The 6 Best Vegetables You Should Be Eating Every Day, Say Dietitians
Hopefully, we all know by now that vegetables are a fundamental part of a healthy diet. As Americans, unfortunately, we fall short of getting enough vegetables in our diets despite the awareness that vegetables offer incredible health benefits. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only around one in 10 Americans hit vegetable intake recommendations of two or more servings per day!
Vegetables of varying types provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and other macronutrients for fighting chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Plus, vegetables simply help us function at our best; many vegetables have unique plant compounds called "phytochemicals" or "phytonutrients" that you won't see mentioned on a nutrition facts panel, but that offer a bonus level of protection in disease prevention and health maintenance.
Here are six vegetables dietitians would love to see make their way into your grocery cart (and onto your plate) each week. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 distinctly cite that red and orange vegetables should be consumed regularly: to the tune of five and a half cups each week for most adults. Orange and red vegetables (particularly carrots!) are excellent sources of vitamin A (as carotenoids) and vitamin C. Vitamin A is critical for vision while also playing a role in properly maintaining the heart, lungs, and other organs.
Tomatoes are another vegetable that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee calls out as being a specific color vegetable that should be enjoyed frequently. Tomatoes, although sometimes regarded as a fruit because it bears edible seeds, contain the phytonutrient lycopene which is associated with prostate and colorectal cancer protection. Cook tomatoes in a cast iron pan to increase the concentration of lycopene while also boosting iron content.
Garlic often shows up in an array of meals and dishes. This vegetable contains a potent compound called allicin, which supports the integrity of our blood vessels and may help reduce blood sugars along with other dietary habits. Ideally, keep a few garlic cloves on hand in the refrigerator for chopping or mincing for your favorite recipes. However, jarred canned garlic and garlic powder also provide health benefits and can be used interchangeably in food preparation.
Yes, kale makes the list despite dismay from some people who never hopped on the kale bandwagon back when it became a household name sometime around 2012. Kale is a dark leafy green that, along with its friends like spinach, bok choy, arugula, or collards, provides fiber, protein, folate, potassium, and vitamin K. Kale can be the foundation of a salad, but also consider kale baked into a casserole, mixed into a low-fat creamy soup, thrown into a stir-fry, or made into kale chips.
Although beans and lentils are a hearty protein source in our diets, they overlap with the vegetable group, sharing many of the same nutrition characteristics as other classically accepted vegetables. Chickpeas, also known by their alias garbanzo beans, have a milder flavor compared to other beans and do well in anything from curries to burger patties. Chickpeas contain seven grams of protein and four grams of fiber per half-cup cooked serving.
Keeping with the bean and lentil dual food group concept, lentils make the list as a vegetable to squeeze in more frequently to your eating pattern. Lentils cook in a fraction of the time that beans do and can be spotted on some grocery store shelves already canned. Be sure to drain and rinse to eliminate around half of the sodium if they are packed in salt. Lentils offer a whopping seven grams of protein per half-cup cooked serving and are a good source of fiber.
Find more vegetable inspiration by reading The #1 Best Vegetable to Eat, According to a Dietitian.