When you think of a healthy vegetable what first springs to mind? Kale? Broccoli? Or some other trendy superfood? Although it probably can’t hurt to jump on a popular veggie’s bandwagon, it’s also good to remember the nutritious merits of the vegetables that tend to fly under the radar. Don’t underestimate the benefits of these eight healthy veggies.
When it comes to healthy root vegetables, it’s hard to beat beets. A cup of beets contains about 58 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 11 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 37 percent of folate. Beets also are an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Among their many health benefits, beets might help to lower blood pressure — thanks to their high levels of nitrates, which work within the body to relax blood vessels, according to Harvard Medical School. Research also has shown that beets possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which might make them beneficial against inflammatory diseases and even cancer.
2. BRUSSELS SPROUTS
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Brussels sprouts might get a bad rap in the healthy vegetable world for their strong flavor. But they certainly have their place in a nutritious diet. A cup of boiled Brussels sprouts contains about 56 calories with 4 grams of fiber, 24 percent of your daily intake of vitamin A, 162 percent of vitamin C and a massive 274 percent of vitamin K. Plus, a cup of sprouts has about 6 percent of your daily calcium intake, 10 percent of iron, 14 percent of potassium and 18 percent of manganese — among other nutrients. According to Healthline, Brussels sprouts contain antioxidants that can protect the body against cancer, decrease inflammation and improve heart health. They’re also “one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids,” which can reduce inflammation and blood triglycerides, as well as slow cognitive decline.
Although cabbage often is associated with unhealthy dishes, such as mayonnaise-laden coleslaw, it’s actually very nutritious on its own. A cup of chopped cabbage has only about 22 calories but several vitamins and minerals — including 54 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, 85 percent of vitamin K, 10 percent of folate and 7 percent of manganese. The properties in cabbage might help with chronic inflammation, keep the digestive system healthy and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus, several studies have linked cruciferous vegetables — cabbage included — to a lower risk of cancer. So throw some chopped cabbage into your salads or enjoy it in other healthy dishes for these added benefits.
Another underrated member of the cruciferous vegetable family is cauliflower, which often plays second fiddle to its darker green cousins. A cup of raw cauliflower only has about 25 calories. But it packs a healthy punch with 3 grams of fiber, 77 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, 20 percent of vitamin K, 11 percent of vitamin B6, 14 percent of folate, 9 percent of potassium and 8 percent of manganese. Plus, cauliflower is full of antioxidants, which can help to protect your body against cancer and other diseases, according to Healthline. And it’s high in choline, a nutrient that works throughout the body to keep cells functioning and prevent disease.
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A cup of chopped onions — not that you’d probably eat that much in one sitting — has 64 calories with 3 grams of fiber, 20 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, 10 percent of vitamin B6, 8 percent of folate, 7 percent of potassium and 10 percent of manganese. And just like many of the other veggies on this list, onions are full of antioxidants and other compounds that can boost heart health and fight cancer, according to Healthline. Plus, research has shown they might help to control blood sugar, improve digestive health and even support strong bones. That might just make the tears from chopping those onions worthwhile.
Radishes often are an afterthought in salads. But don’t underestimate what this root veggie can do for you. A cup of radish slices is only 19 calories — with 2 grams of fiber, 29 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, 7 percent of folate, 8 percent of potassium and small amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. “Radishes come in a wide variety of colors, including red, pink, purple and white,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “These cruciferous crops include fiber for digestive health, phytonutrients that protect against many diseases, and a pungent flavor that will help clear clogged sinuses or soothe a sore throat.”
7. ROMAINE LETTUCE
Maybe you’ve avoided romaine lettuce for a while because of the recent recalls — obviously a healthy choice at the time. But don’t forget about its high nutritional value. One cup of romaine is only about 8 calories. And for those 8 calories you get a gram of fiber, 82 percent of your recommended intake of vitamin A, 19 percent of vitamin C, 60 percent of vitamin K, 16 percent of folate, 2 percent of calcium and 3 percent of iron, among other nutrients. In fact, when compared to some other salad greens, romaine tops them for many of the nutrient levels — especially vitamin A, which is essential for vision, cellular function, the immune system, reproductive health and more.
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Watercress — a peppery little leafy green also of the cruciferous veggie family — has quietly been gaining superfood status as more people recognize its health benefits. A cup of chopped watercress is a mere 4 calories — containing 22 percent of your daily intake of vitamin A, 24 percent of vitamin C, an impressive 106 percent of vitamin K, 4 percent of calcium and small amounts of other nutrients. “Watercress packs a massive amount of disease-fighting antioxidants such as lutein and beta carotene into a tiny number of calories,” Cleveland Clinic says. So use it to add a fresh, peppery flavor to dishes, and enjoy the easy nutrient boost.
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