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What are the most healthful vegetables?
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What are the most healthful vegetables?
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What are the most healthful vegetables?


    Eating plenty of vegetables may be one of the simplest ways to improve health

and well-being.


   



    All vegetables contain healthful vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber — but some stand out for their exceptional

benefits.


   



    Specific vegetables may offer more health advantages to certain people, depending on their diets, overall health, and

nutritional needs.


   



    In this article, we look at 15 of the most healthful vegetables and suggest ways to enjoy them as part of a balanced

diet.


   



    1. Spinach


    Spinach is a leafy green vegetable and a great source of calcium, vitamins, iron, and antioxidants.


   



    Due to its iron and calcium content, spinach is a great addition to any meat- or dairy-free diet.


   



    One cup of raw spinach is mostly made up of water and contains only 7 caloriesTrusted Source. It also provides:


   



    an adult’s full daily requirementTrusted Source of vitamin K


    high amounts of vitamin A


    vitamin C


    magnesium


    folate


    iron


    calcium


    antioxidants


    Vitamin K is essential for a healthy body — especially for strong bones, as it improves the absorption of calcium.


   



    Spinach also provides a good amount of iron for energy and healthy blood, and a high level of magnesium for muscle and

nerve function.


   



    It is also rich in antioxidants, and researchTrusted Source suggests that spinach leaves may lower blood pressure and

benefit heart health.


   



    If a person is taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), they should use caution when increasing their intake

of dark leafy greens. Doctors recommend maintaining a consistent vitamin K intake over time for people taking these

medications.


   



    How to eat spinach


   



    People enjoy spinach raw in salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. Cooked spinach also has significant health benefits and is

a great addition to pasta dishes and soups.


   



    2. Kale


    Kale is a very popular leafy green vegetable products with

several health benefits. It provides around 7 caloriesTrusted Source per cup of raw leaves and good amounts of vitamins A, C,

and K.


   



    Kale may benefit people with high cholesterol. One small 2008 study reports that males with high cholesterol who drank

150 milliliters of kale juice each day for 12 weeks experienced a 10% reduction in low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,”

cholesterol and a 27% increase in high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol.


   



    Research from 2015Trusted Source, meanwhile, suggests that kale juice can reduce blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and

blood sugar levels.


   



    If a person is taking blood thinners, such as Coumadin, they should use caution when increasing their intake of dark

leafy greens. It is best to maintain a consistent vitamin K intake while taking these medications.


   



    How to eat kale


   



    People use baby kale in pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiches. A person may also enjoy kale chips or juice.


   



    3. Broccoli


    Broccoli is an incredibly healthful vegetable that belongs to the same family as cabbage, kale, and cauliflower,

fresh garlic,

fresh onion, etc. These are all cruciferous

vegetables.


   



    Each cup of chopped and boiled broccoli contains:


   



    around 31 caloriesTrusted Source


    the full daily requirement of vitamin K


    twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin C


    According to the National Cancer InstituteTrusted Source, animal research has found that certain chemicals, called

indoles and isothiocyanates, in cruciferous vegetables may inhibit the development of cancer in several organs, including the

bladder, breasts, liver, and stomach.


   



    These compounds may protect cells from DNA damage, inactivate cancer-causing agents, and have anti-inflammatory effects.

However, research in humans has been mixed.


   



    How to eat broccoli


   



    Broccoli is very versatile. People can roast it, steam it, fry it, blend it into soups, or enjoy it warm in salads.


   



    4. Peas


    Peas are a sweet, starchy vegetable. They contain 134 caloriesTrusted Source per cooked cup, and they are rich in:


   



    fiber, providing 9 grams (g) per serving


    protein, providing 9 g per serving


    vitamins A, C, and K


    certain B vitamins


    Green peas are a good source of plant-based protein, which may be especially beneficial for people with vegetarian or

vegan diets.


   



    Peas and other legumes contain fiber, which supports good bacteria in the gut and helps ensure regular bowel movements

and a healthy digestive tract.


   



    They are also rich in saponins, plant compounds that may help protect againstTrusted Source oxidative stress and cancer.


   



    How to eat peas


   



    It might be handy to keep a bag of peas in the freezer and gradually use them to boost the nutritional profiles of pasta

dishes, risottos, and curries. A person might also enjoy a refreshing pea and mint soup.


