We are all familiar with the WHO’s recommendations to consume 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that at least half of your every meal should consist of vegetables. But what are the actual health benefits of veggies and are all of them equally good for you? Do you know which vegetables contain the most health promoting elements?
From an early age we are told that vegetables are healthy because they contain vitamins. That, of course, is true but they contain many more health promoting nutrients. To name a few, most veggies are rich in Vitamins A, E, B and C and potassium. Dietary fiber, present in vegetables is a very important ingredient of a healthy diet – it is responsible for bowel health and it helps us feel full for longer leading to a potential caloric intake decrease (weight loss).
Consuming enough vegetables will help keep your blood sugar at a healthy level and ‘bad’ cholesterol at bay. It will help reduce your risk of many cancers (including colon cancer) and heart disease. Since vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber (which gives you the feeling of satiety), they help maintain a healthy weight and avoid all obesity related diseases. Potassium, present in veggies, helps prevent kidney stones and bone loss.
The Stars Among Veggies
Let’s take a look at a few particular vegetables so rich in nutrients and antioxidants that they are considered superfoods.
- Kale – this lovely salad leaf (also great steamed or as a smoothie ingredient) is packed with vitamin C.
- Broccoli – high in fiber and iron as well as vitamins C and K. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Delicious in soups, raw or cooked.
- Red Peppers – low calorie, 1 medium pepper provides 150% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake. Eat raw or get creative and stuff them with fillings or your choice.
- Alfalfa Sprouts – This tiny veggie superhero contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that can prevent lung cancer and is responsible for healthy skin, hair, nails, gums and bones.
- Beets – in all forms are full of vitamins and contain lutein which helps maintain healthy eyes.
- Brussels Sprouts – eating these small guys can enhance our body’s detox systems, and offers plenty of fiber vitamins K, C, and B-6, and minerals like manganese, folate, and copper. Brussels sprouts also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Spinach – contains phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. Spinach is also a great source of vitamins A, K, and E as well as calcium. Can be enjoyed raw in salads, smoothies or cooked.
- Asparagus – truly delicious and very healthy – it is packed with folic acid essential for tissue growth and regeneration.
These are just some examples of the healthiest vegetables that are also low in calories and contain no (or almost no) fat. Remember to add vegetables to your every meal to remain strong, fit and healthy.