Mothers all over the world tell you to eat your vegetables, and they’re right that they’re good for you. But a steady diet of vegetables will also keep weight off and add a load of healthy vitamins to your diet. Here are the 8 best vegetables to put on your plate regularly to get the body you want and the nutrition you need.
A certain U.S. President said he couldn’t stand eating it, but broccoli is one of the best vegetables for health, not only because it’s high in fiber and calcium, it’s also one of the cruciferous vegetables that are known to help ward off cancer and other diseases. A dieter’s dream, there’s only 30 calories per serving. Besides eating it raw with a low-fat yogurt dip or hummus, cooking it requires timing to keep it bright green and appealing. Never put a lid on a pot when steaming or stir frying, and if you’re not serving it right away, when it’s the right hue, plunge it into an ice bath to preserve the crunch and color, then sauté it in butter or oil to heat it up again.
Another cruciferous vegetable, cabbage delivers immune-supporting vitamins and is versatile as a side dish, cole slaw, stir-fry ingredient or soup booster. It’s known as a favorite veggie for dieters.
The last of the cruciferous vegetables on this list, cauliflower makes a great base for soup or sauce because it lacks a strong flavor, and is even used as a base for gluten-free pizza crust. It’s also chockfull of vitamin C, folate and potassium.
Popeye isn’t the only one to benefit from this iron-rich veggie—women also need the nutrients it delivers, much more effectively than a multi-vitamin. It contains Vitamin K, which helps blood clot. Few foods other than mushrooms contain it. Also, spinach is a source of lutein, which protects eyes against macular degeneration. While it’s become more popular in the past few decades with the widespread availability of string-free baby spinach, the key to making it is not to overcook it. One of the best ways to cook spinach is to stir fry it in a small amount of oil in which minced garlic has been cooked. It’s also flavorful and well complemented by stir-frying it with shredded carrot and sliced mushroom.
Skip the iceberg lettuce and go for green leafy varieties, such as Romaine, which is an excellent way to get B vitamins. Its manganese and folic acid also help regulate blood sugar and boost the immune system. Avoid heavy dressings, however, and make your own vinaigrette for best weight loss results by mixing three parts olive oil with one part red wine vinegar, chopped shallots, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste.
Not only are they appetizing eye candy, they are great for your body, delivering antioxidants, folic acid, potassium and sulfur compounds that aid in digestion. They go well in salad, coleslaw and all by themselves as a satisfying appetizer.
Loaded with oleic acid, avocado has a unique monounsaturated fat that staves off hunger and satisfies. It’s also full of protein and fiber. Great in ALTs—Avocado, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches.
Formerly known as “love apples,” tomatoes love your body. They’re a favorite vegetable for Italians, who put them into just about every main dish. Their acidic juice balances pastas and meats and they’re packed with fiber. They contain lycopene, an antioxidant with cancer-fighting properties when cooked. They’re also good for bone health and osteoporosis prevention. Tomatoes have been linked to heart health, and are in recipes in just about every cookbook involving healthy eating for the past 40 years. They contain almost every major vitamin and mineral, as well as biotin, folate, chromium and protein. If you don’t eat any other vegetable, this one will go far in keeping you healthy.
Kale, collard greens, leeks, turnip greens, Swiss chard and mustard greens are all full of vitamins A, C and K, calcium, folate and potassium. You can’t go wrong in eating any and all of them, but they require a bit more TLC in preparation than the other vegetable options. All must be washed at least twice to remove dirt and grit. Kale salad recipes call for “massaging” the stiffness out of the leaves using olive oil or tahini, for instance, before tossing the shredded greens with other vegetables and dressing. Most are cooked in water on a stove with garlic, olive oil or broth. Mustard greens’ peppery flavor can be toned down by boiling them with vinegar or lemon juice. Collard greens are traditionally prepared with smoked ham hock or smoked turkey leg in a broth. All can be parboiled, then sautéed in olive oil with minced garlic for healthy results.
The best vegetables are the ones you regularly eat, because if you can’t bring yourself to chow down on collard greens or broccoli, then they won’t do you much good. Eat the ones you like and you can introduce the others as add-ons to salads or stir fry meals. Eventually, you might find you like them enough to make them a bigger part of your diet once you figure out the best way to prepare them. Also, remember that the fresher the vegetable is, the better it will taste. Broccoli from the farmer’s market tastes like a different vegetable from the one that’s been picked weeks earlier and shipped to a grocery store.
Happy vegetable hunting!