All vegetables contain healthful vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, some stand out for their exceptional health benefits. Some individuals benefit more from certain vegetables than others, depending on their diet, overall health, and nutritional needs.
In this article, we list 9 of the most healthful vegetables, along with some tips to help people enjoy them as part of a balanced diet.
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable. It is also a great source of calcium, vitamins, iron, and antioxidants. Due to its iron and calcium content, spinach is a great addition to any meat- or dairy-free diet.
One cup of raw spinach is mostly made up of water and contains only 7 calories. It also provides the following nutrients:
- an adult’s full daily requirements for vitamin K
- high amounts of vitamin A
- vitamin C
Vitamin K is essential for a healthy body, and especially so for strong bones. It improves how well the body absorbs calcium.
Spinach also provides a good amount of iron for energy and healthy blood, and a good level of magnesium for muscle and nerve function.
It is also rich in antioxidants. Research reports that spinach leaves may lower blood pressure and benefit heart health.
How to eat spinach
People enjoy spinach raw in salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. Cooked spinach also has significant health benefits and is a great addition to pasta dishes and soups.
Peas are sweet, starchy vegetables that provide 134 calories per cooked cup. They are also high in:
- fiber, at 9 grams per serving
- protein, at 9 grams per serving
- vitamins A, C, and K,
- certain B vitamins
Green peas are a good source of plant-based protein, and eating them is an effective way for vegetarian and vegan people to boost their protein intake. Peas and other legumes contain fiber, which supports good bacteria in the gut to ensure regular bowel movements and a healthy digestive tract.
They are also rich in saponins, which are plant compounds that may provide antioxidant and anticancer benefits.
How to eat peas
It can be easy to keep a bag of peas in the freezer and eventually use it to boost the nutritional profile of pasta dishes, risottos, and vegetable curries. Or, a person can make a refreshing pea and mint soup.
3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables that provide 103 calories and 0.17 grams of fat per medium potato, when it is baked with its skin.
Each potato also contains:
- much more than an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin A
- 25 percent of their vitamin C and B-6 requirements
- 12 percent of their potassium needs
- beta-carotene, which may improve eye health and fight cancer
Sweet potatoes may benefit people with diabetes. This is because they are low on the glycemic index scale and high in fiber, so they may help regulate blood sugar.
How to eat sweet potatoes
The easiest way to enjoy a sweet potato is to bake it in its skin and serve it with a source of protein, such as fish or tofu.
One cup of beets contains 58 calories, along with:
- 442 milligrams of potassium
- 148 micrograms of folate
Beets and beetroot juice are great for improving heart health. This vegetable is high in heart-healthy nitrates. A small-scale 2012 study reports that drinking 500 grams of beetroot juice significantly lowered blood pressure in healthy people.
These vegetables may also benefit people with diabetes. Beets contain an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid, which might be helpful for diabetes-related nerve problems, called diabetic neuropathy.
How to eat beets
Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness, but they also taste great in salads, sandwiches, and juices.
Each cup of chopped carrots contains 52 calories and over four times an adult’s daily recommended intake of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene.
Vitamin A is vital for healthy eyesight, and getting enough of this nutrient may help prevent vision loss.
Certain nutrients in carrots may also have cancer-fighting properties. A 2011 study reports that carrot juice extract may kill or inhibit the growth of leukemia cells.
How to eat carrots
Carrots are an extremely versatile vegetable. They work well in casseroles and soups, and they provide great health benefits when eaten raw with a dip such as hummus.
6. Fermented vegetables
Fermented, or pickled, vegetables provide all the nutrients of their unfermented counterparts, as well as a healthy dose of probiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are present in the body and in some foods and supplements. Some researchers believe that they can improve gut health.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics may helpwith the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. They can also prevent infection- and antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
Some good vegetables for fermentation include:
- cabbage, to make sauerkraut
- cucumbers, to make pickles
How to eat fermented vegetables
People eat fermented vegetables in salads and sandwiches, or as a side dish.
Although tomatoes are technically a fruit, most people treat them as a vegetable. Each cup of chopped raw tomatoes contains:
- 32 calories
- 427 milligrams of potassium
- 24.7 milligrams of vitamin C
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that may play a role in cancer prevention. Research suggests that lycopene can help prevent prostate cancer. The beta-carotene in tomatoes also has anticancer effects.
Other potent antioxidants in tomatoes, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, may protect vision. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study reports that people who have high dietary intakes of these substances have a 25 percent reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration
How to eat tomatoes
People can eat tomatoes raw, but cooking them releases more lycopene.
Garlic has long been used in both cooking and medicine. Each garlic clove contains just 4 calories and is low in vitamins and minerals.
Garlic is a natural antibiotic. A compound in garlic, called diallyl sulfide, may be more effective than two popular antibiotics for fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, according to a lab-based study from 2012.
How to eat garlic
Heating garlic reduces its health benefits, so it is best to eat garlic raw in bruschetta and dips.
Each cup of chopped onions provides:
- 64 calories
- vitamin C
- vitamin B-6
Onions and other allium vegetables, including garlic, contain sulfur compounds. These may help protect against cancer.
In other research, men with the highest intakes of allium vegetables had the lowest risk of prostate cancer. Also, regular consumption of onions and other allium vegetables may reduce esophageal and stomach cancer risks.
How to eat onions
It is easiest to include onions in meals such as soups, stews, stir-fries, and curries. For maximum antioxidant effects, eat them raw in sandwiches, salads, and dips such as guacamole.
Eating vegetables every day is important for health. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, such as antioxidants and fiber.
Research consistently shows that people who eat the most vegetables have the lowest risk of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Enjoy a range of vegetables daily to reap as many health benefits as possible.