Tuesday, January 24, 2012


At the beginning of the world, five great rivalries were established. So intense were these conflicts that centuries later Chinese philosophers created the yin yang to help explain the delicate balance struck between each one. The eternal struggles of good and evil, light and darkness, peanut butter and chocolate I mean hot and cold, and dogs and cats have impacted human history in ways still unknown to us. However the oldest and most intense rivalry lies between Kale and Collards. These two dark leafy greens have been mortal enemies since they were first cultivated several centuries ago.

This rivalry runs deep within my group of friends. If you’re a fan of vegan cakes and sweets than you probably already know that my good friend Abby Bean has publically joined team Kale. On the other hand, my nutrition conscious friend Brian is a thorough supporter of collards. (Do note that I am slightly afraid to do this post as I would hate to learn that the only healthy food that A-Soy Bean eats is all a lie! Of course if we learn that kale is no healthier than cake, it would explain the Beans fondness for the cruciferous green.)

Both greens have their benefits but only one can rein supreme!

Kale is a green that grows in both summer time as well as in fall and winter, making it one hardy veggie! One of the most popular greens grown in Europe during the Middle Ages it's growth experienced a renaissance as it was encouraged by the British government during Dig for Victory, a campaign during the Second World War to ensure that rations would not negatively affect British citizens’ nutrition. Growing in nitrogen and lime rich soils, kale is a member of the cabbage family. Also know as borecole, there are several varieties and it even comes in two colors; purple and the more popular, green.

Collards have large, flat edible green leaves making them perfect for raw wraps. Grown in most parts of the world, collards are a cousin to kale, making their nutritional values similar. Having an upright stalk, collards, which is short for colewort, can grow up to two feet tall!

Ready and FIGHT!*

One cup of steamed kale contains roughly 36 calories. Lower in fiber than collards, kale has just 2.6 grams per cup. That said many of its mineral levels are also lower than collards. With 94 mg of calcium, 1.17 mg of iron, 23 mg of magnesium and 36 mg of phosphorus, kale packs a powerful punch. Kale really shines with its 296 mg of potassium and 53.3 mg of vitamin C. Potassium is particularly important in lowering risks of cardiovascular disease and is beneficial to athletes as it helps muscle contraction. One cup of Kale has just 1.9 grams of protein (which is actually a significant amount given it’s caloric weight).

In the other corner, weighing in at whooping 49 calories, we have Collards. Its 5.3 g of dietary fiber helps ensure healthy digestion. Collards also blows away its cousin in calcium, containing 266 mg of calcium, 2.2 mg of iron, 38 mg of magnesium and 57 mg of phosphorus. Collard greens also have roughly 3 grams of protein making this a true super food for athletes of all kinds. Kale just barely tips the scales to its advantage in potassium as collards have 220 and only 35 mg of vitamin C.

Both collards and kale have similar amounts of B-complex vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, folate and B-6. They both also have anticancer properties including antioxidants glucosinolates and diindolylmethane. Glucosinolates are responsible for the “spicy” flavor that these two cruciferous greens have. Diindolylmethane has recently been shown to promote a healthy immune system as well as having antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Ultimately, it is hard to determine a clear winner in this fight. Perhaps it comes down to taste preference. When in it’s raw state, I greatly prefer the taste of kale to collards, unless as mentioned above, the collards are used for a burrito-style wrap. 

However, according to Dr. Greger of nutritionfacts.org more nutrients are absorbed when slightly cooked- most-preferably steamed. Personally, I think collards have a slightly more refreshing taste when steamed. Microwaving will kill many of the nutrients. With that in mind, based off these numbers I would suggest choosing collards slightly more often than kale.

Perhaps it is best not to become too wedded to either team Kale or team Collards. I mean both are far healthier than nearly any other food on the planet! Whole Foods’ Aggregate Nutrient Density Index or the ANDI system gives both Collards and Kale a perfect score of 1000! Each has their strengths and weaknesses (which are really not weaknesses at all!) What is clear is that both of these little greens are incredibly healthy and should be implemented in your cooking repertoire.  I try and eat at least two cups or either of them ever single day! I like to rotate between purchasing bags of frozen kale and frozen collards to add variety to my diet. With time you will learn the subtle differences in taste and texture, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly make room in your heart for both!

The final word:

*  These numbers are found on the USDA National Nutrient Database. Please keep in mind that I am not a registered dietitian and that these are simply my opinions.
 Interestingly, the numbers for kale and collards vary greatly between the raw and cooked pages. I chose to use the numbers found on the cooked page as I originally wrote the post using those numbers before realizing the great divergence. However, when comparing the numbers found on the raw page, Kale appears to have significantly higher values of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Calcium, Potassium, and Protein. It seems unlikely that steaming these greens would so significantly change their properties. 


  1. Well you win, BYOL. If collards are so nutritiously superior to kale I may as well not waste my time and just eat CAKE!

  2. Thank you, BYOB! This was a great read. But no matter how nice you jazz collards up, kale is the only true winner.