   



    5. Sweet potatoes


    Sweet potatoes are root vegetables. Baked in its skin, a medium sweet potato provides 103 caloriesTrusted Source and 0.17

g of fat.


   



    Each sweet potato also contains:


   



    much more than an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin A


    25% of their vitamin C and B6 requirements


    12% of their potassium requirement


    beta carotene, which may improve eye health and help fight cancer


    Sweet potatoes may be a good option for people with diabetes. This is because they are low on the glycemic index and rich

in fiber, so they may help regulate blood sugar.


   



    How to eat sweet potatoes


   



    For a simple meal, bake a sweet potato in its skin and serve it with a source of protein, such as fish or tofu.


   



    6. Beets


    One cup of raw beets contains:


   



    58.5 caloriesTrusted Source


    442 milligrams (mg) of potassium


    148 micrograms of folate


    Beets and beet juice are great for improving heart health, as the vegetable is rich in heart-healthy nitrates. A small

2012 studyTrusted Source reports that drinking 500 g of beet juice significantly lowered blood pressure in healthy people.


   



    These vegetables may also benefit people with diabetes. Beets contain an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid, which

might be helpfulTrusted Source for people with diabetes-related nerve problems, called diabetic neuropathy.


   



    How to eat beets


   



    Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness, but they also taste great raw in juices, salads, and sandwiches.


   



    7. Carrots


    Each cup of chopped carrots contains 52 caloriesTrusted Source and over four times an adult’s daily recommended intake

of vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene.


   



    Vitamin A is vital for healthy eyesight, and getting enough of this nutrient may help prevent vision loss.


   



    Certain nutrients in carrots may also have cancer-fighting properties. A 2018 reviewTrusted Source of 10 articles reports

that dietary carrot intake was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.


   



    How to eat carrots


   



    Carrots are extremely versatile. They work well in casseroles and soups, and they provide great health benefits when

eaten raw, possibly with a dip such as hummus.


   



    8. Fermented vegetables


    Fermented vegetables provide all the nutrients of their unfermented counterparts as well as healthful doses of

probiotics.


   



    Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are present in the body and in some foods and supplements. Some researchers

believe that they can improve gut health.


   



    According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source, probiotics may help with

symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. They may also prevent infection- or antibiotic-induced diarrhea.


   



    Some good vegetables for fermentation include:


   



    cabbage, as sauerkraut


    cucumbers, as pickles


    carrots


    cauliflower


    How to eat fermented vegetables


   



    People eat fermented vegetables in salads, sandwiches, or as a side dish.


   



    9. Tomatoes


    Although tomatoes are technically a fruit products, most people

treat them like vegetables and use them in savory dishes. Each cup of chopped, raw tomatoes contains:


   



    32 caloriesTrusted Source


    427 mg of potassium


    24.7 mg of vitamin C


    Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. ResearchTrusted Source suggests that lycopene may help prevent

prostate cancer, and the beta carotene in tomatoes also helps combat cancer.


   



    Meanwhile, other potent antioxidants in tomatoes, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, may protect vision.


   



    The Age-Related Eye Disease StudyTrusted Source reports that people who have high dietary intakes of these substances

have a 25% reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.


   



    How to eat tomatoes


   



    People enjoy tomatoes raw or cooked, and cooking them releases more lycopene.


   



    10. Garlic


    People have long used garlic in cooking and medicine. Each garlic clove contains just 4 caloriesTrusted Source and is low

in vitamins and minerals.


   



    However, garlic is a natural antibiotic. For example, a 2018 reviewTrusted Source notes that people have used garlic for

purposes similar to those of antibiotics since the 16th century.


   



    Allium, a component of garlic, may be the source of its health benefits. Confirming this will require more research.


   



    How to eat garlic


   



    Heating garlic reduces its health benefits, so it is best to eat garlic raw, in bruschetta or dips, for example. There is

also dried garlic.


   



    11. Onions


    Each cup of chopped onions can provideTrusted Source:


   



    64 calories


    vitamin C


    vitamin B6


    manganese


    Onions and other allium vegetables, including garlic, contain sulfur compounds. Review studies, including a 2019

reviewTrusted Source and a 2015 reviewTrusted Source, suggest that these compounds may help protect against cancer.


