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Muster Your Immunity With Mustard Greens: Benefits + Recipes

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachelle Caves , RDN, CNSC, CPT
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Muster Your Immunity With Mustard Greens: Benefits + Recipes January 4, 2019

These leaves lift most dishes to a whole new level. After spinach, amaranth, lettuce, and pak choi, the greens that are loved across the globe are mustard greens. They’re a class apart!

If you want to explore Asian cuisine, mustard greens will make the best ‘first choice’. Read this article to find killer recipes with mustard greens. I’ve also got some general information about mustard greens for you, generously sprinkled with science and facts. Scroll away!

Table Of Contents

What Are Mustard Greens?

Coming from the Brassica family, mustard greens (Brassica juncea) are a cool-season crop like cabbage, kale, and collards. A native to the temperate regions of Europe, mustard greens were one of the first crops to be domesticated. These greens are super-quick to grow and are not very fussy about the sun, soil, and manure. There are many varieties of these greens out there – each having a distinct taste and appearance. These greens are becoming more popular because they need minimal cooking – a quick stir-fry, and they’re done!

The leaves are widely grown in Asia, North Africa, Europe, and some parts of America. In fact, ancient Greeks and Romans used mustard seeds and paste in their preparations.

The leaves are of different types – let’s look at them in detail now.

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What Are The Types Of Mustard Greens? How Can You Identify Them?

Mature mustard greens come in different varieties and are divided according to their appearance and taste.

The popular varieties are Fordhook Fancy, Green Wave, Osaka Purple, Florida Broadleaf, Tendergreen II, Tendergreen, and Southern Giant Curled.

The leaves can have curled ends and elongated petioles (like cabbage or pak choi). They could be purple or green and have a smooth and flat surface. They also feel small and hairy.

With mustard as a condiment (Brassica rapa and Brassica juncea), you have yellow, black, brown, and oriental varieties of seeds. They are used to make sauces, dips, base oils, and pastes of varying degrees of pungency and odor (2).

It’s a wide range of greens to choose from. But why should you consider eating these greens? Are they any good? Of course, yes! Scroll down for some science!

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7 Super-Good Benefits Of Mustard Greens

1. Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Mustard greens contain nitrates and magnesium, essential fatty acids, and important phytochemicals – all of which are crucial to heart health.

Adequate nitrate intake ensures there is enough nitrite and nitric oxide in your blood and tissues. And the magnesium in the greens may help control hypertension – thanks to its ability to dilate blood vessels. Dietary fiber is another element in mustard greens that keeps the blood cholesterol in check.

The potent antioxidants in the leaves counter the ill effects of free radicals, keeping your heart healthy (3).

2. Improve Skin Health and Glow

Improve Skin Health and Glow Pinit

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Mustard greens are especially rich in vitamins A, C, and K that are potent antioxidants. They fight free radicals and flush out the heavy metal ions and other toxic intermediates polluting your bloodstream. The result includes potential reduction of wrinkles, pimples, breakouts, fine lines, and dark spots.

The vitamin A and carotenoids in the greens also prevent skin cancers (4).

3. Boost Vision Health

Mustard greens contain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for vision health. These prevent age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts. They may also play a role in combating conditions such as glaucoma and retinoblastoma effectively, while protecting your eyes from several carcinogenic agents (5).

4. Lower Cholesterol And Enhances Bile Interaction

Hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol levels) may increase risk of heart disease. Mustard greens may help increase a process called “bile binding” which in turn helps lower cholesterol. This is especially true for cooked mustard greens.

Steaming mustard greens for about 20 minutes can loosen up the cell walls and release the fiber and phytochemicals. Cooked greens interact better with bile juices and prevent cholesterol accumulation. Adding boiled mustard leaves to your diet helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and protects your liver (6).

5. Improve Cognition And Memory

Improve Cognition And Memory Pinit

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With age come memory loss and impaired control and coordination. And studies show us the positive impact of green leafy vegetables (like mustard greens) on the brain and cognition.

Adults who ate one cup of boiled greens every day fared better in memory tests than their counterparts. The results showed the brain to be 11 years younger in terms of cognition! Though there could be other factors at play, mustard greens sure have a role (7).

Mustard greens, kale, spinach, collards, cabbage, and others are rich in folate and vitamin A. They also contain iron and calcium that are essential for brain development in children and adults (7).

6. Fight Cancer

Cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are responsible for their characteristic pungent aroma and characteristic bitter flavor.

When you chew and digest these veggies, the glucosinolates in them break down to form active compounds like indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates. These compounds inhibit cancer development and DNA damage in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.

Mustard greens boost your immunity by supplying the key nutrients in abundance. This way, they reduce the risk of cancer and other inflammatory disorders (4), (8).

