More pungent in taste than closely related greens like kale, cabbage and collard greens, the bitter quality of mustard greens is a sign of their high phytonutrient content.
Why are mustard greens good for you?
They’re are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants, including glucosinolates and polyphenols, yet because of their slimming calorie count, mustard greens nutrition-to-calorie ratio makes them one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Research shows that these leafy greens are brimming with plant-based substances that may help protect you from a number of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
What Are Mustard Greens?
Mustard greens come from a variety of plants that are known as brassica juncea. There are many different types of mustard greens, which range in terms of size, color and taste.
Most types are dark green, but red and purple types also exist. Some of the many species of mustard greens grown around the world include:
- Chinese Green Mustard
- Southern Giant Curled Mustard
- Ethiopian Mustard
- Florida Broadleaf
- Osaka Purple-Leaved
- Red Giant
Mustard plants are members of the Brassicaceae plant family. Brassica juncea is also commonly known around the world as Chinese mustard, Indian mustard, leaf mustard, Oriental mustard and vegetable mustard.
History and Facts
The mustard plant is cultivated for several food uses, including for its green leaves and seeds and to produce mustard oil.
Do mustard seeds come from mustard greens?
The leaves, seeds and stem of the mustard plant are edible and used in a variety of ways across the world, such as in Africa, Italy and Korea. Most famously, mustard seeds are used as a spice and combined with water, vinegar or other liquids to make the condiment simply known as “mustard.”
Mustard greens have been consumed for over 5,000 years and originated in the Himalayan region of India. Today, India, Nepal, China and Japan are the leading producers of mustard greens, but a substantial amount are grown in the U.S. as well as in Russia and elsewhere.
Mustard oil, which is known as one of the best vegetable oils in Russia, is used in canning, baking and margarine production. Mustard oil is also popular in Eastern India.
In Europe, mustard plants are used primarily for their seeds in order to make mustard, which is one of the few spices that are locally grown.
What are the health benefits of mustard greens?
Like almost all leafy green vegetables, mustard greens contain antioxidants that protect your body from free radical damage. They’re also a great source of fiber, which helps regulate your digestive tract and lower high cholesterol levels.
They’ve historically been associated with preventing arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, lung diseases and more.
Loaded with disease-fighting nutrition, mustard greens are full of great peppery, rich flavor, yet they are very light in calories, so you can eat as much as you want.
Related: Nasturtium: The Medicinal Herb With an Antioxidant-Rich, Flavorful Kick
One cup (about 56 grams) of chopped, raw mustard greens nutrition contains approximately:
- 14.6 calories
- 2.7 grams carbohydrates
- 1.5 grams protein
- 0.1 grams fat
- 1.8 grams fiber
- 278 micrograms vitamin K (348 percent DV)
- 5,881 international units vitamin A (118 percent DV)
- 39.2 milligrams vitamin C (65 percent DV)
- 105 micrograms folate (26 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams manganese (13 percent DV)
- 1.1 milligrams vitamin E (6 percent DV)
- 57.7 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
- 198 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams iron (5 percent DV)
Meanwhile, one cup (about 140 grams) of boiled mustard greens nutrition contains approximately:
- 21 calories
- 2.9 grams carbohydrates
- 3.2 grams protein
- 0.3 grams fat
- 2.8 grams fiber
- 419 micrograms vitamin K (524 percent DV)
- 8,853 international units vitamin A (177 percent DV)
- 35.4 milligrams vitamin C (59 percent DV)
- 102 micrograms folate (26 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams manganese (19 percent DV)
- 104 milligrams calcium (10 percent DV)
- 1.7 milligrams vitamin E (8 percent DV)
- 283 milligrams potassium (8 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (7 percent DV)
- 57.4 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams copper (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams riboflavin (5 percent DV)
- 1 milligram iron (5 percent DV)
- 21 milligrams magnesium (5 percent DV)
Related: Tatsoi: The Immune-Boosting, Heart-Healthy Benefits of ‘Vitamin Green’
Mustard Greens vs. Spinach vs. Collard Greens
Are collard greens and mustard greens the same?
No, the two come from different plants, although they are related and both belong to the Brassica oleracea species. Collards are members of the cabbage family that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi and kale.
