Choosing the Best Veggies

Potatoes are the number one eaten vegetable in America, followed by tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.  Put these three together and you’ll see why.  According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, per person, Americans eat more than 100 burgers (1/4 pound patties) a year.  Lettuce and tomatoes are typically added on top of the burgers, and fried potatoes (french fries) are eaten alongside the burger.  The average burger-eating American consumes vegetables as an afterthought, but boy do we Americans sure love those greasy burgers thrown between a white bun.

While potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce (I’m talking the green kind, iceberg pretty much is nutritionless) certainly aren’t worthless, there are tons of other veggies out there, many of which are superior in terms of health compared to America’s top three.  Relatively all vegetables have something to offer, but a notable few will offer you more bang for your buck in terms of supplying your body with nutrients.

Let’s take a look at five star-studded veggies that you will certainly want to consider adding to your diet.

Greens: Leafy greens, such as kale, collards, and swiss chard, are loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, folate, magnesium, iron, lutein, potassium, and phytochemicals.  They also tend to be very high in calcium, which researches speculate may be the reason why many types of greens hold a slightly bitter taste.  Greens also pack in a lot of fiber for few calories.  For instance, a cup of cooked kale provides 3 grams of fiber for only 40 calories.  And if you’re on a tight budget, greens are certainly the way to go.  I’ve seen kale and collards at my local supermarket for as little as 15 cents a pound!  They’re also exceptionally easy to grow, so if you’re just starting out a garden, you’ll have a high rate of success with growing greens.  Not sure how to make them?  Check out these no-fuss ways to cook up greens, or take a look at this article on how to easily add greens into your everyday meals.

Sweet Potatoes: Switch out those regular white, starchy potatoes for vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes.  According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), these orange, candy-like potatoes rank #1 among all other vegetables.  In addition to vitamin A, sweet potatoes are full of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  Also, unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes rate low on the glycemic index.  This means that they are digested slowly, allowing blood sugar to rise at a gradual rate.  This process will keep you full for a longer period of time.  So although sweet potatoes seem rather sweet and sugary, the fiber they contain (twice the amount of a typical Russet white potato) slows the release of sugar preventing any harmful spikes in blood sugar.  Regular potatoes on the other hand have a high glycemic rating, causing the blood sugar to quickly rise upon eating them.  High glycemic foods can be taxing on the body, whereas low glycemic foods help maintain steady energy levels.  Low glycemic index foods can promote weight loss, a decreased sensitivity to insulin, a decreased risk of heart disease, and lower cholesterol levels.  If you must get your weekly dose of french fries, try experimenting with making sweet potato fries instead.  These are super delicious and a great change of pace from regular french fries.  Sweet potatoes can also be easily made in the oven by baking them at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until soft.  Baked sweet potatoes are like nature’s candy!

Broccoli: I advocate pretty much any green vegetable because their color is usually a representation of the many nutrients they hold.  Broccoli is particularly full of vitamin C, carotenoids, and folic acid, a vitamin necessary for producing healthy red blood cells.  It’s also loaded with fiber.  A cup of broccoli contains 3-4 grams of fiber.  This is one of the easiest veggies to make.  Try simply steaming broccoli for 6-8 minutes, and then adding a little olive oil, vinegar, S&P.  Broccoli is also delicious sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and soy sauce.

Squash: Like the previous mentioned vegetables, squash is loaded with fiber.  It also has a starchy texture that will psychologically help to make you feel extra full and satisified.  Because of it’s texture, squash is a good substitute for potatoes.  Most varieties are surprisingly low in calories, ranging from 30-70 calories per cup.  Most squash are also loaded with vitamin C as well as vitamin A, which helps to give them their bright orange color.  For more information on what to do with squash, read this.

Brussel Sprouts: Just 1/2 cup of brussel sprouts will provide you with 81% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, for as little as 30 calories.  Brussel sprouts also have significant amounts of vitamin A, folate, manganese, and iron.  They also contain sulforaphane, one of the most powerful phytonutrients found in cruciferous vegetables that works to fight off cancer.  The phytonutrient is known to trigger the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals, help in decreasing chemically-induced breast cancers, and kill off colon cancer cells.  If you’ve previously sworn off to brussel sprouts because of terrible childhood memories, I beg that you give them another chance.  If you’re not a brussel sprout fan, I definitely recommend you try roasting them before completely giving up on the nutrient-packed veggie.  Roasting the brussel sprouts surprisingly changes their taste, caramelizes their flavor for a delicious, irresistible side dish.  Simply drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F.

