Indian greens beat kale hands down. Here’s why

There has been an explosion of kale over the past few years, but look around you, and you’ll find a range of Indian greens that are more nutritious!
methi leaves
Methi is packed with nutrition! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Lovneet Batra Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 13:53 pm IST
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The past decade has seen a kale explosion of sorts. What was once an uncommon green that could be found in select health food stores and cafes has suddenly become mainstream and trendy. It all started with salads, juices and smoothies – and then took on all kinds of shapes and forms, from pesto to chips and powder. 

You won’t be hard pressed to find kale chips on Indian store shelves, either. And many farms in India have started growing it, using aquaponics and other methods. No doubt, it’s a great food to include in your diet: it contains vitamins A, B6, C and K; minerals like calcium, copper, manganese and potassium. Moreover, it is rich in fibre and low in calories and carbohydrates, making it a diabetic and weight-friendly vegetable. 

Also, read: Here are 4 reasons why you MUST make green peas a part of your diet

But it’s not something we, as Indians, have grown up on. While it is cultivated in the subcontinent today, it’s not native to India – which often explains why it’s double the price of palak. Consuming foods native to your region is better in the long run, as these foods are suited to the climate and have more nutritional value. And India has a wide variety of greens that are just as nutritious as kale – and tastier! 

1. Amaranth greens
Nutrients: Potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin E

Amaranth or rajgira leaves look quite similar to palak or spinach and pack quite a punch, nutrition-wise. They contain a wide range of health-essential nutrients such as iron, potassium and Vitamin C. They also contain higher levels of tocotrienols, a type of vitamin E that helps lower bad cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that amaranth leaves can regulate blood sugar levels. These leaves are rich in dietary fibre and easily digestible, making them ideal for children, elders and anyone with digestive issues.

How to have it: You can prepare it as a sabzi, stir-fry or soup. 

2. Beetroot greens
Nutrients: Vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E

The leaves of this ruby red root vegetable actually contain more carotenoids than most tubers! Beet greens have a host of health benefits: the nutrients they contain can cure and prevent several illnesses, including anaemia, blood pressure, cancer, dandruff, gastric ulcers, kidney ailments, liver toxicity or bile ailments like jaundice, hepatitis and food poisoning.

indian greens
Beetroot can have multiple benefits for your skin! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

For women, it’s a great food for anti-ageing and bone health. Vitamin C is anti-inflammatory in nature and great for skin anti-ageing. And the high amount of vitamin K (up to 300%) improves the absorption of calcium, which is necessary for strengthening bone tissue, making it a preventive agent against the development of osteoporosis.

How to have it: You can prepare it as a sabzi, stir-fry or soup.

3. Kalmi (water spinach)
Nutrients: Vitamin A, antioxidants, minerals

Water spinach has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of jaundice and liver problems for years. Kalmi is rich in antioxidants and has the ability to modulate detoxification enzymes, which is why its extract is used to protect against chemical-induced liver damage. 

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Also, read: On Teej, here’s how to go green with your diet!

Consuming it on a regular basis can also help build resistance against diabetes-induced oxidative stress. (It is also used in the treatment of diabetes in pregnant women). Water spinach also has several healing properties and is effective in treating ulcers, menstrual pains and toothache. It also works as a natural sedative for those who have trouble sleeping.

How to have it: You can prepare it as a sabzi (not to be confused with kalmi kabab).

4. Fenugreek leaves
Nutrients: Vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, carotenes, minerals

Methi is a tiny leaf that has tremendous nutritional benefits. In addition to the vitamins mentioned above, it also contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and manganese. Methi works to lower LDL cholesterol levels. It also aids in insulin production and is low on the glycemic index, making it a good food to include for diabetics. It also has a good amount of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, which aids in digestion and smooth bowel movements.

indian greens
Say yes to fenugreek leaves to say goodbye to dry brittle hair also! Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

How to have it: Use it to make aloo-methi, sabzis, in curries and even dal.

5. Radish leaves
Nutrients: Copper, vitamin A, selenium

These peppery leaves are a major immunity booster with essential vitamins and minerals. It’s rich in copper which is necessary for survival – it plays a key role in making red blood cells, and maintaining our cells and immune system. Radish leaves also contain selenium, a potent nutritional antioxidant that strongly influences inflammation and immune response. These leaves also have vitamin A – a micronutrient that promotes cell growth and development, in addition to regulating cellular immune response. 

How to have it: Use mooli leaves in stir-fries, add them to sabzi or make chutney.

6. Drumstick leaves
Nutrients: Copper, selenium, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids

The West is waking up to moringa or drumstick leaves now, but we’ve had them in our backyard for years! The drumstick plant is completely edible – the seeds, flowers, leaves and stems. The fruit is commonly used in sambar, but the leaves are a nutrition power-player. They contain copper, selenium, vitamin A and Omega-3s, all of which help boost immunity. 

How to have it: Use leaves to make sabzi, curry, chutney or juice. You can also add it to sambar and tadka dal. 

indian greens
Add drumsticks to your diet. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
7. Pumpkin leaves
Nutrients: Vitamin C, vitamin E

Yes, kaddu leaves are edible, and a great source of vitamins C and E. Vitamin E isn’t just great for the skin, it also offers protection against infectious diseases and enhances the body’s immune response. Vitamin C benefits cellular function and protects the body against oxidative stress, thereby playing a key role in immune-modulation. 

How to have it: You can enjoy pumpkin leaves as a stir-fry, sabzi or in a soup. 

So, this season, keep the kale out of your shopping bag and pick up a handful of desi greens from your sabjiwala – it will be just as tasty, and twice as healthy! 

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About the Author

Lovneet Batra is one of Delhi’s most insightful nutritionist and columnist. She holds a BS and MS in Dietetics from Michigan State University and believes in a sustainable, ‘no deprivation’ approach to a meaningful, long-lasting lifestyle makeover. Going beyond fads & myths, she makes nutrition simple and straight. A nutritionist who believes good food and good health are best buddies, she begins her day with a “paneer paratha” for the breakfast because it keeps her happy, full and energized for the rest of the day. For her, nutrition is delicious & doable. ...Read More

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