing meal, they get released into the intestine where they help ready the fat for interaction with enzymes and eventual absorption up into the body. When we eat mustard greens, fiber-related nutrients in this cruciferous vegetable bind together with some of the bile acids in the intestine in such a way that they simply stay inside the intestine and pass out of our body in a bowel movement, rather than getting absorbed along with the fat they have emulsified. When this happens, our liver needs to replace the lost bile acids by drawing upon our existing supply of cholesterol, and as a result, our cholesterol level drops down. Mustard greens provide us with this cholesterol-lowering benefit whether they are raw or cooked. However, a recent study has shown that the cholesterol-lowering ability of raw mustard greens improves significantly when they are steamed. In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed mustard greens was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), mustard greens bound 34% as many bile acids (based on a standard of comparison involving total dietary fiber).

In addition to the support factors described above, it’s impossible to talk about the cardiovascular benefits of mustard greens without mentioning their exceptional folate content. Although this cruciferous vegetable scores a rating of “excellent” in our food rating system, we would like to point out just how “excellent” excellent is when you’re talking about mustard greens. These greens provide just over 500 micrograms of folate in every hundred calories. That’s a nearly unsurpassed amount amongst the most commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. (Only turnip greens score higher among the World’s Healthiest Foods.) Folate is a critical B-vitamin for support of cardiovascular health, including its key role in prevention of homocysteine build-up (called hyperhomocysteinemia).

Description

 

All cruciferous vegetables provide integrated nourishment across a wide variety of nutritional categories and provide broad support across a wide variety of body systems as well. For more on cruciferous vegetables see:

  • Eating Healthy with Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Feeling Great with Cruciferous Vegetables

 

Spunky and soulful describe the taste of mustard greens that add a pungent, peppery flavor to recipes in which they are featured. Although they are available throughout the year, they are in season from December through April when they are at their best and most readily available.

Mustard greens are the leaves of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea. Mustard greens come in a host of varieties that each has distinct characteristics. Adding these brilliant leaves to your food preparations will certainly enhance the beauty of any meal. Most mustard greens are actually emerald green in color, while some are not green at all but rather shades of dark red or deep purple. The leaves of mustard greens can have either a crumpled or flat texture and may have either toothed, scalloped, frilled, or lacey edges. Mizuna is one type of mustard green that is oftentimes available in stores. In addition to providing wonderfully nutritious greens, this plant also produces the acrid-tasting brown seeds that are used to make Dijon mustard.

History

 

Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan region of India and have been grown and consumed for more than 5,000 years. Mustard greens are a notable vegetable in many different cuisines, ranging from Chinese to Southern American. Like turnip greens, they may have become an integral part of Southern cuisine during the times of slavery, serving as a substitute for the greens that were an essential part of Western African foodways. While India, Nepal, China and Japan are among the leading producers of mustard greens, a significant amount of mustard greens are grown in the United States as well.

How to Select and Store

 

Purchase mustard greens that are unblemished and free from any yellowing or brown spots. They should look fresh and crisp and be a lively green color.

Place mustard greens in a plastic bag, removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where they should keep fresh for about three to four days.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

 

Tips for Preparing Mustard Greens

 

Rinse mustard greens under cold running water and cut into 1/2″ slices for quick and even cooking.

To get the most health benefits from mustard greens, we recommend letting them sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit may be able to help activate their myrosinase enzymes and increase formation of beneficial isothiocyanates in the greens.

The Healthiest Way of Cooking Mustard Greens

 

From all of the cooking methods we tried when cooking mustard greens, our favorite is Healthy Sauté. We think that it provides the greatest flavor and is also a method that allows for concentrated nutrient retention.

Heat 5 tablespoons of broth (vegetable or chicken) or water in a stainless steel skillet. Once bubbles begin to form add mustard greens, cover, and Healthy Sauté for 5 minutes. Toss with our Mediterranean Dressing which includes 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 medium clove garlic (pressed or chopped), 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Top with your favorite optional ingredients.

How to Enjoy

 

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

 

  • Young mustard greens make great additions to salads.
  • Serve healthy sautéed mustard greens with walnuts.
  • Adding chopped mustard greens to a pasta salad gives it a little kick. One of our favorite combinations is chopped tomatoes, pine nuts, goat cheese, pasta, and mustard greens tossed with a little olive oil.

 

WHFoods Recipes That Feature Mustard Greens

 

  • Curried Mustard Greens & Garbanzo Beans with Sweet Potatoes

 

Individual Concerns

 

Mustard Greens and Oxalates

Mustard greens are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating mustard greens. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we’ve seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits—including absorption of calcium—from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please see Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?

Mustard Greens as a “Goitrogenic” Food

 

Mustard greens are are sometimes referred to as a “goitrogenic” food. Yet, contrary to popular belief, according to the latest studies, foods themselves—mustard greens included—are not “goitrogenic” in the sense of causing goiter whenever they are consumed, or even when they are consumed in excess. In fact, most foods that are commonly called “goitrogenic”—such as the cruciferous vegetables (including mustard greens, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower) and soyfoods—do not interfere with thyroid function in healthy persons even when they are consumed on a daily basis. Nor is it scientifically correct to say that foods “contain goitrogens,” at least not if you are thinking about goitrogens as a category of substances like proteins, carbohydrates, or vitamins. With respect to the health of our thyroid gland, all that can be contained in a food are nutrients that provide us with a variety of health benefits but which, under certain circumstances, can also interfere with thyroid function. The term “goitrogenic food” makes it sound as if something is wrong with the food, but that is simply not the case. What causes problems for certain individuals is not the food itself but the mismatched nature of certain substances within the food to their unique health circumstances. For more, see an An Up-to-Date Look at Goitrogenic Substances in Food.

Nutritional Profile

 

Mustard greens are an excellent source of many vitamins including vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, folate, and vitamin E. They are also an excellent source of the minerals manganese and calcium as well as dietary fiber. They are also a very good source of potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, protein, copper, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2, and magnesium. Mustard greens are a good source of vitamin B1 and vitamin B3 (niacin).

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Mustard greens is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Mustard Greens
1.00 cup cooked
140.00 grams
21.00 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K 419.30 mcg 524.1 449.2 excellent
vitamin A 8852.20 IU 177.0 151.8 excellent
vitamin C 35.42 mg 59.0 50.6 excellent
folate 102.20 mcg 25.6 21.9 excellent
manganese 0.38 mg 19.0 16.3 excellent
fiber 2.80 g 11.2 9.6 excellent
calcium 103.60 mg 10.4 8.9 excellent
tryptophan 0.03 g 9.4 8.0 very good
vitamin E 1.69 mg 8.4 7.2 very good
potassium 282.80 mg 8.1 6.9 very good
vitamin B6 0.14 mg 7.0 6.0 very good
protein 3.16 g 6.3 5.4 very good
copper 0.12 mg 6.0 5.1 very good
phosphorus 57.40 mg 5.7 4.9 very good
iron 0.98 mg 5.4 4.7 very good
vitamin B2 0.09 mg 5.3 4.5 very good
magnesium 21.00 mg 5.2 4.5 very good
vitamin B1 0.06 mg 4.0 3.4 good
vitamin B3 0.61 mg 3.0 2.6 good

 

World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
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