Vegetables are the winning team. Some players are better than others, but one vegetable can’t provide all the nutrients you need. Include a variety of vegetables in your diet, not only to get all your daily vitamins and minerals, but to enjoy the diversity vegetables offer. When deciding which types of vegetables to eat, a few bigwigs truly stand out as staples of a healthy diet.
Raw or Cooked
Both cooked and raw vegetables are healthy, reports Scientific America. Heat destroys vitamin C but boosts the antioxidant lycopene. Cooking method matters, however. Boiled or steamed carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage and peppers supply more antioxidants, including carotenoids and ferulic acid, than when consumed raw. Deep-frying, by contrast, creates free radicals and strips vegetables of beneficial antioxidants.
Leafy greens have a reputation for being nutritional giants. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), that reputation is well-deserved. Loaded with fiber, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, lutein, phytochemicals and vitamins A, C and K, leafy greens present an easy way to obtain a good portion of your daily vitamins and minerals. Include in your diet, in order of nutritional value, kale, spinach, swiss chard, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, dandelion greens, beet greens, romaine, bibb and parsley.
According to CSPI, the sweet potato is a nutritional superstar. Sweet potatoes are a delicious way to obtain loads of carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Pumpkin is high on the list as a low-calorie source of potassium, fiber and vitamins K and C. Broccoli, another superstar, supplies high levels of folic acid, carotenoids and vitamin C.
Top Fiber Choices
Fiber is the part of the plant you cannot digest. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, fiber assists with digestion and reduces risk of heart disease and diabetes. Some high-fiber vegetables include artichokes, peas, beans, broccoli, turnip greens, corn, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, endives, peppers, unpeeled potatoes and carrots.
The same pigments that create the vibrant greens, oranges, reds, yellows and purples supply vegetables with nutrients. The green color of some vegetables, including asparagus, avocado, green beans, broccoli, peas, zucchini and the group of leafy vegetables, comes from chlorophyll. Red vegetables, such as beets, red peppers and radishes, contain antioxidants lycopene and anthocyanins. Purple vegetables, like eggplants, also contain anthocyanins. The orange and yellow color of such vegetables as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and carrots, indicate carotenoids, which your body converts into vitamin A. The white pigment in cauliflower, jicama, onions, potatoes and parsnips are anthoxanthins. Eat a variety of colorful vegetables for a healthier and more interesting meal.
- Scientific American: Fact or Fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Rating Rutabagas – Not All Vegetables Are Created Equal
- CSPI: The Greens Party
- CSPI: 10 Worst and Best Foods
- Mayo Clinic: High-Fiber Foods
- North Dakota State University: Taste a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for better health