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Most Nutritious Vegetables 2023 – 15 Healthiest Vegetables To Add To Your Diet
Consuming enough vegetables every day is not only vital for those who are following vegetarian or vegan diets. Everyone should eat more cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts, raw spinach, and other nutrient-dense vegetables for their overall health. Consuming the daily recommended amount of vegetable servings helps support heart health, immune function, weight control, and disease prevention.
Vegetables are a rich source of dietary fiber, folate, antioxidants, and other nutrients. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that everyone consume three to five servings of vegetables daily to regulate blood sugar levels, reduce high blood pressure, and enjoy a healthy body.
Why Is It Important To Eat Vegetables?
According to the CDC, only 9% of adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables. Guidelines suggest eating 1 to 4 cups of vegetables each day to ensure an adequate daily intake. It is essential to eat enough healthy vegetables to get sufficient nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid. Because most vegetables are a rich source of dietary fiber, it helps keep you feeling fuller longer without packing on calories like animal protein or carbohydrates.
A diet that lacks healthy vegetables can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, increased risk of depression and moodiness, constipation, and feeling unsatisfied and hungry.
It’s easy to understand why Americans have difficulty consuming enough healthy vegetables and are not getting adequate dietary fiber from their food choices. According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, 40% of Americans eat fast food on any given day, which equals 1 out of 3 adults. Fast foods are notoriously low in fiber and try to find a vegetable on a fast-food menu.
Additionally, 71.6% of adults over 20 are overweight, and 40% are obese.
Obesity is one of the leading health issues in the United States, triggering type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancers, and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to a study, 1 in 12 cardiovascular deaths might be attributed to not eating enough vegetables. Victoria Miller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said, “Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of the diet that can impact preventable deaths globally.”
A report released by the USDA stated that over half of America’s vegetable consumption comes from potatoes and tomatoes. Unfortunately, Americans are chowing down on French fries, potato chips, and ketchup, lacking significant vitamins and minerals. Additionally, snack and fast food versions of vegetables are also laden with an excess of salt and fat, contributing to a host of adverse health issues.
Vegetables are an excellent source of magnesium, antioxidants, phenolics, potassium, and dietary fiber, which help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Also, the gut microbiota benefits from eating a diverse array of vegetables because they provide prebiotics for the good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Top 15 Most Nutritious Vegetables
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Pile more dark green leafy vegetables on your plate like spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and broccoli. Eating these vegetables provides the body with a rich source of folate, iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, and carotenoids. These healthy vegetables reduce the risk of obesity, are full of antioxidants, and are low in calories.
An effective technique for adding cooked dark green leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach to your healthy diet is to puree them with a sauce of your choice. Just add them to a blender with your favorite sauce, such as tomato, then blend it and heat. Top it off on a plate of noodles to sneak in those extra vegetables so often scorned!Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN
Choose leafy greens as a healthy vegetable because they are low in carbohydrates, regulate the digestive system, and have a low glycemic index to support and maintain a healthy body weight. According to studies, dark green leafy vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Dark leafy greens like collards, mustard greens, and turnip greens are recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines. Eating 2 to 3 servings of these types of vegetables each week may reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
How to try: You can enjoy eating leafy greens like mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, and other dark leafy vegetables raw in a salad, steamed, in stir-fry, or added to a soup.
A serving of 100 grams of daikon radish provides 18 calories, 0.6 grams of protein, 1.6 grams of fiber, 4.1 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.1 grams of fat. Eating this vegetable gives the body a source of Omega-3, Omega-6, vitamin C, calcium, iron, copper, potassium, phosphorus, folate, and magnesium.
Consume this healthy vegetable for its diuretic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Digestive enzymes in this plant help the body process fats, proteins, carbohydrates and may help protect against constipation, water retention, cancers, and other ailments. According to expert studies, the leaves and sprouts of radishes have the highest amount of several nutrients and phytochemicals.
How to try: Satisfy your cravings and enjoy daikon radish raw in salads, in stir-fry, baked, boiled, added to soups, or lightly steamed. It is okay to eat radish often. But, eating a large amount can irritate the digestive tract.
