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All About Mustard Greens

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

October 20, 2017

Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan region of India more than 5,000 years ago, and are also called Indian mustard, Chinese mustard, or leaf mustard due to their horseradish-mustard flavor. They are high in fiber, folate, copper, calcium, iron, manganese, and vitamins K, A, C, E, and B6.  Depending upon the age of the leaves, they can be eaten as microgreens, salad garnishes or as part of a stir fry.

Studies have shown that mustard greens can lower high cholesterol because they bind to bile acid in the intestine, facilitating the excretion of unused bile acid through stool. Since cholesterol is one of the main ingredients in bile acid, the total body’s cholesterol pool is reduced when bile acid is lost.

Mustard greens are also a great source of glucosinolates, which are found in many cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Concentration of glucosinolates varies with the vegetables’ freshness, storage, and food processing. During food preparation, when you chew, and as you digest the food, glucosinolates are broken down into indoles and isothiocyanates. In animals, indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to effectively protect cells from DNA damage and inactivate carcinogens. They also have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects, induce cell death (apoptosis), and inhibit tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration (which is needed for metastasis). However, studies in humans have shown mixed results. This may be related to the broad variety of our diets and exposure to other factors that could be hard to monitor and control, especially when compared to animal models in labs. This, in the end, may alter final outcomes.

When choosing mustard greens, make sure you get strong, green leaves with no blemishes, yellowing or withering. Discard any bruised or yellow leaves. To store, remove bands or ties and gently wrap unwashed mustard greens in a paper towel and store loosely in plastic bags. Keep them in the lower part of the refrigerator in a high-humidity bin and store for up to five days. Rinse well before using to remove any leftover dirt.

Fresh, tender mustard greens can be eaten raw in salads or juiced with other greens and vegetables. They are also good stewed, fried, or steamed and mixed with other greens like spinach or fenugreek. The peppery flavor of mustard greens is easily balanced out with a combination of butter, tomato, garlic, and onion, and is delicious with pork.

Important Notes:

  • The high phytate and dietary fiber content in mustard greens may interfere with your absorption of iron, calcium, and magnesium.
  • People with known oxalate urinary tract stones should avoid eating vegetables belonging to Brassica family, including mustard greens.
  • If you are taking anticoagulants such as warfarin, you should be aware that mustard greens have a high content of vitamin K and may change your coagulation times.

Recipe of the Week: Stir-Fried Chinese Mustard Greens

4 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
Small handful of dried red chili peppers, deseeded and cut
1¼ pounds mustard greens, thoroughly washed and cut into small (about 1 cm long) pieces
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon organic chicken bouillon (optional)

1.Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili peppers and cook for about a minute, being sure to avoid burning the garlic.
2.Add the mustard greens and turn the heat up to the highest setting. Add the sugar, sesame oil, salt, and organic chicken bouillon (if using). Stir and mix well.
3.Cover the lid and let cook for about 45 seconds to a minute. Uncover and stir the greens one more time. Plate and serve immediately.


Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N

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