Can You Eat Mustard Greens Raw?

Fozia Sherazi, Dr of Dietetics and Nutritional Sciences

Written by Fozia Sherazi, Dr of Dietetics and Nutritional Sciences. Updated on March 12, 2023.

Mustard greens are botanically known as Brassica juncea and are also called Indian, Chinese, or leaf mustard. Mustard greens are considered one of the oldest known vegetables.

These herbaceous plants are members of the family Brassicaceae, cultivated for their edible leaves and flavorful seeds, from which mustard sauce is made.

Dating back to prehistoric times, mustard greens have been a food source for thousands of years.

Mustard greens were also an important crop for the ancient Egyptians and Romans, who used the leaves to make herbal remedies.

Ancient civilizations in Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean have relied on mustard greens as an important food source.

Mustard greens have their origins in India. They are an ancient crop that is thought to have originated in India’s Himalayan foothills and has since spread throughout the world.

During the Middle Ages, mustard greens spread from India to various parts of Europe and eventually made their way to the Americas with the European settlers.

Mustard greens were initially planted in China, in the region near Sichuan. This led to the first varietal diversity of mustard greens.

Over time, mustard greens adapted to the different climates and soils across various continents, resulting in multiple cultivars with unique flavors and textures.

Thus, mustard greens have become one of the most widely cultivated vegetables throughout the world.

Mustard greens are surprisingly adaptable, growing well in various climates and soil types. These adaptable greens can be grown in multiple regions, from temperate to tropical climates.

However, they thrive best in nutrient-dense organic soils, full sun, and low temperatures. When planted in the spring, mustard greens are ready to harvest within 40 days.

Their unique capacity for adaptation has allowed them to become a staple in many cuisines, adding color and flavor to various dishes.

They are used in worldwide cuisines ranging from traditional American dishes to cuisines in the Mediterranean, India, and the Far East.

You can eat mustard greens cooked or raw. They are used in salads, soups, sautéed dishes, and even pesto.

Can You Eat Mustard Greens Raw?

Mustard greens may be eaten raw or cooked, although their nutritional value may change depending on how they are prepared.

Raw mustard greens can provide the most nutritional benefits, including a substantial amount of vitamins C and E.

However, vitamin A is more readily absorbed when the greens are cooked due to heat-activated carotenoids, which are organic compounds that can be converted into vitamin A by the body.

The absorption of other nutrients, such as iron and calcium, may also be increased when cooking mustard greens.

Furthermore, the presence of phytic acid and oxalates in mustard greens can reduce their absorption rate of minerals if consumed raw. This further emphasizes the importance of cooking or slightly heating them before consumption.

Additionally, the flavor of cooked mustard greens can be milder and less bitter than the taste of raw mustard greens, making them more palatable for some.

Raw mustard greens have a slightly spicy, peppery flavor and crunchy texture, making them a great addition to salads.

To prepare mustard greens for raw consumption, it is essential to thoroughly wash them and soak them in water to help leach out some of the phytic acid and oxalates.

Additionally, soaking them in an acidic medium, such as lemon or vinegar, can help further reduce the presence of these anti-nutrients.

This can reduce their mineral absorption-inhibiting effects while still allowing them to maintain their crisp texture and unique flavor.

Once the mustard greens have been washed and soaked, they can be chopped or shredded for salads or eaten raw as a snack.

Benefits of Eating Mustard Greens Raw

Eating mustard greens raw offers numerous health benefits. Eating mustard greens raw is a great way to get the most out of their nutrient content.

Mustard greens are packed with vitamins A, K, and C and calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. In addition, they contain dietary fiber and several phytonutrients.

Some health benefits of mustard greens are given below:

Anticancer Properties

Mustard greens contain phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), an antioxidant with proven anticancer properties.

PEITC has been shown to prevent the growth and spread of tumors, making mustard greens an effective food to include in a healthy diet.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Mustard greens also contain a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Additionally, the phenethyl isothiocyanate found in mustard greens can also reduce inflammation. PEITC has been shown to reduce inflammation, which can help people with autoimmune diseases and chronic conditions.

Antioxidant Profile

Mustard greens are also a great source of antioxidants, which can help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage.

Antioxidants work to protect our cells from free radicals, which are byproducts of cellular metabolism.

The potent phytonutrient indole-3-carbinol (I3C) found in mustard greens is a known antioxidant linked to reduced inflammation and even protection against certain types of cancer.

Bone Health

Mustard greens are also rich in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, which are essential for healthy bones.

Additionally, these minerals work in tandem with vitamin K, another nutrient found in mustard greens.

Vitamin K helps the body utilize calcium and other minerals necessary to maintain healthy bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Side Effects of Eating Mustard Greens Raw

Though mustard greens are nutritious and tasty, they can have unwanted side effects when eaten raw.

One of the most notable side effects is that mustard greens contain compounds called thiocyanates, which can interfere with the absorption of iodine in the thyroid gland.

This can potentially disrupt the normal functioning of the thyroid, leading to issues like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Additionally, mustard greens contain oxalates, which, when consumed in large quantities, can lead to problems like kidney stones or gout.

They may also cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and abdominal pain in those with a sensitive gut.

For this reason, it is important to be mindful of how much mustard greens are eaten raw.


The use of mustard greens as a vegetable may be traced back to prehistoric times, making these one of the oldest vegetables.

They originated in India’s Himalayan foothills. These versatile greens may be cultivated in temperate or tropical climates.

There are several advantages to eating raw mustard greens.

They are rich in vitamins A, K, and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Indole-3-carbinol, an antioxidant found in mustard greens, has been related to lower inflammation and cancer prevention.

They include calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, which are needed for bone health.

Because of the high phytic acid and oxalate content, eating them raw may provide fewer nutritional benefits.

Eating them raw may also have other undesirable side effects, like gastrointestinal discomfort and impaired absorption of essential minerals.

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