Tacos made with leafy greens instead of tortillas.

Now that spring is here, you’re likely to start seeing more leafy greens—including lettuce, spinach, kale, and arugula—in your grocery store or at your local farmers market.

Greens are the foundation of many healthy, delicious salads, and a salad is an easy, nutritious way to use these veggies.

But not everyone is a salad person—or maybe you are, but by midsummer you’re burnt out even on the freshest concoctions. Fortunately, you have plenty of options for eating leafy greens other than in a salad.

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And it’s worth working them into your diet in as many ways as you can, says Maxine Siegel, R.D, head of the Consumer Reports food-testing lab. “Few other foods pack as many nutrients for so few calories as leafy greens,” she says.

To convince you, we’ve summarized some of the key science about the health benefits of greens. Plus, to jog your creativity, we’ve provided a few ideas for how eat more of them every day.

Why Greens Are Good

Scientists have identified a number of health benefits of leafy greens. A lot of research has centered on cruciferous vegetables, which include kale, cabbage, bok choy, and arugula, as well as broccoli and brussels sprouts. These veggies are some of the best sources of substances called glucosinolates, which have been frequently analyzed for their cancer-fighting properties, according to the National Cancer Institute. They are also responsible for the pungent flavor of cruciferous veggies.

While more research needs to be done, recent analyses of several studies have found that diets that include cruciferous vegetables may be linked to a reduced risk of colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian, and bladder cancers, and more.

Leafy greens have other benefits, too. Some of the latest research suggests that they may be good for your brain. A 2017 study in the journal Neurology found that eating raw lettuce or cooked kale, collard greens, or spinach was linked with a delay in cognitive decline. The researchers found that people who ate greens daily had the memory and thinking skills on par with people 11 years younger, though they noted that other factors could be at play.

And the American Heart Association includes leafy greens as components of a heart-healthy diet. That recommendation is backed up by plenty of research. For example, a detailed analysis of 95 studies of the connection between various fruits and vegetables and disease, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables were linked to a lowered risk of death from heart disease.

Even beyond their heart, brain, and cancer-fighting benefits, greens contain plenty of compounds necessary for overall health. “Leafy greens tend to be very high in vitamin K and folate,” notes Dana Hunnes, R.D., Ph.D., an adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA. Vitamin K helps the blood to clot properly, and folate is a type of B vitamin important for cell growth.

Getting the Most Out of Greens

How you prepare leafy greens can make a difference in their nutrition. For instance, boiling cruciferous veggies can cause them to lose some of their glucosinolates in the cooking water, according to Siegel, so a quick steam or stir-fry is best.

For other greens, however, cooking enhances nutrition. Take spinach: This leafy green contains calcium and iron, but when eaten raw, our bodies can’t absorb as much of those nutrients as when they’re cooked. Quickly blanching spinach is one of several cooking methods that appear to make more of the vegetable’s calcium and iron available for the body to use, Siegel says.

What you eat with greens with matters, too. For example, another way to enhance how much iron you absorb from greens such as spinach, kale, and chard is to pair them with a source of vitamin C, such as lemon or orange juice or red bell peppers. And absorption of other nutrients in leafy greens, including lutein—which is important for eye health—is enhanced when eaten with healthy fat, such as olive oil.

Ways to Use Leafy Greens

Toss them in. Whether you’re making an omelet, blending a smoothie, or cooking soup, adding whatever greens you have on hand is an easy way to work them in. If your pasta dish doesn’t call for them, no problem. Toss them into the cooking water 2 minutes before you drain the pasta, suggests Claudia Gallo, a chef and food tester at CR. Or add them to marinara sauce that you make ahead of time. Gallo also suggests using a food processor to chop leafy greens finely and adding them to turkey burgers, meatloaf, or meatballs. You can even add puréed spinach greens to brownie or muffin batter, Hunnes says.

Cook them on their own. Beet greens or arugula make a delicious side dish in their own right, Hunnes says. Simply sauté them with olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Or you can wilt the greens by pouring a warm vinaigrette dressing over them. Or try baking kale into chips. Toss the leaves with some olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Bake in a 375° F oven for 5 minutes, toss again, and bake for 7 to 9 more minutes.

Make smart substitutions. Instead of a tortilla with a taco or wrap, use leaves of lettuce. If you’re making pesto, try substituting some of the basil for another flavorful green, such as arugula or kale. The American Heart Association suggests cutting Swiss chard into ribbons, sautéing, and using in place of rice as a bed for seafood.

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