How does collard greens nutrition compare to mustard greens nutrition?
Collard greens are unique because they’re rich in sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which are linked to detoxification, immune support and even cancer protection. They are one of the best sources of vitamins C, K and A and are rich is soluble fiber.
Other antioxidant and anti-cancer properties of these greens are due to the presence of compounds called diindolylmethane and sulforaphane. Collards have a milder and earthier taste than mustard greens and a thicker texture with “veins” running through the leaves.
How does spinach compare to mustard greens?
The two are similar in terms of calories, fiber, protein and carbs. They even look similar, although spinach has a milder, less spicy taste.
Both are great sources of vitamin K, vitamin A and folate. Spinach has a bit more manganese, calcium, riboflavin, potassium and magnesium, although you can obtain many of these nutrients from mustard greens nutrition too.
1. High Levels of Antioxidants
Mustard greens nutrition contains a very high level of antioxidants, some of which include a number of phenolic compounds as well as vitamin A and vitamin C, which help prevent certain types of cell damage and DNA mutation. A 2017 study published in the journal Molecules found that mustard green cultivars contain antioxidants, including:
- aliphatic glucosinolate
One of the most researched mustard greens benefits is this veggie’s ability to defend against free radical damage, or oxidative stress. When certain types of oxygen molecules are allowed to travel freely in the body, they cause the formation of free radicals.
Free radicals are very dangerous to the body’s cells and tissues, and they’re connected to cancer development, neurodegenerative diseases and premature aging. Studies show that the antioxidants found in mustard greens nutrition can protect your body from these health concerns by combating free radical damage, reducing inflammation, and protecting healthy cells throughout the digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system.
2. Support Liver Function
Mustard greens support liver health due to their anti-inflammatory effects and because they’re high in plant chlorophyll, which is beneficial for detoxification. They also possess a distinct ability to neutralize heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides that are in your body.
Findings from one study even indicate that food sources that yield chlorophyll derivatives may play a significant role in cancer prevention.
3. Help Lower Cholesterol and Support Heart Health
Mustard greens have a special ability to increase bile binding, especially when they are cooked.
For those with high cholesterol, they either don’t produce enough bile or have difficulty converting cholesterol into bile acids. This is usually due to a high consumption of fats and not enough dark leafy greens in their diets or a dysfunction of the liver or colon.
Mustard greens continue to be researched for their ability to increase this bile acid production and decrease bad cholesterol. While bile acid is associated with an increased risk of cancer, bile acid binding helps lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.
A 2008 study found that the cholesterol-lowering ability of raw mustard greens improved significantly when the greens were steamed as opposed to eaten raw.
Folate found in mustard greens is also linked in heart health and can help prevent an increase of homocysteine, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk.
4. Packed with Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are the natural chemicals that are found in plant foods. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats — and also have benefits for the human body.
Research has shown that a diet high in phytonutrients from plants is correlated with lower cancer and heart disease risk, can help prevent diabetes and obesity, and slows down the aging process of the brain. One study found that compounds within mustard greens and seeds can help reduce diabetes risk and diabetes-related complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
One group of beneficial compounds found in many cruciferous veggies, such as mustard greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, is called glucosinolates. The concentration depends on factors like freshness, storage and food processing.
Glucosinolates are broken down into indoles and isothiocyanates, which have been shown to protect cells from DNA damage and offset effects of carcinogens. They also have antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects; can induce cell death (apoptosis); and can help inhibit tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration, according to the Ackerman Cancer Center.
5. High in Fiber
Eating a high-fiber diet that includes a variety of green vegetables is beneficial for several reasons. It helps control cholesterol levels by interfering with its absorption in the gut.
Adequate fiber in the food aids in smooth bowel movements and thereby offers protection from hemorrhoids, constipation and colon disease like colon cancer.
Insoluble fiber found in mustard greens nutrition attracts water and helps soften stools, allowing for better elimination of waste. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can help lower the amount of toxins in your digestive tract, lower high blood pressure and normalize serum cholesterol levels.
This is one reason why studies have found that individuals with high intakes of dietary fiber appear to be at a significantly lower risk for developing many diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain gastrointestinal diseases.