Chayote squash, also known as mirliton, is a light green vegetable and a member of the gourd family. It is low in calories, clocking in at 16 calories for 100 grams, and has zero cholesterol and saturated fat. Consume this vegetable is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber, antioxidant properties, potassium, and other trace minerals and vitamins.
Consuming chayote squash may help improve poor blood flow, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood sugar, and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Eating one chayote squash provides 93 mcg of folate. There are no recommendations on how little or often to consume chayote squash. Experts had this to say about chayote, “It is worthy of being more widely used because it has good nutritional properties and a firm delectable fruit flesh texture and can be prepared in a variety of ways for consumption.”
How to try: It is unnecessary to peel the skin of younger vegetables, and they have a crispy texture and slightly sweet taste that makes them an excellent addition to salads. Enjoy eating this vegetable stuffed, added to curry, and casseroles, served with seafood or used in stews.
Chayote squash, and cooked squash in general, can be snuck into casseroles by pureeing into the casserole sauce, taking care that the colors match and no one will notice the extra serving of vegetables. This technique is perfect for toddlers who love macaroni and cheese but won’t eat their squash!Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN
One cup of Brussels sprouts is a good source of protein, vitamin C, vitamin K and helps reduce the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Consuming Brussels sprouts is connected to improved bone health, healthy skin, reducing the risk of cataracts, and managing symptoms of diabetes.
Eating one cup of Brussels sprouts provides 56 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbohydrates. Add Brussels sprouts to your diet for a low-glycemic source of riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium.
How to try: Brussels sprouts are a little bitter, but that can be reduced by roasting them with olive oil and adding some spices. Enjoy these tasty, crunchy little cabbages coated with cheese, added to stir-fry, steamed, boiled, or even raw. Some people may experience gas after consuming this healthy vegetable.
Be cautious not to overdo it on the sprouts if you are taking anticoagulants.
Technically, tomatoes are fruit, but it is often considered and treated as a vegetable. Tomatoes are a source of the antioxidant lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium.
A small tomato that is 100 grams has 18 calories, 0.9 grams of protein, 1.2 grams of fiber, 0.2 grams of fat, and 3.9 grams of carbohydrates. Most of the fiber in tomatoes is insoluble, which helps food pass through the intestines and increases stool bulk. Tomatoes also contain naringenin which reduces inflammation, beta carotene, and supports skin health.
How to try: Tomatoes are highly versatile and are eaten in salad, made into soup, sauces, tossed with pasta, braised, and edible raw or cooked. It is okay to eat a serving of tomatoes every day and enjoy the benefits of a low-calorie, high-water content food.
Dining on sweet potatoes provides a source of dietary fiber, beta carotene, and vitamins C, B5, B6, manganese, potassium, and E. A medium sweet potato at 100 grams provides 86 calories, 1.6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 0.1 grams of fat, and 20.1 grams of carbohydrates.
How to try: Enjoy eating sweet potatoes in various colors, boiled, baked, sauteed, roasted, or fried. If you are watching your intake of carbs, eat sweet potatoes now and then throughout the week.
If you are looking for a low-calorie healthy vegetable, jicama, also known as yam bean, is a starchy root vegetable packed with benefits. A serving of 100 grams is a mere 35 calories. It is a good source of soluble dietary fiber, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese.
A serving of jicama provides 8.82 grams of carbohydrates, 0.19 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol, 0.72 grams of protein, and phytonutrients. Eat this vegetable for improved digestion, as part of a low-sugar diet, and help with weight loss and diabetes.
How to try: Jicama can be eaten raw, sprinkled with lime juice and spices, or added to salads, soups, stir fry, or fried.
Add some celeriac to your daily diet for a source of vitamins and minerals, vitamins C, B6, K, potassium, phosphorous, and manganese. One 100-gram serving provides 9.2 grams of carbs, 1.8 grams of fiber, 1.5 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fat, and 42 calories.
Anyone taking a blood-clotting medication may want to be cautious about excessive consumption of this vegetable.
How to try: Eat this vegetable raw or cook it like similar root vegetables by roasting it, boiling it, and mashing it, or in a remoulade. Celeriac has a celery-like flavor, making it a nice addition in salads, deep-fried in batter, or served alongside a main dish.
