Eat your vegetables -- it's a rule you've likely heard since you were a child, but still may not be following through on as an adult. In fact, less than a quarter of Americans eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, according to 2009 data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Yet, overcoming your veggie aversion is important because these foods offer tons of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They are typically low in calories and fat, making them a great nutritional bargain. Rediscovering the benefits of a vegetable-rich diet may convince you to fill up your plate with these colorful foods from the garden.
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Dark green veggies include broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, bok choy and certain dark lettuces, such as romaine. These vegetables are among some of the most important to include in your diet, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Spinach, in particular, is a good source of iron and folate; mustard greens are also recommended for their folate content, which is particularly important for women of reproductive age.
Deep Orange and Yellow Veggies
Along with dark green vegetables, deep orange or yellow veggies are also highly recommended for inclusion in your diet. These include sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and various types of squash, including acorn and butternut. In addition to many of the same nutrients that dark green veggies have, these vegetables contain antioxidants that give them their bright colors. These carotenoids may play a role in preventing many types of cancer, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Dry Beans and Peas
Legumes -- which include black, kidney, pinto, navy and garbanzo beans, among others -- are known for being a good source of protein and fiber. A few pea varieties are in this vegetable category as well, such as split peas and black-eyed peas. In fact, they contain so many nutrients, they are grouped in both the vegetable and protein food groups by the USDA. Dry beans and peas are also good sources of folate, potassium, iron and zinc.
Starchy veggies include green peas, corn and lima beans. Lima beans are sometimes called butter beans in certain regions. This category also features perhaps one of the most popular vegetables of all: the potato. Starchy foods fall into the complex carbohydrates category. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Keep in mind that one key problem when it comes to starchy veggies is how you prepare them. Corn slathered in butter and deep-fried potatoes should not be considered healthy ways to include veggies in your diet.
Many vegetables do not fit the previous four categories because they have different nutritional contents. All of these foods fall into the "other" category -- and the list is extensive. Examples include onions, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, zucchini and green or string beans, among many others. Many of the foods offer nutritional benefits and should be a part of a healthy diet. Cabbage and peppers, for example, are good sources of vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain vitamin C as well as potassium. Their lycopene content has also been well publicized; lycopene is an antioxidant that may help prevent colorectal cancer, according to the American Dietetic Association.