“You simply cannot find another food group that is as perfectly matched to our everyday human needs as vegetables!”
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Without enough vitamins and minerals, our immunity, vitality, and mood suffer considerably. Eating veggies provides numerous health benefits since the nutrients they contain act on a cellular level. The antioxidants found in vegetables strengthen the body’s defense system, reducing the risk of some chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure and some types of cancer!
And this is just the tip of an iceberg. The beneficial influences of vegetables extend to all parts of the body, covering everything from cognitive functions to improved blood flow. In addition, some of the most powerful health-boosting foods are also the best beauty products money can buy – they help rejuvenate your skin and have a positive effect on the hair, nails, and teeth. This fact surely justifies the statement that beauty comes from the inside!
If this is not enough to persuade you to stock up your grocery cart with veggies, here are a few more reasons:
- Vegetables are very low in calories (a cup of the healthiest veggies contains about 50 calories). That is why you can eat as much as you want without gaining weight. This, combined with the fact that veggies are great sources of fulfilling dietary fiber, makes them an ideal addition to your weight-loss plan.
- Vegetables are nutritious in any form – fresh (some may even grow in your backyard), canned, frozen, or juiced which makes them very convenient and highly available to include in any recipe.
- Veggies come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and textures. There is always something new to try and make your meals not only healthier but also more vibrant and appealing!
Opting for vegetables is the first step to a healthy lifestyle and longevity but which ones should you choose? Studies have shown that not all veggies are created equal after all. Here is a list of those particularly rich in nutrients along with advice on how to sneak them into your everyday diet.
This funny-looking vegetable is especially rich in folates (to be more precise, half a cup of asparagus satisfies about 1/3 of the recommended daily intake). This spring veggie is an important choice for pregnant women since folate is credited with neural tube birth defects prevention.
Moreover, asparagus is filled with numerous minerals and vitamins like vitamin K, riboflavin, thiamin, and selenium, which support numerous body functions and promote toxin expulsion.
Cooking with asparagus: Fresh asparagus is easy and simple to turn into a delightful crispy-sweet addition to any meal. It is very versatile as well – it can be steamed, boiled, baked, grilled, pan-seared, or simply chopped and included in a salad. This well-loved vegetable works well with both simple condiments like salt and pepper, as well as bolder spice mixes, like those including chili, sesame seeds, garlic, and olives.
Recipe recommendation: Our choice is Roasted Asparagus, whole asparagus spears that can be served as an appetizer, side dish or even a snack!
No healthy food list can go without broccoli! Dubbed “one of the nature’s rock stars”, this cruciferous vegetable is very rich in sulfur-containing compounds which are considered tumor inhibitors. Besides being a weapon to fight cancer, broccoli is also recommended as a preventive against other types of chronic disease, especially heart disease. Broccoli’s florets are especially rich in vitamins C and K, as well as folate, potassium, and manganese.
Cooking with broccoli: Despite popular belief, broccoli can be absolutely delicious— you can steam it and serve as a quick side dish with butter and lemon, include it in various stir-fries and creamy soups, or add it into cheesy casserole recipes. Whatever method you decide to deploy, you can be sure that this humble green veggie will make your meal a little more special.
Recipe recommendation: We love the Potato and Broccoli Casserole, a dish that also includes cheddar cheese and mushroom soup for an absolutely hearty & fulfilling family meal.
#3 Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are another member of the cruciferous family of vegetables and, just like their relative broccoli, they contain the same beneficial nutrients and compounds, including vitamins B, C, and K, fiber, folate, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
On top of that, these ‘mini cabbages’ also contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that is very efficient in the prevention of cell damage caused by harmful free radicals. Brussels sprouts also aid detoxification, thus reducing the risk of various diseases, especially colon cancer.
Cooking with Brussels sprouts: Despite their bad reputation, when prepared with a little care, Brussels sprouts can be spectacular. From simple options like roasting in the oven, to creative solutions that require mixing these cruciferous veggies with fruits or meat, you can rest assured that they will make your meal pop.
Recipe recommendation: Tart Cherry-glazed Brussels Sprouts are just one example of how flexible these veggies can be. The addition of tangy cherry juice is the perfect match to the sometimes-bitter mini cabbages. Thicken the juice with a little brown sugar and complement with a splash of sriracha sauce and you’ve got yourself an intensely flavored meal in no time!
Carrots provide you with a whopping 430% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A! They contain beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that not only gives carrots their beautiful orange color but also fights harmful free radicals, making sure your body is safe from diseases. Studies have shown that these root veggies are especially efficient against prostate and lung cancer. Moreover, carrots are also packed with vitamins C and K, as well as potassium.
Cooking with carrots: It is time to stop looking at carrots as a plain pantry staple that is available throughout the whole year, and acknowledge their amazing ability to transform. These orange veggies can complement your savory dishes, but can also easily adjust and become a part of various delicious dessert recipes!
Note: Bear in mind that vitamin C is heat-sensitive and most of it will be lost during cooking, so make sure to consume carrots raw as often as possible. An easy way to do this is to include them into your morning smoothies.
Recipe recommendation: Make Classic Carrot Cake healthier by replacing sugar with stevia, all-purpose flour with whole wheat, and vegetable oil with extra-virgin coconut oil. Your sweet treat will be much healthier, but still moist, tender, and absolutely delicious!
