The World Health Organization recalls that to maintain a healthy body’s functioning, it is necessary to eat at least 400 g of fruits and vegetables every day. (1)
Eating an adequate amount of vegetables every day is critical in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
This article describes the benefits of eating that many vegetables every day and a list of the healthiest vegetables.
Benefits of vegetables
In the growth process, plants produce (or accumulate) certain nutrients that the human body needs to function correctly.
First of all, vegetables are sources of vitamins and minerals associated with numerous benefits and are needed for various biochemical reactions in our body.
Lastly, flavonoids and other antioxidant molecules usually give vegetables and fruits their color. Its consumption prevents the breakdown of molecules toxic to cells, such as free radicals.
To obtain the health benefits of vegetables, it is essential for their daily consumption in sufficient quantities and variety. None of the vegetables can be the source of all the elements necessary for metabolism, and therefore it would be wrong to consider only one as the best.
Strictly speaking, vegetables are any edible part of a plant. However, since wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, and corn are flower seeds, they are classified as “grains.” Also, mushrooms are not vegetables either; they do not belong to the plant kingdom.
From a nutritional point of view, starchy and non-starchy vegetables are distinguished. Potatoes are an example of a vegetable with a high starch content: the WHO specifies that the consumption of potatoes should not be included when calculating the number of vegetables consumed per day.
List of the healthiest vegetables
When it comes to making a healthy vegetable shopping list, it is a common misconception that cheap and common vegetables are less valuable than exotic and expensive ones.
In short, the important thing is to try to cover 400 grams of vegetables a day. This reasonably large quantity is easier and safer to cover with local produce. Here is a list of 9 examples of healthy vegetables:
- Sweet pepper
Peppers are the wealthiest vegetable in vitamin C (essential to fight free radicals and strengthen the immune system ). Furthermore, the first flavonoid in history was isolated from bell pepper; Its health benefits lie in maintaining the walls of blood vessels.
The purple color of the eggplant is due to the presence of anthocyanin in the flavonoid; its good content in the diet is associated with the normalization of high blood pressure and a decreased risk of developing diabetes and cancer. Also, eggplant is rich in soluble fiber.
Carrots contain a considerable amount of vegetable vitamin A, up to 400% of the daily value per 100g. In the form of retinol, vitamin A is found in most tissues in the human body (from the skin to the muscles to the brain), regulating tissue repair and growth processes.
Although in botany, the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, in the kitchen, it is used as a vegetable. Its advantages include the presence of vitamin C, potassium, and the phytonutrient lycopene (which gives it a red color). Lycopene is especially important for men because it prevents the development of prostate cancer.
- Broccoli and other cabbages
Eating broccoli and other types of cabbage can help maintain the balance of vitamin K in the body. Additionally, the phytonutrient indoles and isothiocyanates in cabbage are essential in protecting cells from DNA damage, preventing the development of some forms of cancer.
Cucumbers and other vegetables in the cucurbit family are high in water-soluble fiber, vitamin B6, cucurbitacin E, and a source of magnesium. Remember that magnesium deficiency is widespread. Only a quarter of the population receives the required amount of the mineral daily.
On the one hand, the composition of pumpkin is close to that of carrots; both vegetables are rich in vitamin A. However, pumpkin contains less fast carbohydrates and more fiber, affecting both the taste and the cooking possibilities. Additionally, pumpkin contains calcium, iron, and magnesium.
- Root vegetables
Many root crops (the “underground” part of vegetables) are especially rich in minerals; we’re talking beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes. In addition, these vegetables can be used as food: the cuisine of many Mediterranean countries uses them in soups and as a filling for baking cakes.
- Onions and garlic
Garlic and onion are vegetables, the benefits of which have been known for millennia and have been confirmed by modern research. For example, they contain the phytonutrient allicin (it reduces blood sugar and also improves insulin sensitivity) and essential minerals such as sulfur.
How to choose the best ones?
When choosing vegetables for your daily menu, try to buy local and seasonal produce, not some excellent fruit sealed in plastic from another part of the planet. If regular cabbage is cheaper, you don’t need to overpay for broccoli. As a result, the difference in vitamins and minerals is not so fundamental.
On the other hand, frozen vegetables are also welcome foods. Freezing does not reduce the number of vitamins and minerals. Practical advantages include ease of preparation and ease of storage.
Organic products are preferable because they contain a lower content of pesticides. And its production is more environmentally friendly.
The World Health Organization reminds us that the daily value of vegetables is 400 grams, and the key to obtaining their health benefits is in the variety. In other words, you should first try to include vegetables in your diet every day and not just eat the “healthiest” once in a while.