Vegetables can be difficult. If you're not a vegetable person, here are the top five vegetables to help you get the most health benefits:
Leafy Greens- Dark green, leafy vegetables are considered a functional food because their benefits go far beyond that of providing energy as a food source. Leafy greens are a great source of fiber, iron, Vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium! One study with nearly 1000 participants published by the American Academy of Neurology showed that the cocktail of nutrients found in this superfood are clinically shown to help slow cognitive decline with aging. And the great news is, it only takes a one-cup serving of leafy greens per day to tap into this cognitive fountain of youth! Leafy greens can easily be used in salads and added to foods like wraps, pasta and soups.
Carrots: A review of over 130 studies published in Foods consistently demonstrated the health benefits of carrots related to their rich composition of phytochemicals, which are compounds that protect cells from cancer-causing damage. Included in the list of phytochemicals are carotenoids, which give carrots their orange color and promote optimal eye health, as well as Vitamin C, a well-known antioxidant. The blend of these phytochemicals and others creates health benefits including enhanced immune health with antibacterial properties, reduced cancer risk, reduced inflammation, heart healthy changes in the blood and mood regulation. Carrots, being extremely versatile, can be eaten as a steamed dinner side or popped into a breakfast smoothie with a half-cup serving.
Broccoli: A new study published by Nutrients focused on the mechanisms of how broccoli benefits health illustrated a relationship between the gut microbiome, or healthy bacteria, and protection from cancer-causing damage, as well as improving liver health. Just one cup of broccoli provides more than 100% of an adult’s Vitamin K and Vitamin C needs for the day and packs in a great deal of potassium and folate as well! Throw in the fiber content found in broccoli and now you have a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes and improved digestive health as well! Broccoli is found everywhere and easy to add to a healthy diet! Broccoli is a familiar and inexpensive food, so it is easy to include it in meals and snacks!
Sweet Potatoes: These vibrant root vegetables are packed with beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A that has been shown to significantly reduce the risk for lung and breast cancer. As illustrated in an article published by Food Science & Nutrition, with two additional antioxidants, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, this sweet vegetable helps to build a strong arsenal of defense against cancer! The calcium, magnesium and phosphorus found in sweet potatoes play an important role in bone health. As a rich source of carbohydrates and potassium, sweet potatoes pack a powerful punch for athletes and exercisers by providing fuel and enhancing muscle function. Sweet potatoes add a pop of color to any meal and pair well with foods from a variety of cultures!
Garlic: Though it may be bad for your breath, garlic is incredible for your heart health as it reduces the risk of blocked arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke! This powerful root vegetable has been shown in over 80 human trials discussed in an article published in Antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress, cancer risk and inflammation. In addition, garlic plays an important role in reducing the risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a clustering of symptoms that results in chronic disease. So have your pack of gym handy and embrace the way that garlic can contribute not only flavor to your meals, but outstanding benefits to your health!
Each of these vegetables can be featured in meals available at https://cleaneatzkitchen.com and https://cleaneatz.com if it is of interest to you to include easy meal hacks containing these vegetables for a busy lifestyle.
Crystal Zabka-Belsky, MS, RDN, CSSD, LMNT, LDN
Resident Dietitian, Clean Eatz Kitchen