From leafy greens full of gut-friendly fiber to crunchy carrots packed with immune-boosting beta carotene, vegetables are an essential part of our diets and key sources of the nutrients we need on a daily basis.
What's more? Veggies are also naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), making them a smart choice when it comes to dropping to or maintaining a healthy weight.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are compiled by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommend that adults who consume an average number of calories (1,800 to 2,400 daily) get 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. However, since some are more nutrient-dense than others, what exactly counts as a cup can vary from veggie to veggie.
Confusing, right? But it doesn't have to be. Below, we break it down for you by comparing servings sizes of 10 popular veggies to common everyday objects, along with calorie counts (from the USDA's Food Composition Database) and other key nutrition info. So whatever your dietary goal, you can easily calculate just how much of the good stuff you're getting.
Serving: 5 medium stalks
About the size of... a $1 bill
Asparagus is a great source of vitamin K, which helps regulate blood flow and blood pressure, according to the NIH. A few stalks also serve up a good amount of potassium, a mineral that's especially important for active people because it plays a key role in hydration and supports good nerve and muscle function, per MedlinePlus.
Serving: 1 medium stalk
About the size of... a hairbrush
With 4 grams of protein and fiber, according to the USDA, a serving of broccoli can help you feel full and keep you regular. Incorporating broccoli into your usual veggie intake may also help improve insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
Serving: 5 large Brussels sprouts
About the size of... 5 large eggs
A serving of these cabbage-like sprouts packs in more than your daily minimum requirement of vitamins C and K, per the USDA. You may know that vitamin C helps bolster your immune system and also acts as an antioxidant that protects your cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. But here's another perk to this powerful little nutrient: It helps keep the connective tissues throughout your body strong and healthy.
Serving: One 7-inch carrot
About the size of... a dinner fork
Carrots are rich in beta carotene, which helps promote good vision and immune system development, according to Penn State Hershey Medical Center. A serving of carrots (which is equal to 12 baby carrots, in case you were wondering) is also high in biotin, a nutrient best known for supporting healthy hair, according to the NIH.
Serving: 1/2 a small head
About the size of... a baseball
Cauliflower has become a staple lower-carb alternative for foods like rice or even pizza crust, with only about 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving, according to the USDA. The cruciferous veggie is also a good source of choline, a vital nutrient that helps regulate mood, memory and muscle control, according to the NIH.
Serving: 2 medium stalks
About the size of... 2 barber's combs
Celery is nearly 95 percent water and is commonly referred to as a "negative calorie food" due to its low calorie count and high fiber content, according to the Mayo Clinic. While there's no evidence to support this claim, celery is a healthy, fibrous veggie to include in your diet.
Serving: 2 cups, loosely packed
About the size of... two large shower loofahs
Calories: Dark leafy greens are very low in calories:
- Arugula: 5
- Kale: 7
- Romaine: 8
- Spinach: 7
A serving of romaine lettuce provides more than half of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, per the USDA. Vitamin A supports healthy vision as well as the reproductive system, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Two heaping, double handfuls of spinach also provide vitamin A as well as folate, a B vitamin your body needs to carry out daily functions — from keeping your muscles strong to supporting hair and skin health, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Peppery arugula is high in vitamin K, which keeps your blood flow healthy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
All leafy greens are known for their high fiber content, which helps keep your digestion regular. And bonus: A diet full of fiber may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, according to a November 2015 position paper published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- American Heart Association: "Fruits and Vegetables Serving Sizes"
- USDA: "Lettuce"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin A"
- National Institutes of Health: "Folate"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin K"
- USDA: "Spinach"
- USDA: "Arugula"
- USDA: "Kale"
- FDA: "Nutrition Information for Raw Vegetables"
- USDA: "Cauliflower"
- University of California: "Understanding Fiber"
- USDA: "Broccoli"
- International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: "Effect of broccoli sprouts on insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind clinical trial"
- USDA: "Brussels Sprouts"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin K"
- Penn State Hershey Medical Center: "Beta-carotene"
- National Institutes of Health: "Biotin"
- USDA: "Celery"
- Mayo Clinic: "We've heard that eating negative-calorie foods might be a good diet strategy. But what exactly are they?"
- USDA: "Asparagus"
- USDA: "ALL ABOUT THE VEGETABLE GROUP"
- USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Why is it important to eat vegetables?"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Key Recommendations"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber"
- National Institutes of Health: "Choline"
- MedlinePlus: "Potassium"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vitamin C"