You will gain benefits from eating just about any type of vegetable; here’s more information on what are considered to be the healthiest vegetables.
Asparagus provides more folic acid per serving than any other vegetable, which is especially important for women who are pregnant because it can decrease the chances of birth defects in the fetus and premature birth. Asparagus also is a source of fiber, other B vitamins, potassium, selenium, manganese, zinc, and iron—all for 40 calories per one-cup serving.
Asparagus also contains powerful phytochemical compounds that can strengthen capillary walls, supports immune system function, aids in removing toxins from your body, supports colon health, and provides blood glucose and cholesterol control. Preliminary studies also suggest that asparagus might have anti-cancer properties and heart-health benefits.
Avocados are rich in the healthy, unsaturated fats that have been linked with heart protection. Avocados are unique in the plant world, with a distinctive nutritional profile that includes a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and even some protein.
One ounce of avocado contains 45 calories and many health-protective nutrients, such as vitamins C, E, and K, folate, phytosterols, and phytochemicals such as beta-carotene and lutein. And, studies show that including avocados in your diet can increase satiety, which can help with weight control. Another bonus is that the fat in avocados helps fat-soluble vitamins dissolve, which improves their absorption.
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The vibrant color of beets comes from the phytonutrient betacyanin, which has been found to have anti-cancer effects. In addition, beets are a good source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C—all for only 74 calories per cup cooked. Beets also contain betaine, an amino acid shown to lower inflammation in the body.
Research shows that beets may help fight heart disease by reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, as well as reducing blood pressure levels.
Along with other cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, broccoli is routinely included on lists of the healthiest vegetables. One cup of raw broccoli provides more than 100 percent of the recommended daily amounts of vitamins C and K, as well as vitamin A, folate, and fiber. In addition, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which have cancer-fighting potential.
Many studies have found that broccoli may reduce chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which may help ward off cancer. In addition, it may be helpful in promoting a healthy digestive system, as well as supporting good cardiovascular health.
Orange carrots are very high in vitamin A; they also contain notable amounts of vitamins B6, C, and K, fiber, and potassium. In addition, carrots have many phytochemicals linked to their shades, such as carotenoids anthocyanidins. The levels of these phytochemicals vary according to the color of the carrot: Red and purple carrots have more anthocyanidins, orange carrots have more beta-carotene, and yellow carrots have more lutein. Studies have linked carrot consumption to cardiovascular health, better eye health, and cancer protection.
Green, Leafy Vegetables
From romaine and chard to mustard greens and kale, green, leafy vegetables truly are nutritional superstars; they provide at least 19 essential nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, and vitamins C and K. In addition, many contain calcium, a notable amount of plant-based protein, and potent phytochemicals, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard and turnip greens, and arugula, are also members of the cruciferous family of vegetables.
Green, leafy vegetables have been linked with a number of health benefits, including protection against age-related eye disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and even mental decline. These foods are so important that the USDA MyPlate guide suggests including 1½ to 2 cups of green vegetables in your diet each week.
Onions, along with other vegetables in the allium family, are known for their sharp, pungent aromas and flavors, and these unique qualities may be responsible for their healthful properties. Allium vegetables contain a number of organosulfur compounds that contribute those trademark flavors and odors, as well as antioxidant activity linked with cancer and heart protection. Onions also provide manganese, vitamins B6 and C, folate, potassium, and the antioxidant phytochemical quercetin.
The flesh of squash is packed with slow-digesting carbs, fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals. The nutrient profile depends on the type of squash. Summer squashes are very low in calories (about 20 per one-cup raw serving) and are generally rich in manganese, vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, and potassium. Phytochemicals present in summer squash include lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect vision. Winter squash are a bit higher in carbohydrates and calories, providing about 75 calories in a one-cup cooked serving. Winter squash are typically rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and K, as well as fiber, manganese, copper, potassium, and folate, and they contain some omega-3 fats.
Phytonutrient compounds common among varieties of winter squash include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Research suggests that squashes help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, providing potential anti-cancer, heart-protective, and blood sugar-regulating benefits.
Tomatoes contain a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, C, and K, potassium, and manganese. In addition, red tomatoes are the richest source of the phytochemical lycopene in the U.S. diet. Lycopene has attracted the attention of nutrition researchers for its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
In particular, including tomatoes in your diet may help protect against prostate cancer and possibly breast cancer, as well as heart disease, UV-related skin damage, and osteoporosis. New research indicates that tomatoes—low in calories and high in fiber—may aid in weight loss, too. And fresh is not always best: When tomatoes are cooked, the lycopene has a higher bioavailability, meaning that it is more easily absorbed and used by your body.
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