Asian greens include a number of varieties which derive from southeast Asia. With centuries of cultivation and culinary related uses, you will be hard pressed to discover all the ways in which to use this broad class of leafy vegetables. The popularity of Asian greens has risen dramatically over the past few years, with the number of variations found outside of Asia increasing in what seems like a daily basis. Each variety tends to have a thousand aliases, so the following guide might help you distinguish some of the common traits of Asian greens.
Chinese Cabbage, also known as Napa Cabbage, is a barrel shaped variety with is mild to the taste and crunch in texture. Choy Sum is a slightly bitter variety with tender leaves and thick stems. Chrysanthemum greens, also known as crown daisies, remain a tangy variety of Asian greens. Great served in tempura or in a soup, Chrysanthemum leaves are flat and serrated in nature. Mizuna is a Japanese Asian green with means “water vegetable”. Containing stalks which are exceptionally juicy, these peppery leaves are common in Japanese cooking. Finally, pea shoots are another common type of Asian greens. A popular ingredient in Vietnamese cooking, the tender shoots include a delicious pea flavor which is sure to enhance any salad or soup.
Asian greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. Asian greens are also a great source of fiber, beta carotene, iron, calcium, potassium, lutein, folate and chlorophyll.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A, when converted into retinaldehyde, is a vital compound for healthy eyes. Furthermore, vitamin A is believed to fight against cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Vitamin A strengthens the membranes of the human body such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts. It is also essential for the lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that fight infection once in the body.
Vitamin C – Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infections and scavenges harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Vitamin C also helps to prevent respiratory problems such as asthma and lung cancer. Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure, and therefore lessen the probability of hypertension.
Vitamin K – Vitamin-K plays an important role in bone metabolism by promoting osteotrophic activity in bone cells. Vitamin K also acts to clot open wounds and prevent excessive bleeding. Healthy vitamin K levels lower the release of the glycoprotein interleukin-6, a marker of inflammation within the body.
Vitamin E – Research has shown that vitamin E possesses anti-inflammatory effects that can combat arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, and other inflammatory disorders linked to chronic inflammation. Vitamin E also improves the body’s metabolic function.
Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 helps to keep your immune system in good working order. It aids in the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and amino acids while helping to maintain the health of lymph nodes. Additionally, vitamin B6 helps to regulate blood glucose levels.
Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 helps to preserve neurological function and DNA synthesis. It also plays a key role in the health of red blood cells. The nervous system relies on vitamin B12 for proper function as well.
Dietary Fiber – Dietary Fiber stimulates digestion and peristalsis, helping to relieve indigestion and constipation problems.
Beta Carotene – Beta carotene has been well-studied as a dietary antioxidant. Carotenoids are also thought to benefit eye health. Some studies support a role of carotenoids in reducing macular degeneration.
Potassium – Potassium is an essential mineral which aids in fluid regulation, protein synthesis and cardiovascular health. High levels of potassium are associated with reduced risk for stroke, improved blood pressure control as well as bone health.
Iron –Iron, found in red blood cells, is an integral part of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells. Iron is an essential component of many enzymes necessary for various chemical reactions in the body.
Calcium – Calcium is an important mineral for bone and teeth growth and maintenance. It is also an important mineral in terms of cardiovascular function.
Since Chinese Greens can easily be grown in greenhouses during the winter and in fields during the summer, this leafy vegetable is available all year round.
Per 1 Cup (56 grams):
Calories (cKal): 50
Protein (grams): 1.51
Total Fat (grams): .11
Carbohydrates (grams): 2.74
Fiber (grams): 1.8
Buying and Storing
When buying Asian greens, make sure the leaves are not yellow in color, wilted or damaged. Available year round, Asian greens make a great addition to any summertime meal, soup or simply steamed. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, or for no more than five days if needed. Once the leaves begin to brown in the refrigerator, make sure to use them the same day of discard.
Best Way to Add to Diet
There are many ways to add Asian greens to your diet. First, make sure to wash all Asian greens under cold water to remove dirt, debris and pests. Pat dry before adding to a salad, soup or sauté pan. Make sure to cut or shred the leaves before adding to your meal.