One cup of beets offers 2.2 grams of protein, 0.2 grams of fat, 58 calories, and 13 grams of carbohydrates. Beets come in a rainbow of red, purple, and yellow. The greens are an excellent source of vitamin B that can be enjoyed in a salad or sauteed. Eat beets for a source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, nitrates, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium.
According to a registered dietitian Camille Skoda, RD, beets “can help with blood pressure and may also improve athletic performance and brain function.” Be aware that eating beets can turn your urine bright red, so do not be alarmed.
It’s okay to eat beets often. However, be careful about overconsumption because of the risk of kidney stones due to the high amount of oxalate in this vegetable.
How to try: Consume beets roasted, added to salads, or juiced.
Romanesco (Cabbage Family)
Romanesco broccoli has a nutty, delicate flavor and provides 20 calories per cup. Additional nutrients provided include vitamins B5, B6, C, manganese, and sodium. Romanesco is good for supporting cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of cancer, and supporting digestive health.
Because this vegetable is a member of the same family as cabbage and kale, it contains significant dietary fiber and protective carotenoids that may help protect against molecular degeneration.
How to try: The slightly bitter flavor of this plant becomes sweeter after it is cooked. Because it is a fascinating combination of broccoli and cauliflower, it can be used as a substitute for both. Romanesco can be consumed raw, but it is delicious roasted, stir-fried, and works well with spicy dishes, pasta, and salads. Both the florets and leaves are edible.
Another way to get your family to eat more vegetables is to include a dip along with the vegetable. Ketchup, bean dip, garbanzo dip, or artichoke dip are just a few delicious additions to snack time. Even peanut butter can be used with a vegetable such as celery for a tasty treat!Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN
Bitter melon or Bitter gourd is a traditional vegetable found in many parts of Asia. It is a rich source of dietary fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants and is low in calories. For every 100 grams, it has 17 calories. Additionally, this plant is a great source of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, and it helps lower blood sugar.
Eating Bitter melon helps with constipation and indigestion, diabetes, protects against free radicals and contains trace amounts of B-complex vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Limit yourself to no more than two ounces of this vegetable daily. Eating an excess of Bitter melon can lead to stomach pain or diarrhea.
How to try: Bitter melon has a strong flavor. It works well in a lot of dishes. Eat it raw or cooked, add it to stir-fry, steam it, or stuff it.
Fiddleheads Ferns contain about 34 calories raw for 100 grams, 0.4 grams of fat, 5.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.6 grams of protein. A cup provides an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, manganese, and copper. The plant has been connected to cancer prevention and treatment, bone disorders and has anti-inflammatory properties to support immune function and treat various ailments.
Other names for this plant are the Shuttlecock fern and Ostrich fern. Since the Middle Ages, the plant has been of dietary value, and it is low in fat and carbohydrates. In parts of Asia, fiddleheads are enjoyed in salads, prepared with sauce, or pickled. Eat this plant boiled, steamed, sauteed, fried, baked, added to soups, or in a stir-fry.
How to try: It is advised to avoid eating this plant raw because of bitterness and possible stomach irritation. Food poisoning may occur if the plant is not prepared, stored, or cooked correctly.
Consuming one spear of asparagus gives you 0.3 grams of dietary fiber, 0.4 grams of protein, and 0.0 grams of fat. One cup of asparagus provides seven calories, vitamins A, C, K, magnesium, folate, and dietary fiber. Asparagus is beneficial for improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, and supporting healthy weight loss.
According to nutritionist Laura Flores, “Asparagus is high in anti-inflammatory nutrients.” The vegetable contains asparagine which helps with brain development and function. It is a source of beta-carotene, zinc, selenium and contains chromium which helps insulin transport glucose. Eating asparagus is connected with detoxification, may protect against certain cancers, and is low in calories.
The serving size of 5 asparagus spears is ideal for a daily recommended diet of 2,000 calories. Asparagus can be eaten every day as part of your vegetable servings.
How to try: Eat asparagus raw or cooked, but be careful not to cook it too long. The more this vegetable is blanched, the fewer nutrients retained.
Grab a healthy vegetable that’s a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins B, C, and manganese. According to the USDA, this winter squash comes with 40 calories per cup, 1.8 grams of protein, 18,1 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.7 grams of fat.
A serving of this beautiful and flavorful squash provides trace amounts of vitamin E, choline, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, antioxidants, and omega-6 fatty acids.
How to try: Enjoy eating this vegetable stuffed, baked, roasted with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, added to pasta or in soup. There is no need to remove the peel as it is edible, and the flesh of this squash becomes incredibly tender with cooking.
Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. They can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a side dish. Dandelion greens also contain folate, trace amounts of B vitamin, vitamin E, and provide a decent amount of iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and calcium. One cup of raw dandelion greens includes 1.5 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of fat, 25 calories, and 5.1 grams of carbohydrates.
Take caution when consuming dandelions as they may cause heartburn, an upset stomach, or diarrhea for some. You retain most of the health benefits from dandelions, such as regulating blood sugar or lowering inflammation, whether eaten raw or cooked.
How to try: To combat the bitter taste that dandelion greens may have, simmer them lightly, saute them with some garlic and onion in olive oil, or blend with baby greens. Don’t pass up on this plant because it contains taraxasterol to support the liver and gallbladder, carotenoids, choline, and terpenoids. Taraxasterol is an active compound found in dandelions that has anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.
Health Benefits Of Dietary Fiber
Ensuring to consume enough sources of dietary fiber is essential to maintaining optimal health. Dietary fiber helps regulate bowel movements, reduces cholesterol levels, regulates blood pressure, and supports maintaining a healthy weight. Diets lacking sufficient fiber are connected to digestive distress and disease, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, certain cancers, and poor gut microbiome health.
How Much Fiber Per Day?
According to the Mayo Clinic, adult women should consume 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day. Men should eat 30 to 38 grams daily. According to the Cleveland Clinic, children should eat 19-31 grams per day, depending on age and sex.
Eating enough dietary fiber, as found in vegetables and fruits, promotes a healthy weight, prevents constipation, and makes you feel fuller longer to reduce overeating.
If you or someone you know is allergic to vegetables, there is hope. Most allergic reactions are in response to consuming raw vegetables. However, if vegetables are cooked before being eaten, it may only cause a milder allergic reaction such as itching or swelling around or in the mouth. Most allergic reactions to food last a few hours or a few days before subsiding.
More severe allergic reactions to vegetables may include wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, or intense itching. If a food cannot be avoided, reduce the amount served, eat cooked vegetables to minimize the reaction, and have an antihistamine ready. If medical attention is necessary, seek it immediately.
To reap the overall health benefits of vegetables with a lower risk of an allergic reaction, taking dietary supplements may be helpful. Vegetable supplements may help reduce serum cholesterol and help the body get valuable antioxidants.
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Eating a diet high in healthy vegetables that satisfy the daily recommended value requirement for essential vitamins and minerals helps keep your body strong and in optimal condition. Many Americans pass up on eating the recommended daily amounts of vegetables. Too often, average adults fill up fast food vegetables laden with salts and fat that contribute to poor gut health, obesity, and health ailments.
The benefits of cruciferous vegetables are their dietary fiber, antioxidants, and critical vitamins and nutrients that support a healthy gut microbiome, brain function, and reduced risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders. Cruciferous vegetables are members of the cabbage family and include bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, daikon, and many others. Cruciferous vegetables should be part of a healthy and balanced vegetable intake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spinach could be considered the most nutritious vegetable because it provides nearly the entire daily value requirement for vitamin K, over half of the daily need for vitamin A, and is a low-calorie food, with only seven calories for a 30-gram serving. Spinach also contains vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, iron, carotenoids, and antioxidant properties.
Corn could be considered the least healthy vegetable because it is richer in sugar than vitamins. After eating corn, it is often visible in the stool because insoluble fiber makes it hard to digest. Because corn is high in starch and sugars, it may cause gas, diarrhea, and bloating. Corn’s high cellulose content can also trigger digestive discomfort.
If you are looking to lose weight, look for vegetables that are low in calories, have a high water content, and support a healthy digestive microbiome. The following vegetables help support weight loss.
– Brussels Sprouts
– Green Peas
– Spaghetti Squash
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