The cholesterol-lowering ability of collard greens may be the greatest of all commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. In a recent study, steamed collard greens outshined steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage in terms of its ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract. When this 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 collards show much greater bile acid binding ability than raw collards.
Unlike broccoli and kale and cabbage, you won’t find many research studies devoted to the specific health benefits of collard greens. However, collard greens are sometimes included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that are lumped together and examined for the health benefits they provide. 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.
If you want to include collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis to receive the fantastic health benefits provided then, at a minimum, have 2-3 servings per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Try using collard greens in place of spinach, like in egg scrambles, soups, stir frys even as wraps! They stay much firmer and don’t have a very strong taste.
It is very important not to overcook collard greens. Like other cruciferous vegetables overcooked collard greens will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooking. To help collard greens to cook more quickly, evenly slice the leaves into ½-inch slices and the stems into 1/4-inch pieces. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities and steam for 5 minutes.