   



    How to eat onions


   



    It can be easy to incorporate onions into soups, stews, stir-fries, and curries. To get the most from their antioxidants,

eat them raw — in sandwiches, salads, and dips such as guacamole.


   



    12. Alfalfa sprouts


    Each cup of alfalfa sprouts contains only 8 caloriesTrusted Source and a good amount of vitamin K.


   



    These sprouts also boast several compounds that contribute to good health, including:


   



    saponins, a type of bitter compound with health benefits


    flavonoids, a type of polyphenol known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects


    phytoestrogens, plant compounds that are similar to natural estrogens


    Traditionally, some have used alfalfa sprouts to treat a range of health conditions, such as arthritis and kidney

problems. However, very few scientific investigations have explored these uses.


   



    Research suggests that alfalfa sprouts contain antioxidants, which are compounds that may help fight diseases including

cancer and heart disease.


   



    Eating sprouted legumes such as these may have other benefits. StudiesTrusted Source suggest that sprouting, or

germinating, seeds increases their protein and amino acid contents.


   



    Germination may also improveTrusted Source the digestibility of alfalfa and other seeds and increase their dietary fiber

content.


   



    How to eat alfalfa sprouts


   



    People enjoy alfalfa sprouts in salads and sandwiches.


   



    13. Bell peppers


    Sweet bell peppers may be red, yellow, or orange. Unripe, green bell peppers are also popular, though they taste less

sweet.


   



    A cup of chopped red bell pepper provides:


   



    39 caloriesTrusted Source


    190 mg of vitamin C


    0.434 mg of vitamin B6


    folate


    beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A


    Antioxidants and bioactive chemicals present in bell peppers includeTrusted Source:


   



    ascorbic acid


    carotenoids


    vitamin C


    beta carotene


    flavonoids, such as quercetin and kaempferol


    How to eat bell peppers


   



    Bell peppers are extremely versatile and can be easy to incorporate into pasta, scrambled eggs, or a salad. A person

might also enjoy them sliced with a side of guacamole or hummus.


   



    14. Cauliflower


    One cup of chopped cauliflower contains:


   



    27 caloriesTrusted Source


    plenty of vitamin C


    vitamin K


    fiber


    The American Heart AssociationTrusted Source recommend eating 25 g of dietary fiber each day to promote heart and gut

health.


   



    Also, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables contain an antioxidant called indole-3-carbinol. ResearchTrusted

Source has linked this compound with cancer-combatting effects in animals. However, confirming the effects in humans requires

more research.


   



    And like broccoli, cauliflower contains another compound that may help combat cancer: sulforaphane.


   



    How to eat cauliflower


   



    A person can pulse raw cauliflower in a blender to make cauliflower rice or turn it into a pizza base for a low-calorie,

comforting treat. People may also enjoy cauliflower in curries or baked with olive oil and garlic.


   



    15. Seaweed


    Seaweed, also known as sea vegetables, are versatile and nutritious plants that provide several health benefits. Common

types of seaweed include:


   



    kelp


    nori


    sea lettuce


    spirulina


    wakame


    Seaweed is one of the few plant-based sources of the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.

These are essential for health and are mostly present in meat and dairy.


   



    Each type of seaweed has a slightly different nutritional profile, but they are typically rich in iodine, which is an

essential nutrient for thyroid function.


   



    Eating a variety of sea vegetables can provide the body with several important antioxidants to reduce cellular damage.


   



    Also, many types of seaweed contain chlorophyll, which is a plant pigment that has anti-inflammatory propertiesTrusted

Source.


   



    Brown sea vegetables, such as kelp and wakame, contain another potent antioxidant called fucoxanthin. ResearchTrusted

Source suggests that this has 13.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E.


   



    How to eat seaweed


   



    When possible, choose organic seaweed and eat small amounts to avoid introducing too much iodine into the diet. People

enjoy sea vegetables in sushi, miso soups, and as a seasoning for other dishes.


   



    Summary


    Eating vegetables every day is important for health. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, such

as antioxidants and fiber.


   



    Research consistently shows that people who eat at least 5 servings of vegetables a day have the lowest risk of many

diseases, including cancer and heart disease.


   



    Enjoy a range of vegetables and fruits like fresh apple

and fresh oranges, daily to reap as many

health benefits as possible.


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