7. Treat Constipation and Hemorrhoids

The fiber in the greens helps ease bowel movements. A cup of boiled mustard leaves has about 3 g of fiber, which promotes regularity.

The water-soluble fiber prevents fat accumulation in the intestines. This way, it prevents constipation and cuts down the risk of colorectal inflammation and subsequent hemorrhoids.

For the kind of favors they do to your body, mustard greens sure must have some serious nutritive value!

Along with fiber, what else do these leaves contain? Check out the next section for your answers!

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What Nutrients Are Present In Mustard Greens?

Look at the following tables for nutritive profiles of raw and cooked mustard greens per 100 g.

Nutrition Facts Serving Size 100g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 26Calories from Fat 2
% Daily Value*
Total Fat0%
Saturated Fat 0 g0%
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 25mg1%
Total Carbohydrate 5g2%
Dietary Fiber 3g13%
Sugars 2g
Protien 3g
Vitamin A210%
Vitamin C117%
Calcium10%
Iron8%
Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories26.0(109 kJ)1%
From Carbohydrate17.7(74.1 kJ)
From Fat1.7(7.1 kJ)
From Protein6.6(27.6 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Carbohydrates
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Carbohydrate4.9 g2%
Dietary Fiber3.3 g13%
Starch0.0 g
Sugars1.6 g
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Fat0.2 g0%
Saturated Fat0.0 g0%
Monounsaturated Fat0.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.0 g
Total trans fatty acids~
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids~
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids~
Total Omega-3 fatty acids18.0 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids20.0 mg
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein2.7 g5%
Vitamins
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A10502 IU210%
Vitamin C70.0 mg117%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)2.0 mg10%
Vitamin K497 mcg622%
Thiamin0.1 mg5%
Riboflavin0.1 mg6%
Niacin0.8 mg4%
Vitamin B60.2 mg9%
Folate187 mcg47%
Vitamin B120.0 mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid0.2 mg2%
Choline0.4 mg
Betaine~
Minerals
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium103 mg10%
Iron1.5 mg8%
Magnesium32.0 mg8%
Phosphorus43.0 mg4%
Potassium354 mg10%
Sodium25.0 mg1%
Zinc0.2 mg1%
Copper0.1 mg7%
Manganese0.5 mg24%
Selenium0.9 mcg1%
Fluoride~

When you boil the greens with a pinch of salt, this is how the numbers change:

NutrientAmount
Carbohydrates2 g
Dietary Fiber2 g
Protein2 g
Vitamin A6324 IU
Vitamin C25.3 g
Vitamin K300 mcg
Folate73 mcg
Calcium74 mg
Magnesium15 mg
Phosphorus41 mg
Potassium202 mg
Sodium252 mg
Iron0.7 mg
Manganese0.3 mg

By the way, it’s not just the micronutrients that give mustard greens all the goodness. The phytochemicals paint a better picture!

Flavonoids like quercetin, kaempferol, isorhamnetin, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and anthocyanins like pelargonidin, cyanidin, delphinidin, peonidin, petunidin, and malvidin are found in mustard leaves.

Phenolic acids like coumaric acid, sinapic acid, caffeoylquinic acid, and ferulic acid are also responsible for the potent antioxidant activity these leaves exhibit (9).

And how do we put all these characters into play?

Yes, by cooking up a storm with them. For which, you’ll have to stick with me to the end of next section. You can eat them raw too, but not many like their peppery pungency.

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2 Tasty And Easy Recipes With Mustard Greens

1. The Basic Mustard Green Sauté

The Basic Mustard Green Sauté Pinit

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What You’ll Need
  • Onions: ½ cup, thinly sliced
  • Garlic: 2 cloves, minced
  • Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Mustard greens: 1 pound, washed and torn into large pieces
  • Chicken broth or vegetable broth: 2 to 3 tablespoons
  • Salt: ¼ teaspoon or to taste
  • Pepper: ¼ teaspoon
  • Sesame oil: ¼ teaspoon
  • Sauté pan: Medium-large
Let’s Make It!
  1. To a large sauté pan, add olive oil and sauté the sliced onions over medium heat.
  2. Toss for 5 to 10 minutes until the onions begin to brown and caramelize.
  3. To this, add the minced garlic and cook for a minute until you can get the appetizing fragrance.
  4. Add the shredded mustard greens and the broth.
  5. Cook until the mustard greens are just barely wilted. Ensure they retain the crunchiness.
  6. Toss the cooked onions and greens with some sesame oil.
  7. Finally, season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve warm or cold with fresh bread slices or grated feta cheese.

