By: Dr. Masoud Abdar
Word to the wise: Please don’t just consume the vegetables about to be mentioned and disregard the ones you’ve been eating regularly. If you routinely buy fresh veggies and eat a wholesome variety already, chances are, you are getting most of your nutrients naturally which is proven to be better than taking manmade supplemental pills. Your body recognizes vegetables in their raw forms better than in a capsule form, thus using more of the nutrients as opposed to excreting most of them.
Let’s start with one you may not have thought would be mentioned. It’s white so it’s got to have low nutrient content. Wrong! Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of folate. Just like other cruciferous veggies such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli, this one also provides cancer risk lowering compounds. To top it off, you can eat as much of it as you want. One cup of cauliflower equates to only 30 calories. Go nuts! Make a cauliflower crust pizza. Or mix it in your mash potatoes.
These greens contain only 4 calories per stalk. Asparagus has high calcium and vitamin K, which helps build strong bones and with blood clotting respectively. It also contains riboflavin, one of the body’s energy sources. It also yields inulin, a type of carbohydrate prebiotic, supporting the growth of healthy bacteria in your colon. Asparagus makes an appetizing side dish, grilled, roasted or steamed.
A super green leafy vegetable, kale is packed with vitamins A, C, potassium, iron, folate, and lutein, which helps with eyesight. Not to mention, kale provides such a high level of calcium and in a form that the body recognizes and absorbs best. People underestimate all the possibilities with using kale in cooking. How about a child-friendly baked kale chips sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Or try it on pizza or salad. Be adventurous and chop some (fresh or frozen), and add to your next soup, lasagna, stir-fry, or stew. Remember though, kale is salty so reduce your salt use in recipes.
One cup of this contains all your daily-required vitamin C. Moreover, studies link greater broccoli and other green leafy vegetable consumption with lower risk of lung, colorectal, stomach, breast, prostate and other cancers. Next time you’re stumped for ideas for a perfect side dish, steam broccoli to achieve a perfect texture. If it tastes bitter to your palate, soften it by serving it stir-fried or with your choice of homemade dressing.
Spinach is loaded with calcium, vitamin C, and folate – a vitamin B that helps maintain healthy DNA and keep cancer-promoting genes turned off. And, spinach provides potassium and magnesium, both of which help lower blood pressure. Just like kale, add this to your next salad or soup, fresh or from the freezer. A tip however is not to boil it, as it cuts the amount of folate and vitamin C in half. Instead, steam, stir-fry, sauté, or serve fresh as a topping.
Beets are low in calories and high in fiber, so consuming it not only keeps you full longer but does not cause you to gain weight from eating a lot of it. Ever heard a naturopath/herbalist recommending beets to women trying to conceive, due to its high folic acid content? It regulates hormones in both women and men. It’s also recommended for menopausal women suffering from low iron and calcium. Beets’ phytochemicals especially reduce inflammation and decrease heart disease risks. Bake beets with its skin, just as you would a potato. Alternatively, grate and add to your salad.
Rich in beta-carotene, giving it its orange appearance, this starch fortifies your immune system to keep you healthy and your eyes, strong against degeneration. In the body, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A, which gives you healthy skin and mucus membranes. A half-cup serving of sweet potatoes is all you need to achieve your daily vitamin A content, with only 90 calories. Chop sweet potatoes into soups, stew and chili, or baked fries. Keep it simple. Roast with herbs and olive oil in the oven.
Containing 12 essential nutrients and powerful phytochemicals, this is another must-have in diets. Peas are very rich in fiber and protein, which means that they can help replace animal protein on your menu if you’re willing. What’s nice is its antioxidant properties don’t get lost if you buy flash frozen peas as opposed to fresh. Steam peas by themselves, serve them on a bed of desired cooked potatoes, or toss them into salads, soups, stews, roasts, chili, or pasta dishes.
“Bright bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, lycopene and other carotenoids. Vitamin C is a protector vitamin, helping us heal wounds, fight infections and protect cells from damage. Raw bell peppers are a crunchy treat that you can toss in a salad or serve with hummus dip. You can also stuff them with rice and herbs before baking. Or roast them over the stove or grill and serve with other veggies for added nutrition. Why not use as a Mexican dish filling of your choosing?
Quercetin, a phytochemical found in the outermost layers of onions, gives them an anti-inflammatory force that helps improve conditions such as arthritis, asthma and heart disease. Studies show that people who consume allium vegetables such as scallions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives regularly, have a lower risk of stomach, colon and prostate cancers. Add sweet red onions to salads and salsas or grill them. Or cook the sharp flavor of yellow onions to jazz up any dish.
With only 16 calories per cup, this is sure to satisfy and keep you slimmed. Being high in vitamin K, cukes promote bone loss reduction, decrease risk of bone fractures, along with helping you form clots in case of accidents. Add a slice of cucumber to refresh a glass of boring water. Toss chopped cucumber in a salad, hummus, guacamole or tabouleh. Chop and pack as a crunchy refreshing snack without any dressing!