Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 17, 2020
Cream of the Crop
If you regularly load up your grocery cart with a variety of veggies, you could be well on your way to a healthier and longer life. But which ones should you reach for? Recent research has shown that dozens of vegetables pack a particularly big nutritional punch. Sneaking them into your daily diet couldn’t be simpler.
Beet roots’ edible leafy tops are brimming with vitamin K, which is linked to a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes. One cup raw provides nearly twice your daily requirement. Cooking tip: Saute a bunch of tender beet greens with some olive oil and garlic for a healthy side dish. Or chop them and add to frittatas, soups, or pasta dishes.
Not to be outdone by their tops, ruby red beets are a leading source of nitrates, which are good for your blood pressure. Plus, you get fiber and other nutrients from beets. Cooking tip: Roasting beets boosts their natural sweetness. Wrap each beet individually in foil and bake at 350 F until tender. Or skip the oven. Grate raw beets and add to slaws or as a topping in sandwiches.
Great things come in small packages. The baby versions of radishes, cabbages, kale, and broccoli can be higher in nutrients like vitamins C and E than the regular, mature plants. They range in flavors from peppery to tangy. Cooking tip: Try adding a handful of microgreens to sandwiches and salads, or use as a garnish for soups.
Often overshadowed by arugula, this peppery green can knock any dish into nutritional shape. It’s particularly rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and other antioxidants that are good for you. Cooking tip: Watercress can instantly make sandwiches and salads more lively and fresh-tasting. Or blend the greens into pureed soups.
Two main varieties of Swiss chard are found on store shelves: one with multicolored stems and veins, often called rainbow chard, and another with white stems and veins. Both are great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant duo that's good for your eyes. At only 7 calories a cup for raw chard, the green giant is waistline-friendly, too. Cooking tip: To preserve its nutritional might, lightly steam chard and toss with vinaigrette. You can also use the leaves instead of tortillas when making soft tacos.
This Southern favorite contains a wealth of nutritional goodness, including notable amounts of vitamins K and C, folate, and beta-carotene. To boost your daily nutrition, aim to eat about 2 cups of dark, leafy greens like collards every day. Two cups of raw greens is equal to 1 cup of vegetables, and 2.5 cups is recommended daily for a 2000-calorie diet. Cooking tip: Quickly blanch the leaves in boiling water, then chop them and add them to whole-grain or lentil salads.
With an earthy-sweet flavor, asparagus is a good way to load up on folate. Research suggests that this B vitamin is an ally in the battle against high blood pressure. Cooking tip: Shave raw asparagus with a vegetable peeler. You'll get ribbons that are wonderful in salads.
This green has healthy amounts of vitamins C, A, and K as well as manganese. Working 1.5 cups of green, leafy vegetables into your day may lower your odds of getting type 2 diabetes. Cooking tip: Sneak spinach into your daily routine by adding it to scrambled eggs and casseroles or blending it into smoothies.
Packed with nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and bone-building vitamin K, kale has been billed as an ultimate super food. Not everyone likes its strong flavor. Enter up-and-coming baby kale. The immature kale leaves are deliciously tender and don’t require any chopping. Cooking tip: Look for baby kale packed in plastic containers alongside baby spinach in supermarkets. Use in wraps, salads, and pasta dishes.
It’s always a good idea to stash a bag of green peas in your freezer. Each cup of frozen peas delivers an impressive 7.2 grams of fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, so you eat less later. It's also good for your digestion and helps lower cholesterol levels. Cooking tip: Use frozen peas in soups, dips, potato salads, and pasta dishes.
Red Bell Pepper
You think of it as a veggie, but it's actually a fruit. One medium pepper delivers B vitamins, beta carotene, and more than twice your daily need for vitamin C. Cooking tip: For a fanciful main dish, cut the tops off peppers, remove the inner white membranes and seeds, and then roast until tender. Finish by filling with your favorite whole-grain salad.
Broccoli is one of nature’s rock stars. It's a top source of natural plant chemicals shown to help lower the risk of some cancers (though many other things also affect your cancer risk). Each cup of the florets also gives you plenty of vitamins C and K. Cooking tip: Steam the florets for a simple side dish. Or add them into stir-fries, frittatas, and even smoothies that also have naturally sweet things, like fruit, to mask the broccoli taste.