Eating leafy greens may also offer protection against weight gain and obesity, due to their filling quality and low calorie density. Mustard greens are aa great choice for those following many different diets, including low-carb diets, the keto diet, vegan/vegetarian diets, the Paleo diet, etc.
6. High in Bone-Building Vitamin K
Mustard greens nutrition provides three to five times the daily recommended value of vitamin K. Vitamin K is one of the main vitamins involved in bone mineralization, blood clotting and even removes calcium from areas of the body where it shouldn’t be.
Moreover, it also helps support both brain function and healthy metabolism, and it protects against cancer.
Some studies posit that high intakes of vitamin K can stop further bone loss in people with osteoporosis. There’s also evidence that vitamin K is a critical nutrient for reducing inflammation and protecting cells that line blood vessels, including both veins and arteries.
Vitamin K can even help reduce PMS cramps and other menstrual pains by regulating the function of your hormones. It’s also responsible for helping prevent and heal bruises, too.
7. Good Source of Immune-Boosting Nutrients
There’s evidence that mustard greens may help protect against certain types of cancer, including colon and lung cancer. According to a 2012 abstract:
The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health have been somewhat linked to phytochemicals. They prevent oxidative stress, induce detoxification enzymes, stimulate immune system, decrease the risk of cancers, inhibit malignant transformation and carcinogenic mutations, as well as, reduce proliferation of cancer cells.
The vitamin C that’s present in mustard greens nutrition is also a great way to support your immune system, skin, eyes and more. Studies suggest that vitamin C can repair and maintain your teeth and bones, slow and prevent cell damage in your body, maintain healthy body tissues, boost your immune system, help fight off free radicals, build collagen, and help maintain blood vessels.
8. Provide Skin and Eye Health Protection
Mustard greens nutrition contains more than your entire daily value of vitamin A in just one cup of cooked greens. Vitamin A plays a critical role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function and skin, and it is involved in reducing inflammation.
Consuming foods high in vitamin A, plus other antioxidants, is a way to help naturally slow aging and defend against infections, the common cold, etc.
Studies have repeatedly shown that antioxidants like vitamin A are vital to good health and longevity. They benefit eye health, boost immunity, fight skin cancer and foster cell growth.
Mustard greens nutrition also contains a high level of skin-protecting vitamin C. Vitamin C helps build collagen in the skin, which in turn helps produce firm, healthy skin and prevents loss of elasticity.
Because they reduce inflammation, both vitamin A and vitamin C can help clear acne and other skin problems.
Related: The Antioxidant Power of Swiss Chard Nutrition
How to Select
When shopping for mustard greens, look for fresh mustard greens that have crispy and dark green leaves. Avoid leaves that are spotted, discovered or yellow.
Because mustard greens are winter crops, they taste the best during cooler months, usually from about November to March in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
How do you store mustard greens?
In order to maximize the nutrients that are available in mustard greens, eat them soon after buying. They will wilt quickly, so store them in the refrigerator (for about three days) or a cool place.
You can dampen a paper towel and wrap them around cleaned greens, then store in your refrigerator for several days.
How to Use
What Do Mustard Greens Taste Like?
Mustard greens have a strong scent and peppery flavor, similar to horseradish. Their sharp flavor is sometimes toned down by adding them to milder greens or traditionally cooking them with tasty sources of fat.
How do you get the bitterness out of mustard greens? In other words, how do you make mustard greens less spicy?
The spiciness found in mustard greens can be reduced by adding an acid toward the end of cooking, like vinegar or lemon juice. Traditionally, these greens were cooked with pork or bacon to balance their flavor.
To create a milder flavor and avoid pork, try seasoning them with some beef bacon, onions and red pepper flakes or stewing with some sliced grass-fed beef femur bones, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, onion, garlic and even adding some 80/20 ground chuck steak to bring the level of acidity in the greens down.
How Do You Eat Mustard Greens? Is It OK to Eat Raw Mustard Greens?
There are a number of ways to enjoy mustard greens. They can be eaten raw and added to salads or juices, or they can be added to a stir-fry or steamed.
Most people prefer the taste of cooked mustard greens, especially when paired with ingredients like onion, tomato, garlic or a bit of butter.
