Unlike broccoli and kale and cabbage, you won’t find many research studies devoted to the specific health benefits of collard greens. Based on a very small number of studies looking specifically at collard greens, and a larger number of studies looking at cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including collard greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for collard greens with respect to their health benefits.
This connection between collard greens and cancer prevention should not be surprising since collard 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 collard greens: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.
What’s more, the thick leaves of collards are packed with cholesterol lowering soluble fiber, immune boosting vitamin c and the cancer fighting properties of sulforaphane and DIM. Sulforaphane is also known to lower blood glucose levels, which makes collard greens a healthy choice for diabetics.
As an excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, and a good source of vitamin E, collard greens provide us with 4 core conventional antioxidants. But the antioxidant support provided by collard greens extends far beyond the conventional nutrients.
As an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), collard 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.
Of particular interest here has been the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane, which is made from glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate) found in collard greens. Not only does this ITC trigger anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system, it may also be able to help prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage.
The fiber content of collard greens—over 5 grams in every cup—makes this cruciferous vegetable a natural choice for digestive system support. You’re going to get 85% of your Daily Value for fiber from only 200 calories’ worth of collard greens!