Vegetables are well-known for being good for your health. Most vegetables are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
However, some vegetables stand out from the rest with additional proven health benefits, such as the ability to fight inflammation or reduce the risk of disease.
This article takes a look at 14 of the healthiest vegetables and why you should include them in your diet.
This leafy green tops the chart as one of the healthiest vegetables, thanks to its impressive nutrient profile.
One cup (30 grams) of raw spinach provides 56% of your daily vitamin A needs plus your entire daily vitamin K requirement — all for just 7 calories(1) .
Spinach also boasts a great deal of antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
One study found that dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are high in beta-carotene and lutein, two types of antioxidants that have been associated with a decreased risk of cancer (2).
In addition, a 2015 study found that spinach consumption may be beneficial for heart health, as it may lower blood pressure (3).
Spinach is rich in antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic disease, as it may reduce risk factors such as high blood pressure.
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arrots are packed with vitamin A, providing 428% of the daily recommended value in just one cup (128 grams) (4)
They contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives carrots their vibrant orange color and could help in cancer prevention (5).
In fact, one study revealed that for each serving of carrots per week, participants’ risk of prostate cancer decreased by 5% (6).
Another study showed that eating carrots may reduce the risk of lung cancer in smokers as well. Compared to those who ate carrots at least once a week, smokers who did not eat carrots had a three times greater risk of developing lung cancer (7).
Carrots are also high in vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium (4).
Carrots are especially high in beta-carotene, which can turn into vitamin A in the body. Their high antioxidant content may help reduce the risk of lung and prostate cancer
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Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables.
It is rich in a sulfur-containing plant compound known as glucosinolate, as well as sulforaphane, a by-product of glucosinolate (8).
Sulforaphane is significant in that it has been shown to have a protective effect against cancer.
In one animal study, sulforaphane was able to reduce the size and number of breast cancer cells while also blocking tumor growth in mice (9).
Eating broccoli may help prevent other types of chronic disease, too.
A 2010 animal study found that consuming broccoli sprouts could protect the heart from disease-causing oxidative stress by significantly lowering levels of oxidants (10).
In addition to its ability to prevent disease, broccoli is also loaded with nutrients.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains sulforaphane, a compound that may prevent cancer growth. Eating broccoli may also help reduce the risk of chronic disease by protecting against oxidative stress.
Garlic has a long history of use as a medicinal plant, with roots tracing all the way back to ancient China and Egypt (12)
The main active compound in garlic is allicin, a plant compound that is largely responsible for garlic’s variety of health benefits (13).
Several studies have shown that garlic can regulate blood sugar as well as promote heart health.
In one animal study, diabetic rats were given either garlic oil or diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic. Both garlic compounds caused a decrease in blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity (14).
Another study fed garlic to participants both with and without heart disease. Results showed that garlic was able to decrease total blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol in both groups (15).
Garlic may be useful in the prevention of cancer as well. One test-tube study demonstrated that allicin induced cell death in human liver cancer cells (16).
However, further research is needed to better understand the potential anti-cancer effects of garlic.
Studies show that garlic may help lower blood triglyceride levels. Some studies have also found that it could decrease blood sugar levels and may have an anti-cancer effect, although more research is needed.
5. Brussels Sprouts
Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables and contain the same health-promoting plant compounds.
Brussels sprouts also contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may be particularly effective in preventing damage to cells (17).
One animal study found that kaempferol protected against free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells and can contribute to chronic disease (18).
Brussels sprout consumption can help enhance detoxification as well.
One study showed that eating Brussels sprouts led to a 15–30% increase in some of the specific enzymes that control detoxification, which could decrease the risk of colorectal cancer (19)
Additionally, Brussels sprouts are very nutrient-dense. Each serving provides a good amount of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese and potassium (20).
Brussels sprouts contain an antioxidant called kaempferol, which may protect against oxidative damage to cells and prevent chronic disease. They may also help enhance detoxification in the body.
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Like other leafy greens, kale is well-known for its health-promoting qualities, including its nutrient density and antioxidant content.
A cup (67 grams) of raw kale contains plenty of B vitamins, potassium, calcium and copper.
It also fulfills your entire daily requirement for vitamins A, C and K (21).
Due to its high amount of antioxidants, kale may also be beneficial in promoting heart health.