A staple of Northern European and Northern American cooking, kale is a hardy green and a powerhouse of nutrition. Not only does it contain lots of fiber, folate, and vitamin K, it is one of the few vegetables that offer an appreciable amount of calcium. Also, evidence exists that kale may help your body remove toxins.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Most members of the humble and ubiquitous cruciferous family, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are great sources of vitamin C, vitamin A (as beta carotene), fiber and folate. Like kale, cruciferous vegetables play a large role in detoxification. A light steaming gives broccoli a beautiful, bright green color, and can release some nutrients not as readily available in the raw form.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes and yams are loaded with the antioxidant beta carotene, which increases the availability of vitamin A in your bloodstream. In fact, the average sweet potato can supply nearly all of your daily need for this nutrient. The deep-orange flesh has also been shown to reduce inflammation and help keep your blood sugar level even. Pretty sweet deal!
One of the more pungent vegetables (some call it “the stinking rose”), garlic is used in nearly all major cuisines, and is one of the world’s healthiest vegetables. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, a good source of iron, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and selenium, and is especially good for the health of your blood vessels. Some say it helps prevent blood clots and can lower blood pressure. Interesting new research, still in its early stages, links garlic with reducing the number of fat cells in your body.
Beets are brilliant. The chemicals that give beets their bright color are powerful antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin) linked to eye health, and especially age-related optical conditions like macular degeneration. Their anti-inflammatory compounds are being studied after preliminary, positive effects on heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions thought to result from chronic inflammation. One cup of boiled beets gives you about a third of your body’s daily need for folate and manganese, and is also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. But don’t overcook these jewel-toned beauties; too much destroys their nutrients.
Lycopene is the word when it comes to tomatoes. This powerful compound that gives tomatoes their bright red color is one of the most potent antioxidants found in nature. Early studies suggest it may offer some anti-inflammatory protection against cardiovascular disease and some cancers, and may lessen the severity of the side effects from type 2 diabetes. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C and beta carotene, and a good source of fiber.
7. Sea Vegetables
Eat seaweed? Gross! But sea vegetables like kelp (also called kombu), dulse, wakame and nori can provide a bounty of important trace minerals not found in other food groups. Kombu and company is a staple of Japanese diets; if you’ve ever eaten sushi, that was probably nori wrapped around your California roll. Sea vegetables are particularly efficient sources of iron, because the vitamin C they contain can make the iron more available for your body. The brown algae group (kombu, wakame) is especially high in two important trace minerals: iodine and vanadium. Iodine can help keep your thyroid gland healthy (but don’t stop taking your thyroid medication without consulting your doctor.) Vanadium is being studied for its complex regulation of blood sugar levels. Some forms of sea vegetables are powerful anti-inflammatories, and research suggests they could lessen the severity of osteoarthritis.
Photos courtesy of MorgueFile.com and iStock.com
CDC: Fruit and Vegetable of the Month, “Vegetable of the Month: Broccoli” https://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/broccoli.html
The World’s Healthiest Foods, https://whfoods.org/foodstoc.php
MSNBC.com, “Benefits of Eating Tomatoes Remain Bountiful” https://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19979174/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/#
TomatoesWeb.com, “Health Benefits of Tomatoes” https://tomatoesweb.com/tomatoes/Health+Benefits+of+Tomatoes/