Most people know that vegetables are good for health. Most vegetables are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, some vegetables stand out from the rest with additional health benefits that have been demonstrated by scientists, such as the ability to fight inflammation or reduce the risk of disease. This article shows you the 14 healthiest vegetables and why you should include them in your diet.
This green and leafy vegetable tops the table as one of the healthiest vegetables, thanks to its impressive nutritional profile. One cup (30 grams) of raw spinach provides 56% of your daily vitamin A needs, plus all your daily vitamin K requirement and only contains 7 calories. Spinach also has a large amount of antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. One study found that dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach are high in beta-carotene and lutein, two types of antioxidants that have been associated with a lower risk of cancer. In addition, a 2015 study found that spinach consumption can be beneficial for heart health, as it can lower blood pressure.
Summary: Spinach is rich in antioxidants that can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, as it can reduce risk factors such as high blood pressure.
Carrots are full of vitamin A, providing 428% of the recommended daily value in just one cup (128 grams). Carrots contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives this vegetable its vibrant orange color and could help prevent cancer. In fact, one study revealed that for each serving of carrots per week, the participants’ risk of prostate cancer was reduced by 5%. Another study showed that eating carrots can reduce the risk of lung cancer in smokers as well. Compared to those who ate carrots at least once a week, smokers who did not eat carrots were at three times the risk of developing lung cancer. Carrots also have an important content of vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
Summary: Carrots are especially high in beta-carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the body. Its high antioxidant content can help reduce the risk of lung and prostate cancer.
Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family. It is rich in a sulfur-containing plant compound known as glucosinolate, as well as sulforaphane, a byproduct of glucosinolate. Sulforaphane has been shown to have a significant effect on cancer protection. In an animal study, sulforaphane was able to reduce the size and number of breast cancer cells, as well as, it also blocked tumor growth in mice.
“Eating broccoli can also help prevent other types of chronic diseases”.
A study conducted in 2010 with animals found that the consumption of broccoli flowers could protect the heart from diseases caused by oxidative stress by reducing levels by up to 116%. In addition to its ability to prevent disease, broccoli also contains many nutrients. One cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli provides 116% of your daily vitamin K needs, 135% of the daily requirement for vitamin C and a good amount of folate, manganese and potassium.
Summary: Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains sulforaphane, a compound that can prevent the development of cancer. Eating broccoli can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases because it can protect you from oxidative stress.
Throughout history garlic has been used as a medicinal plant, with an origin that could even reach ancient China and Egypt. The main component of garlic is allicin, a plant compound that is largely responsible for the variety of health benefits that garlic provides. Several studies have shown that garlic can regulate blood sugar, as well as promote heart health. In an animal study, diabetic rats received garlic oil or diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic. Both garlic compounds resulted in a decrease in blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity. In another study, garlic was added to the diet of participants with and without heart disease. The results showed that garlic was able to lower total blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, while raising HDL cholesterol levels in both groups. Garlic can also be useful in cancer prevention. A test tube study showed that allicin induced cell death in human liver cancer cells. However, more research is needed to better understand the possible anti-cancer effects that garlic could have.
Summary: Studies show that garlic can help lower triglyceride levels in the blood. Some studies have also found that it could lower blood sugar levels and may have an effect against cancer, although more research is needed.
5. Brussels Sprouts:
Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and contain the same plant compounds that benefit health. Brussels sprouts also contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that can be particularly effective in preventing cell damage. An animal study found that kaempferol protects against free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells and may contribute to chronic diseases. Eating Brussels sprouts can also help improve detoxification. One study showed that eating Brussels sprouts led to a 15-30% increase in some of the specific enzymes that control detoxification, which could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, Brussels sprouts are very nutritious. Each serving provides a good amount of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese and potassium.
Summary: Brussels sprouts contain an antioxidant called kaempferol, which can protect against oxidative damage to cells and prevent chronic diseases. They can also help improve detoxification in the body.
Like other leafy greens, kale is well known for its qualities that help promote health, including its nutrient density and antioxidant content. One cup (67 grams) of kale contains a large amount of B vitamins, potassium, calcium and copper. It also meets all daily requirements of vitamins A, C and K. Due to its high amount of antioxidants, kale can also be beneficial for improving heart health. In a 2008 study, 32 men with high cholesterol drank 150 ml of kale juice daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, HDL cholesterol increased by 27%, LDL cholesterol decreased by 10% and antioxidant activity increased. Another study showed that drinking kale juice can lower blood pressure and may be beneficial in lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar.
Summary: Kale has a high content of vitamins A, C and K, as well as antioxidants. Studies show that drinking kale juice could reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol.
7. Green Peas:
Peas are considered a starchy vegetable. This means that they have a higher amount of carbohydrates and calories than non-starchy vegetables and can affect blood sugar levels when eaten in large quantities. However, green peas are incredibly nutritious. One cup (160 grams) of cooked green peas contains 9 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein and vitamins A, C and K, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and folate. Because they are rich in fiber, peas support digestive health by improving beneficial bacteria in your intestine and promoting regular bowel movements. In addition, peas are rich in saponins, a type of plant compound known or its anti-cancer effects. Research shows that saponins can help fight cancer by reducing tumor growth and inducing cell death in cancer cells.
Summary: Green peas contain a good amount of fiber, which helps maintain digestive health. They also contain plant compounds called saponins, which can have anticancer effects.
