We’re all looking for easy ways to feel great physically and mentally, look our best, and enjoy good health and an active lifestyle for the rest of our lives. The best way to do this? Fuel your body with the right nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
What we eat plays an enormous part in how we feel and how often we get sick, and vegetables are one of our greatest allies in the fight for a great life.
Vegetables taste amazing when you cook them properly and are low in calories, so we can pretty much eat as much as we want, they’re high in fibre and rich in vital vitamins and minerals. Certain vegetables also have extra-special qualities that can benefit different parts of our complex physiology.
Here are 8 of the healthiest vegetables you should include in your diet regularly.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in antioxidants which play a huge role in preventing cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Broccoli is rich in Sulphoraphane, a naturally occurring compound in raw broccoli, which has been shown to have a protective effect against the development of cancerous cells.
To get the greatest benefits from Sulphoraphane, eat raw broccoli, lightly stir fry it, or chop your it forty minutes before cooking to allow the Sulphoraphane to develop before cooking.
Eating broccoli can also protect the heart from oxidative stress and it is loaded with nutrients, such as vitamin K and vitamin C, folate, manganese and potassium.
2. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are an amazing superfood and are one of the most delicious, healthiest and cheapest vegetables you can eat, and most nutrient-rich per pound. The more orange the flesh the healthier they are, because the richer the colour the richer in antioxidants they are. Be sure to eat them with the skin on, as it has nearly 10 times the antioxidant power of the flesh.
They are high in beta-carotene which decreases the risk of some types of cancer and are full of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese, which is important for brain health.
Beetroot can be eaten in many ways, making it one of the easiest veggies to add to your diet, as well as one of the most nutritious vegetables. Roast it whole, put it in soup, drink it as beetroot juice, or put shredded pieces in your salad.
Beetroot fibre has been shown to increase your white blood cell count, which are responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells in the body and fighting infections. Beetroot is ranked among the top 10 most potent antioxidant vegetables, it contains lutein which protects the eyes, and is a good source of glutamine, which essential for the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract.
It has also been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure and the ability of the blood to hold oxygen as it is rich in nitric oxide, which is essential for a healthy heart.
Garlic, onions, leeks and other members of the allium family have special properties. Best eaten raw in a salad or sandwiches, research has shown garlic to be a top cancer-fighting vegetable.
Garlic contains the highest concentration of allicin, an effective anti-bacterial plant compound which studies have shown may lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and alleviate exercise-related muscle damage. Garlic has also been shown to have antioxidant benefits, especially for the liver.
Kale is now a well-known superfood and has increased in popularity. Like other leafy greens, it is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and has been shown to help fight off infection by boosting antibody production in cells.
Studies have also shown it can lower blood pressure and may be beneficial in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol. (If you’re looking for more advice on maintaining your blood sugar levels, read our helpful guide here) It is high in vitamins A, C, and K. The health benefits of kale are not reduced by cooking and it can be enjoyed steamed, in smoothies and as super healthy kale chips!
6. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes straddle both the protein and vegetable groups of foods, but they cannot be left out of a list of the healthiest vegetables to eat because of their huge health benefits and how easily they can be added to your diet.
Due to their high nutrient content and cancer-preventive properties, eating beans every day is recommended by many nutritionists and they are easily added to chilis, burgers, curries, stir-fries, and salads. There is a huge variety available and are just as healthy canned as they are when you buy them dried, so experiment and see what you like best. Avoid canned beans with added sugar.
Spinach has gotten a bad reputation, but fresh spinach is one of the easiest salads to eat and the most nutritious. It is high in fibre, extremely rich in nutrients such as vitamins A, C and K, and low in calories. It is also a good source of folic acid, iron and calcium and important plant compounds such as lutein and zeaxanthin which are important for eye health. Vitamin K and calcium are essential for bone health, and vitamin A for tissue health including skin and hair.
Spinach is very versatile and easy to include in your normal diet. It is delicious raw in salads, added to wraps and sandwiches, steamed, blended in a soup or added to a stir-fry. Frozen spinach is good for you, but use raw for the best taste in your recipes.
If you don’t usually like mushrooms, it’s time to try some different varieties and different cooking methods before you give up on them altogether. Mushrooms contain high amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione which are important antioxidants and have recently been seen to reduce mild cognitive impairment and show potential as a cell protector. They are also prebiotic and nourish the good bacteria in your gut.
Mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant selenium, B vitamins that help protect heart health and important minerals copper and potassium. If you don’t normally like the consistency of mushrooms, try some Asian varieties such as shitake, as they have a better texture and stronger taste.
Of course, it’s not always easy to eat a diet full of all the vegetables you need. While you should definitely do everything you can to eat whole plant foods, another great way to ensure you’re getting all the essential vitamins and minerals you need is to take a multivitamin.
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