Next Year, I will live a healthier life.
No matter what exactly your goal is – a healthier weight, being more active and present or getting a chronic disease under control – in all cases it will include adding a variety of vegetables to your shopping list.
But for which ones should you reach for more often? Recent research has shown that dozens of vegetables pack a particularly big nutritional punch. Sneaking them into your daily diet is simpler than you think, and as with every other life change, you need to make it a conscious habit.
Beet roots’ edible leafy tops are brimming with vitamin K, which is linked to a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes. One cup provides nearly twice your daily requirement. Cooking tip: Sauté a bunch of tender beet greens with some olive oil and garlic for a healthy side dish. Or chop them and add to frittatas, soups, or pasta dishes.
Not to be outdone by their tops, ruby red beets are a leading source of nitrates, which are good for your blood pressure. Plus, you get fiber and other nutrients from beets. Cooking tip: Roasting beets boosts their natural sweetness. Wrap each beet individually in foil and bake at 350 F until tender. Or skip the oven. Grate raw beets and add to slaws or as a topping in sandwiches.
Great things come in small packages. The baby versions of radishes, cabbages, kale, and broccoli can be higher in nutrients like vitamins C and E than the regular, mature plants. They range in flavors from peppery to tangy. Cooking tip: Try adding a handful of microgreens to sandwiches and salads, or use as a garnish for soups.
Often overshadowed by arugula, this peppery green can knock any dish into nutritional shape. It’s particularly rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and other antioxidants that are good for you. Cooking tip: Watercress can instantly make sandwiches and salads more lively and fresh-tasting. Or blend the greens into pureed soups or make a watercress pesto.
Two main varieties of Swiss chard are found on store shelves: one with multicolored stems and veins, often called rainbow chard, and another with white stems and veins. Both are great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant duo that’s good for your eyes. At only 7 calories a cup, the green giant is waistline-friendly, too. Cooking tip: To preserve its nutritional might, lightly steam chard and toss with vinaigrette. You can also use the leaves instead of tortillas when making soft tacos
Collard Greens (Kale)
This super green vegetable contains a wealth of nutritional goodness, including notable amounts of vitamins K and C, folate, and beta-carotene. To make it easier to meet all your daily nutrient needs, aim to eat about 2 cups of dark, leafy greens like collards every day. Cooking tip: Quickly blanch the leaves in boiling water, then chop them and add them to whole-grain or lentil salads.
Packed with nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and bone-building vitamin K, kale has been billed as an ultimate super food. Not everyone likes its strong flavor. Enter up-and-coming baby kale. The immature kale leaves are deliciously tender and don’t require any chopping. Cooking tip: Look for baby kale packed in plastic containers alongside baby spinach in supermarkets. Use in wraps, salads, and pasta dishes.
With an earthy-sweet flavor, asparagus is a good way to load up on folate. Research suggests that this B vitamin is an ally in the battle against high blood pressure. Cooking tip: Stir fry with other vegetables, a drop of olive oil, garlic and onion and serve as a main or side dish.
This green has healthy amounts of vitamins C, A, and K as well as manganese. Working 1.5 cups of green, leafy vegetables into your day may lower your odds of getting type 2 diabetes. Cooking tip: Sneak spinach into your daily routine by adding it to scrambled eggs and casseroles or blending it into smoothies. Chinese Spinach is easy and cheap to find in most Thai food stores.
It’s always a good idea to stash a bag of green peas in your freezer. Each cup of peas delivers an impressive 6 grams of fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, so you eat less later. It’s also good for your digestion and helps lower cholesterol levels. Cooking tip: Use frozen peas in soups, dips, stir fries, and pasta dishes
Red Bell Pepper
You think of it as a veggie, but it’s actually a fruit. One medium pepper delivers B vitamins, beta carotene, and more than twice your daily need for vitamin C. Cooking tip: Cut the tops off peppers, cut 2 finger wide slices, remove the inner white membranes and seeds, and then roast with some olive oil until tender.
Broccoli is one of nature’s rock stars. It’s a top source of natural plant chemicals shown to help lower the risk of some cancers (though many other things also affect your cancer risk). Each cup of the florets also gives you plenty of vitamins C and K. Cooking tip: Steam the florets for a simple side dish. Or add them into stir-fries, frittatas, and even smoothies that also have naturally sweet things, like fruit, to mask the broccoli taste.
According to the new “My Plate” guidelines from Harvard Medical School, the WHO, the Cancer Association and many other organizations, half of our daily food intake should be vegetables. Preferably in as many colors as possible and mostly raw or lightly cooked.
Judith Coulson is a Medical Nutritionist & Lifestyle Coach, specialized in drug free disease prevention and health promotion, for individuals and executive teams. Contact Judith@lifestylefoodclinic.com for an individual Food and Lifestyle Analysis and Consulting.