Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Eating more fresh vegetables is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health.
Vegetables with different colors provide different benefits. So you should eat rainbow of vegetables every day with every meal that keeps you with good health. Vegetables contain higher concentrations of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed. Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups: dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.
Take vegetables that are bright and dark green lettuce. Mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, spinach and kale are just a few of the options that all packed with calcium magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K.
Add healthy sweetness to your meals. The natural sweet vegetables are corn, yams, onions, corn, green bananas, green peas, water chestnuts and squash.
Red and orange vegetables
Red and orange vegetables are good sources of potassium, which is an essential nutrient for regulating your blood pressure. The red and orange vegetables are acorn squash, carrots, pumpkin, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.
Beans and peas
Beans are high in soluble fiber, folate, magnesium, iron and potassium. These heart healthy nutrients help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and reduce risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Peas are soluble in fiber, lean protein, folate, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They contain vitamin B6, high iron and a mineral that helps manage blood pressure and prevent osteoporosis. Some of the peas and beans are black beans, black eyed peas, split peas, kidney beans, lentils, soy beans, navy and white beans.
There are some more other vegetables like avocado, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, beets, mushrooms, okra, artichokes and asparagus.
How much is needed?
The amount of vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Vegetable subgroup recommendations are given as amounts to eat weekly. It is not necessary to eat vegetables from each subgroup daily. However, over a week, try to consume the amounts listed from each subgroup as a way to reach your daily intake recommendation.
In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the Vegetable Group. The specific amounts that count as 1 cup of vegetables (in some cases equivalents for ½ cup are also shown) towards your recommended intake.
Eating vegetables provides health benefits with people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.
- Vegetables that are rich in fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Vegetables with high potassium may lower blood pressure and may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
- Vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol.
- Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Selection of vegetables
Organic verities tend to be smaller but have rich flavor, possess some good concentration of vitamins, minerals and loaded with numerous health benefiting anti-oxidants.
- Buy that feature freshness, bright in color and flavor and feel heavy in your hands.
- Look carefully for blemishes, spots, fungal mold and signs of insecticide spray. Buy whole vegetables instead of section of them (for example, pumpkin).
How to use vegetables?
You need to do immediately after shopping, wash them, especially green leafy vegetables. Rinse in salt water for few minutes and gently swish in cool water until you are satisfied with cleanliness.