We all know that eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle. Vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a host of other health-giving compounds. But some vegetables pack more of a nutritional punch than others. Choosing the right vegetables is key to getting more bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking.
Often chosen by experts as the most nutritious of all vegetables, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, boasting high levels of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains zeaxanthin and lutein, compounds linked to eye health, as well as nitrates which may help lower blood pressure. Spinach is rich in antioxidants which are known to protect the body from oxidative damage and may help prevent cancer.
Sweet potatoes are incredible incredibly nutritious root vegetables. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promote good digestive health and support a healthy gut biome. They are packed with beta-carotene, vitamins C and B6, and other essential minerals like manganese and copper. Purple sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. Research shows that sweet potatoes also help balance blood sugar levels, restore pancreatic function, and reduce insulin resistance in people with hyperglycemia.
One of the most widely used vegetables around the world, carrots are a good source of vitamins K1 and B6, as well as biotin and potassium. They contain high levels of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A to support growth, vision, and immune function. Carrots are also high in other carotenoids including lutein, which is important for eye health, and lycopene, which may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Kale has become a popular health food over recent years, and for good reason. This leafy green vegetable is high in vitamin C, K, and beta-carotene. Like spinach, it also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health, as well as other antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress. Kale is thought to be beneficial to heart health as it has the potential to lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
Belonging to the same family as kale, watercress also packs quite a punch, nutrition-wise. It contains high levels of vitamins A and C, and is especially high in vitamin K, necessary for blood clotting and maintaining healthy bones. Studies show that watercress has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may protect liver and kidney function, and may help to prevent cancer.
Garlic has been used for thousands of years to treat all manner of ailments, including respiratory problems, digestive issues, fatigue, and high blood pressure. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and may help promote bone health. Today, the most important health benefits of garlic are thought to be related to heart health. Research shows that garlic reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
Beetroot is high in fiber, iron, potassium, manganese, and vitamins B9 and C. Sometimes used as a performance enhancer, beetroot contains high levels of nitrates that boost blood flow and increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen during exercise. Beetroot has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is especially beneficial for heart health as it can lower blood pressure.
Whether you call them fruits or vegetables, there’s no debating that tomatoes are good for your health. They are high in vitamins B9, C, and K1, as well as potassium and beta-carotene. Research suggests that a high intake of lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid found in tomatoes, is associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
Asparagus is very nutrient-dense, containing high levels of vitamin K and folate which is important for cell growth, especially during pregnancy. In addition, asparagus has anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect liver and kidney function. Research suggests that the phytochemicals found in asparagus can limit tumor cell growth and may be helpful in preventing and treating cancer.
Technically part of the legume family, alfalfa spouts are usually eaten in sandwiches or salads or consumed in powdered form. While quite an unusual choice, alfalfa sprouts have a lot to offer as they are high in flavonoids, which are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Though research is limited, there’s evidence to suggest that isoflavones in particular could be helpful in treating menopausal symptoms and may have a cancer-protective effect.
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