While all vegetable have health benefits, some are especially high in nutritional values. The healthiest vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body from disease by breaking down harmful oxidants or free radicals that form in the body as a result of things such as non-nutritious foods, stress and pollution. Winter squash, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, spinach, onions, kale, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and artichokes are all very healthy.
Artichokes provide the antioxidant, silymarin, which is thought to possibly protect the body from skin cancer. A medium sized artichoke is only 60 calories and may be eaten steamed with lemon juice. Broccoli may also be eaten steamed and flavored with lemon juice. It is rich in nutrients that include Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium.
Vitamin A helps the body grow normally from a cellular level and is especially associated with good eye and reproductive system health. Humans need to ingest foods containing Vitamin C because, unlike many other animals and most plants, the body cannot manufacture it. Vitamin C prevents a disease called scurvy that causes conditions such as soft gums, spots on the skin, nose bleeds, and depression. Calcium must be consumed daily to keep teeth and bones healthy.
Brussels sprouts are considered one of the healthiest vegetables, as they contain many nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, fiber, and Vitamin K. Iron is a mineral that helps form red blood cells as well as move oxygen to cells throughout the body. Fiber helps provide proper elimination of waste from the body. Vitamin K helps in proper blood clotting and bone formation by distributing calcium efficiently.
Cabbage is very healthy and also versatile, as it can be prepared in many ways. The leaves can be filled with a rice and meat mixture and baked to create a popular dish called cabbage rolls. A salad called coleslaw can be made from raw shredded cabbage. Cabbage is also good cut into wedges and steamed as a vegetable side dish. Cabbage is high in antioxidants, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
Carrots are another of the healthiest vegetables that are also versatile. They can be cut into circular slices and boiled or diced and mixed in with cooked peas. Carrots are also popular when chopped into sticks to eat raw for snacks. Carrots provide fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has antioxidant qualities and is converted by the body into Vitamin A.
Kale is a vegetable that has many nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, fiber, calcium, manganese, and potassium. Potassium is thought to lower blood pressure as well as promote healthy nerve function and muscle control. Manganese strengthens teeth and bones while regulating calcium absorption. High in antioxidants, onions are very healthy, and may be eaten raw or cooked to add flavor to many dishes. A medium onion is only 60 calories.
Spinach is best lightly steamed or used raw in salads in place of lettuce. Spinach is one of the healthiest vegetables as it contains the minerals magnesium and iron as well as the vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin E has antioxidant qualities and protects cells. It's also thought to promote healthy blood vessels.
Sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, and winter squash are still more nutritious vegetables. Sweet potatoes are abundant in beta-carotene and also contain Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, and calcium. Swiss chard is packed with nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, potassium, and fiber. Varieties of winter squash such as acorn, butternut and pumpkin are high in Vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber.