It’s no secret that vegetables are good for you, but not all vegetables are created equal. Certain types of vegetables are simply more nutritious, densely packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Keeping these vegetables on hand to add to each meal of the day can help ensure your own and your family’s good health.
BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND CABBAGE
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and green and red cabbage belong to the Cruciferae family of vegetables and offer innumerable health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables are sources of phytonutrients called isothiocyanates, which help the body rid itself of possible carcinogens and prevent healthy cells from turning cancerous. Dr. Michael Lam points to results of a study conducted at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in which men and women ages 50 to 74 who ate more broccoli were half as likely to develop colorectal cancer as those who didn’t eat broccoli.
Kale is also a cruciferous vegetable, but it deserves elevated distinction in your kitchen. Widely considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables, kale is a powerhouse of disease-fighting phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. According to Precision Nutrition’s website, a serving of kale provides a whopping 684 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that assists in normal blood-clotting. It may be beneficial to your bones by reducing bone loss and decreasing the risk of fractures, notes Dr. Andrew Weil’s website.
BEANS AND PEAS
Especially if you’re vegetarian, you’ll want to keep some beans and peas on hand at all times in your kitchen. Called legumes, beans and peas are excellent non-animal sources of protein. They are also rich in fiber, which, according to Lam, may reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to lower your cholesterol. Beans and peas are not complete proteins, meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids. Combine them in a meal with other plant proteins that have the amino acids they lack, such as whole grains.
CARROTS AND SWEET POTATOES
Beta-carotene, a fat-soluble nutrient called a carotenoid, is what gives sweet potatoes and carrots their vibrant orange color, and it’s also what makes these two vegetables a valuable staple in your kitchen. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, an important nutrient that helps protect the health of your eyes, boost your immune system and promote healthy skin. According to an Ohio State University website, a 1/2-cup serving of sweet potato provides 155 percent of the RDA of vitamin A for men and 200 percent of the RDA for women; one medium carrot has 112 percent and 145 percent of the RDA for men and women, respectively.
Garlic is another item you always want to have on hand in the kitchen, not only for its flavorful additions to myriad dishes, but also for its health benefits. A member of the Allium family, which also includes onions, leeks, shallots and scallions, garlic contains allicin, a powerful antioxidant that may help fight cancer-causing free radicals, according to a 2009 article in “Queen’s Gazette.” Garlic may also help slow down the hardening of the arteries that leads to heart disease, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center website.
1. Dr. Lam: Cruciferous Vegetables
2. Precision Nutrition: Cooking With Kale
3. Andrew Weil, M.D.: Health Benefits of Vitamin K
4. University of Maryland Medical Center: Beta-carotene
5. Ohio State University Extension: Vitamin A (Retinol)
6. Queen’s Gazette: Chemist Sheds Light on Health Benefits of Garlic
7. University of Maryland Medical Center: Garlic
AUTHOR: J. BETHERMAN