When choosing vegetables, it’s important to remember to strive for variety.  Each vegetable contains a different combination of vitamins and nutrients, of which will be beneficial to your body.  Look for a wide range of colors when picking out veggies.  Maybe choose greens or broccoli to add some green into your diet, sweet potatoes, squash or carrots for some orange, tomatoes for some red, eggplant for some purple, etc. etc.  The colors tend to reflect their different combinations of nutrients.  Also, the rainbow of colors is certainly visually appealing for your eye and will ensure that you won’t get bored with your diet!  So try out my challenge, and for the upcoming week add more veggies to your diet, while decreasing the portions of meat you consume.  Skip the burger, and make vegetables the star of your meal rather than just the afterthought.

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Andrea@WellnessNotes
    January 23, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Great info! Yes, eating a variety of veggies is sooo important! Love all the veggies you are mentioning, and I eat them frequently. But my favorite veggie/fruit is still and will always be tomatoes. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it’d be tomatoes (homegrown whenever possible!). 🙂

    Happy Weekend!

  • Reply
    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    January 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I’m with Andrea. The tomato is without a doubt my most favorite. That plus mozzarella and basil is the most refreshing appetizer/dinner I’ve ever had. During the summer, I eat ’em like I’m addicted.

  • Reply
    Melinda
    January 23, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I need to work on the brussel sprouts. I keep eyeing them in the store, but just can;t bring myself to do it. I’m a bad RD!!! j/k. We made some fab cream of broccoli soup last night and the added bonus was carrots in the soup. Not only did it increase the nutrients, but it added an awesome sweetness to it.

  • Reply
    Simply Life
    January 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Great post! I never put the 2 together that those veggies are used for burgers – kind of sad! I love the new veggie ideas!

  • Reply
    Ariana
    January 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    What a fantastic, informative and inspiring post! If I do not take care of what I am eating, I tend to cook always more or less the same. Therefore I try to test a new vegetable each week – sometimes it’s quite hard to motivate myself to prepare something completely new. But if it turns out really good, I am always sooo happy 😉

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    January 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    haha, while reading this post, I just so happen to be eating a sweet potato!! Ironic. I love them. I have read the stats about what Americans are eating, as far as veggies, and they are scary. Potatoes, in the form of French fries, DO NOT count! hello people…AND iceburg lettuce, well it’s WATER! Come on. People just need to learn how to prepare veggies in a great way. Your tips were perfect.

  • Reply
    eatmovelove
    January 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    J’adore les potatoes. Serieusement! 🙂 Love ’em. Sweet potatoes, baked, mashed, boiled, sometimes I just eat them plain…is that wrong/bad?! I’m still alive…they are UNDER-rated by far. Great post chica!

  • Reply
    Lily @ Lily's Health Pad
    January 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Loved all the info! I’ve pretty much been trying out your challenge for the past few months now! Although, I’ve never really been a huge meat eater. I’m just trying to increase my veggie, fruit, and nut consumption. I seriously feel SO GOOD! Eat your veggies, people!

  • Reply
    Mari
    January 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    This is a fabulous post chickie!

  • Reply
    Teniah Howell
    January 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    As a new vegetarian, you know I love these posts you have been putting out….Keep up the great work in helping people make informed decisions about the veges they choose!=) My new favorite is the parsnip – really sweet and delicious, much like a carrot – The web is FULL of wonderful recipes for cooking vegetables so there can be so much more to the flavor than just steaming! Give it a go, and try these wonderful ideas!!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    January 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Potatoes, tomatoes, and iceberg. Ouch. I love tomatoes as much as the next person, but we need to branch out! Or at least opt for sweet potatoes? 😉 Great information, girl! Hope you had a WONDERFUL weekend!

  • Reply
    Heather
    January 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I agree with Andrea and Tracey – I think tomatoes are probably my favorite vegetable. I could eat them like an apple.

    I definitely try to make salads with as many colors as possible! For me, greens are easy to get – spinach is readily available at my work salad bar and I eat it almost every day. Its the other colors that usually are harder!

    Great information – thanks for all the research!

  • Reply
    Jenna @ Health and Happiness
    January 24, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    It’s so interesting the way you put this together. People do eat a lot of burgers, and thats definitely not the healthiest way to be getting veggies! I had the most amazing roasted brussel sprouts at this little cafe in La Jolla this weekend. They are so YUMMY!

  • Reply
    Steven
    January 25, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Try sweet potatoes on cereal in the morning. Cut into chunks, steam, and store a bowl of them in the refrigerator. The sweetness and bright color goes great with oatmeal.

  • Reply
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