Note 2: When using stevia, bear in mind that it is a lot sweeter than regular sugar. For each cup of sugar required in the recipe, use a ¼ cup of this 100% natural sweetener.
This smelly vegetable has been used for thousands of years, not only for its flavorful aroma but also for its medicinal properties. Studies have detected the substance responsible for garlic’s health benefits. Allicin is a compound that promotes cardiovascular health, maintains blood sugar levels normal, decreases LDL cholesterol and blood sugar. Recent studies suggest that allicin might prevent cancer, but additional research is needed to confirm this claim.
Cooking with garlic: Garlic is one of the most widely used seasonings. It is less commonly eaten as a raw vegetable but often added as a flavoring agent to various dishes like dressings, marinades, sauces, meats, stews, soups, and more. Garlic becomes milder and sweeter when cooked, so you don’t have to worry about the smell.
Recipe recommendation: We recommend Garlic Mashed Potatoes as a side dish for your tomorrow’s lunch – mashed potatoes flavored with roasted garlic and made creamier with the addition of sour cream!
#6 Green Peas
Despite the fact that peas are a starchy vegetable that is high in calories and carbs, we can’t ignore the fact that they are nutrient-dense and very beneficial if consumed in moderation. These round green legumes are packed with dietary fiber which supports digestive functions and increases feelings of satiety. Besides protein, vitamins A, C and K, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, green peas are also high in saponins, compounds known for their anti-cancer properties.
Cooking with green peas: Peas can be consumed cooked or raw, on their own or as a side dish. Try them in salads, savory dishes, stir-fries, stews, and soups. Extra tip: these tiny green marbles can be used as a substitute in recipes that call for green beans.
Recipe recommendation: Minted Mixed Peas is a dish that incorporates sugar, snap, and garden peas, complementing them with melty minted butter in a meal full of greenness and freshness!
Kale has come a long way from being regarded as one of most dreaded foods to being considered the ultimate superfood!
Similar to all leafy greens, kale is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants – it satisfies your daily needs of vitamins A, C and K, but also provides considerable quantities of B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and copper. Kale protects your heart, lowers the bad LDL cholesterol, reduces blood sugar and blood pressure.
Cooking with kale: Not everyone likes kale’s strong flavor and that is why we recommend using baby kale. Its leaves are tenderer and smaller, so there’s no need for chopping.
Recipe recommendation: A healthier take on everyone’s favorite dish? Kale Pesto Pizza is a proof that a healthy makeover is not always made at the expense of yumminess!
The uncrowned ‘king of leafy greens’ is well-known for its amazing nutritional profile – a cup of spinach provides you with more than half of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, along with considerable amounts of vitamins C and K, iron, manganese, and antioxidants, all with a very low-calorie count. Popeye’s favorite food choice has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes, as well as improved heart health.
Cooking with spinach: Sneaking spinach into your everyday diet is very easy. Unlike other leafy greens like kale and collard, it does not require long braise or a large amount of oil. You can serve it simply topped with butter and salt, combine it with cream and cheese, and include it in scrambles, casseroles or smoothies.
Recipe recommendation: Four-Cheese Spinach Fettuccine is an easy and clever way to get your kids to eat spinach. The creamy sauce composed of Parmesan, cream cheese, and Italian two-cheese blend makes this dish rich and flavorful.
#9 Swiss Chard
There are two main varieties of Swiss chard – rainbow chard with multicolored veins and stems, and white chard with white veins and stems. Both are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals, among which vitamins A, C, and K, magnesium and manganese.
The high fiber content makes you feel full for a longer period of time, whereas the antioxidant content helps protect the kidneys and liver. But what makes Swiss chard stand out is its ability to prevent diabetes-related damages to the body.
Cooking with Swiss chard: Even though it is much less popular than its leafy green cousins, spinach and kale, Swiss chard is just as versatile and tasty. It is easy to handle and contributes tender, silky texture to your dishes.
Note: To preserve as many nutrients as possible, steam the chard lightly and cover in a simple vinaigrette. Alternatively, use chard leaves as healthier and lighter tortilla alternatives when preparing tacos.
Recipe recommendation: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Swiss Chard Pesto. The title says pretty much all about this Mexican-flavored dish, but if you need more details, here you are: the sweet potato is roasted with chipotle sauce, whereas the Swiss chard pesto contains queso fresco, cilantro, and avocados!
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#10 Sweet Potatoes
Besides vibrant color and sweet taste, these root vegetables offer a great deal of nutrients as well. they are loaded with dietary fiber, protein, vitamins B6 and C, as well as essential minerals like manganese and potassium.
Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin A (more specifically, just one sweet potato provides you with over 430% of the recommended DV) in its healthiest form: beta-carotene. This compound is known for reducing the risk of some types of cancer, including breast and lung cancer.
Cooking with sweet potatoes: Believe it or not, research surveys have shown that almost 20% consumers consider sweet potatoes difficult to cook. However, the great number of easy and simple cooking methods make this opinion untrue. While baking remains the most traditional way of preparing these orange veggies, you can also try sautéing, boiling, grilling, or including them raw and grated into your salads and even desserts!
Recipe recommendation: Get creative and serve these unique Sweet Potato Enchiladas, a gourmet dish that mixes the traditional spiciness with a modern sweet twist.