How to Clean Mustard Greens
When preparing mustard greens, make sure to wash them thoroughly in order to clean them of sand, soil, surface dust and insecticide residue (the latter if they’re not organic). You can do this by running them under clean water or leaving them in a bowl of clean water before cooking.
How to Cook Mustard Greens
The spicy taste of mustard greens combined with milder flavors creates a well-balanced and layered dish. Here are some cooking ideas that you can try in your kitchen:
- Sauté mustard greens instead of boiling them to retain their flavor. They can be sautéed with garlic and a bit of oil, and then you can add salt and pepper for extra flavor. You can also season sautéed mustard greens with curry powder, red pepper flakes or fresh lemon juice.
- An easy way to take advantage of mustard greens nutrition is by making juices with these vitamin-packed greens. You can juice mustard greens by combining them with an array of fruits and veggies.
- Try combining mustard greens with carrots, cucumbers, celery, apple, lemon or ginger. You can cut down on the peppery taste of mustard greens by adding less intense leafy greens, like spinach or kale.
- Another great way to pack these antioxidant-rich greens into your daily meal plan is by using them to make a soup. The options are endless! Use lentils or white beans, and add veggie stock and chopped mustard greens.
- Add the meat of your choice to any soup, like turkey, pork or chicken. Add tofu or noodles to your mustard green soup, or concoct a soup with carrots, celery, onions and mustard greens.
Related: Chickweed: The Edible Weed that Supports Gut, Skin & Immune Health
Today, mustard greens are added to a variety of healthy dishes around the world. Each country has unique ways of incorporating these nutritious greens into its culture.
In Africa, people add mustard greens to fish, like a famous meal called sarson da saag. In India, the stem of the plant is pickled, and in China the seeds are used to make mustard.
The mustard that is made from these seeds is called brown mustard. In Gorkhas of Darjeeling and Sikkim, mustard greens are eaten with relish and steamed rice, and they also eat them with grilled bread.
In Japan, mustard greens are added to stir-fried dishes, and the Japanese also make a stew with mustard greens, tamarind, meat and dried chili peppers.
In soul food cooking, which is popular in the Southern states of the U.S., mustard greens are flavored by being cooked with ham hocks or smoked pork for hours. Popular Southern mustard greens recipes include greens cooked with onion, vinegar, chicken stock and thick bacon (you can sub in turkey bacon for a healthier twist).
Try adding mustard greens to these recipes to boost the nutritional punch of your meals:
- Apple, Quinoa and Greens Salad
- Raw Veggie Salad
- The peppery taste of mustard greens would be an awesome addition to this Chicken Vegetable Soup
- If you don’t mind the strong taste, try adding mustard greens in some of these Green Smoothie Recipes
- Indian mustard greens recipe made with garlic, jalapeno, onion and ginger
- Chinese mustard greens recipe made with sesame oil, garlic, ginger and red chilies
- Louisiana mustard greens recipe with smoked turkey and creole seasoning
What can you use instead of mustard greens?
Other greens that work well in place of mustard greens include radish greens, spinach, kale, bok choy and collards. If you’re looking for another green that has the same peppery taste, radish greens are a good option, while spinach and kale are milder.
Risks and Side Effects
Reheating mustard green leftovers may cause a conversion of nitrates to nitrites, and certain bacteria may form because of this. These compounds may be harmful to your health when eaten in large amounts, so try to eat your mustard greens soon after cooking them if possible.
Because of the vitamin K that is found in mustard greens nutrition, if you eat them in high volumes you may experience a change in the way your blood clots. You’ll want to avoid this if you are on blood-thinner medications, such as Warfarin.
Certain people who have issues with oxalate urinary tract stones should avoid eating vegetables belonging to Brassica family, like mustard greens, because the natural substances found in the vegetable may lead to the crystallization of oxalate stones.
- Can you eat mustard plant leaves? Yes!
- These peppery greens are known as mustard greens and come from the same plant that produces mustard seeds, used as a spice and to make the condiment, as well as mustard oil.
- Mustard greens nutrition is beneficial due to this veggie’s high antioxidant content, fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and more.
- Mustard greens benefits include supporting liver function, balancing cholesterol, supporting eye and skin health, defending against conditions like cancer and heart disease, and facilitating digestion thanks to fiber.