8. Chard (Swiss Thistle):
Chard is low in calories but high in many essential vitamins and minerals. One cup (36 grams) of chard contains only 7 calories and 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein and many vitamins A, C and K, manganese and magnesium. Chard is especially known for its unique ability to prevent damage caused by diabetes mellitus. In an animal study, chard extract was found to reverse the effects of diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and preventing cell damage caused by free radicals. Other animal studies have shown that the antioxidant content of chard extract can protect the liver and kidneys from the negative effects of diabetes.
Summary: Some animal studies show that chard may protect against the negative effects of diabetes and may lower blood sugar levels.
Ginger root is used as the main ingredient in everything from vegetable dishes to desserts. Historically, ginger has also been used as a natural remedy for dizziness. Several studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of ginger on nausea. In a review of 12 studies and about 1,300 pregnant women, ginger significantly reduced nausea compared to a placebo. Ginger also contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can be useful in the treatment of inflammation-related disorders such as arthritis, lupus or gout. In one study, participants with osteoarthritis who were treated with a concentrated ginger extract experienced a decrease in knee pain and relief of other symptoms. Additional research suggests that ginger may also help in the treatment of diabetes. A 2015 study analyzed the effects of ginger supplements on diabetes. After 12 weeks, ginger was found to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels.
Summary: Studies show that ginger could reduce nausea and relieve inflammation. Ginger supplements can also help lower blood sugar.
This spring vegetable is rich in several vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent addition to any diet. Only half a cup (90 grams) of asparagus provides a third of your daily folic acid needs. This amount also provides a large amount of selenium, vitamin K, thiamine and riboflavin. Getting enough folate from sources such as asparagus can offer protection against disease and can prevent congenital neural tube defects during pregnancy. Some studies in test tubes also show that asparagus can benefit the liver by supporting its metabolic function and protecting it against toxicity.
Summary: Asparagus is especially rich in folate, which can help prevent congenital neural tube defects. Test tube studies have also found that asparagus can support liver function and reduce the risk of toxicity.
11. Red Cabbage (Purple Cabbage):
This vegetable belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables and, like their relatives, is full of antioxidants and health benefits. One cup (89 grams) of raw red cabbage contains 2 grams of fiber as well as 85% of the daily requirement for vitamin C. Red cabbage is also rich in anthocyanins, a type of plant compound that contributes to its distinctive color, as well as a whole host of health benefits. In a 2012 animal study, some rats were fed a diet designed to increase cholesterol levels and increase plaque buildup in the arteries. Rats were then given red cabbage extract. The study found that red cabbage extract was able to prevent increases in blood cholesterol levels and protect against damage to the heart and liver. These results were supported by another study in animals in 2014 that showed that red cabbage could reduce inflammation and prevent liver damage in rats fed a high cholesterol diet.
Summary: Red cabbage contains a good amount of fiber, vitamin C and anthocyanins. Certain studies show that red cabbage can lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and prevent damage to the heart and liver.
12. Sweet Potatoes:
Classified as a root vegetable, sweet potatoes stand out for their vibrant orange color, sweet taste and impressive health benefits. Half of a sweet potato contains 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and a good amount of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. It also has a high content of a form of vitamin A called beta-carotene. In fact, a sweet potato meets 438% of your daily vitamin A needs. Beta-carotene consumption has been linked to a significant decrease in the risk of certain types of cancer, including lung and breast cancer. Specific types of sweet potatoes may also contain additional benefits. For example, Caiapo is a type of white sweet potato that can have an antidiabetic effect. In one study, people with diabetes were given 4 grams of Caiapo daily for 12 weeks, which led to a reduction in blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol.
Summary: Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which may decrease the risk of some types of cancer. White sweet potatoes may also help reduce blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
13. Green Cabbage:
Green cabbage is a nutrient-rich vegetable. One cup (190 grams) of cooked cabbage contains 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 27% of your daily calcium needs. In fact, green cabbage is one of the best vegetable sources of calcium available, along with other leafy greens such as broccoli and soy. An adequate intake of calcium of plant origin can promote bone health and has been shown to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Green cabbages are also high in antioxidants and may even reduce the risk of developing certain diseases. One study found that eating more than one serving of green cabbage a week was associated with a 57% lower risk of glaucoma, an eye condition that can lead to blindness. Another study showed that a high intake of vegetables in the Brassica family, which includes green cabbage, may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
Summary: Cabbages are high in calcium, which could reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Regular intake of green cabbage has also been associated with a reduced risk of suffering from glaucoma and prostate cancer.
Also known as turnip cabbage or German turnip, kohlrabi is a vegetable crossed with cabbage that can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw kohlrabi is high in fiber, providing 5 grams in each cup (135 grams). It is also full of vitamin C, providing for each cup 140% of the recommended daily value. Studies have shown that the antioxidant content of kohlrabi makes it a powerful tool against inflammation and diabetes. In an animal study, kale extract was able to lower blood sugar levels by 64% in just seven days of treatment. Although there are different types of kohlrabi available, studies show that red kohlrabi has almost twice the amount of phenolic antioxidants and shows stronger anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Summary: Kohlrabi is rich in fiber and vitamin C. Animal studies show that kohlrabi could cause a reduction in blood sugar.
From the provision of essential vitamins and minerals to the fight against diseases, it is clear that including vegetables in your diet is crucial for good health. While the vegetables listed here have been extensively studied for their health benefits, there are many more vegetables that are also excellent for your health. Make sure you are adding a good mix of vegetables in your diet to take advantage of its many health benefits and get the most nutritious foods within your budget.