2. Melting Mustard Greens: Asian Style!

Melting Mustard Greens Asian Style! Pinit

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What You’ll Need
  • Sesame seeds: 1 tablespoon
  • Asian (toasted) sesame oil: 1 teaspoon
  • Mustard greens: 6 cups, washed and chopped
  • Water: ¼ cup
  • Garlic: 1 teaspoon, minced
  • Soy sauce: 1 tablespoon
  • Japanese rice wine (mirin): 2 teaspoons
  • Sake (optional): 1 teaspoon
  • White sugar: 1 teaspoon
Let’s Make It!
  1. Add the sesame seeds to a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Stir continuously until the seeds are toasted to a golden brown. They’d make a continuous crackling noise.
  3. Transfer the seeds immediately to a bowl to stop the cooking process. Set them aside.
  4. To the same hot skillet, add some sesame oil and heat it. Do this just until the oil begins to emit vapors (the oil should be very hot).
  5. Place the mustard greens into the hot oil, and pour in the water.
  6. With a spatula, gently toss the greens until they wilt and shrink in quantity.
  7. Mix in the garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, sake, and sugar.
  8. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir until the sugar is dissolved, and cover the skillet.
  9. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the greens are tender – for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. If you like a thicker sauce, remove the greens with a slotted spoon and cook the liquid down to the desired thickness.
  11. Return the greens to the skillet, toss them well, and sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds.
  12. Serve piping hot alongside rice and fresh garden salad or tender sections of dressed salmon.

While cooking with mustard greens, you realize they take such little time to cook! Just toss or braise them in hot oil for about 3 to 4 minutes, and you are good to go. If you want to avoid oil, boil or steam these greens for about 20-30 minutes and add them to your dish.

For those of you that don’t like the peppery pungency or the bitter-bland taste of these greens, you can choose escarole, gai choy, kale, radish greens, spinach, or Swiss chard. Though these have similar color, you might miss out on the texture and taste.

Since they make an ideal veggie by providing significant health benefits, would it be fine we took about 500 g of mustard greens every day?

Just because something is good in small quantities, doesn’t always mean an overdose would give better results. Same is the case with mustard greens.

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Are There Any Side Effects Of Having Mustard Greens?

There are very few incidences where mustard greens were found to be fatal. Eating them in the right quantity, about half to one cup of cooked greens a day, should keep all the troubles away.

If you are allergic to crucifers, stay away from mustard greens.

If you are undergoing treatment for cardiovascular diseases, consult your doctor for the right intake.

Mustard greens interfere with medications like warfarin that affect your blood composition consistency. This is because they are rich in vitamin K, an overdose (above 360 mcg/day) of which can cause hematological and cardiac disturbances (10). Hence, consult your doctor before consuming mustard greens if you are on a blood thinner, given their high vitamin K content.

In Short…

With proper intake and the right cooking methods, you can enjoy the goodness of mustard greens. These greens offer superior protection against cancer and free radical damage.

You can choose from a range of mustard green varieties as they are quick to grow, easy to harvest, and widely available. But keep in mind that pests and bores attack these greens frequently.

Always choose fresh, intact, wide, and dark green leaves for your cooking. Freezing is the best way to preserve a huge batch of mustard greens for a long time (11).

Try out the recipes I’ve shared with you and please write your feedback in the comments box below. Please feel free to share relevant facts about mustard greens, along with your suggestions and comments.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How can you store mustard greens for a longer period?

A. You can store unwashed greens in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They will keep for about 3 days. Try to wrap them in moist paper towels for extended storage, up to 5 days.
If you wish to freeze the mustard greens, blanch them thoroughly before freezing. Blanching is simply the immersing of leaves into scalding water and then into an ice water bath before freezing.

References

  1. Mustard” Alternative Field Crops Manual, University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota
  2. Mustard Greens and Condiment Mustard” Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University
  3. The effect of green leafy and cruciferous vegetables…” JRSM Cardiovascular Disease, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables” Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, United States Department of Agriculture
  5. Nutrition and the Aging Eye” NIH MedlinePlus, National Institute of Health and the Friends of National Library of Medicine
  6. Discover the Goodness of Cooked Greens” Health & Nutrition Letter, Tufts University
  7. Make Your Diet Greener” Health and Wellness, Rush University Medical Center
  8. Cruciferous Vegetables And Cancer Prevention” National Institute of Cancer, National Institute of Health
  9. Total isothiocyanate yield from raw cruciferous…” Journal of Functional foods, US National Library of Medicine
  10. The Safety of Cruciferous Plants…” Journal of Biomedicine and Biochemistry, US National Library of Medicine
  11. Watch Your Garden Grow” University of Illinois Extension

Disclaimer: “The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician before starting a diet, exercise, or supplement regimen. This article is intended for educational purposes only.”

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