Vegetables for All of Your Nutritional Needs

Vegetables for All of Your Nutritional Needs

What are the different types of vegetables and how can each of them benefit you?

In a sense, everything produced by such plants – the leaves, stems, roots, and even the fruits and seeds of these plants – may be considered a vegetable (Robinson, 1987). However, this article will focus specifically on the edible parts of foods that we typically grow and consume as crops, whether they are eaten raw or cooked (Ulger et al., 2018).

Vegetables are packed with all sorts of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that maintain or can even improve our health (Robinson, 1987). However, the amount and quality of those nutrients depend on many factors, including where and how it was grown, how long one waits after harvesting the vegetable to eat it, and how one prepares and cooks the vegetable (Masih et al., 2002).

Benefits of Vegetables

The main benefit of eating vegetables is that many, if not most, of them are dense with nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber (Ulger et al., 2018). Not eating enough of these nutrients can put people at risk of many chronic diseases, so it should not surprise us that people who eat plenty of vegetables are at less risk of illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (Ulger et al., 2018).

The magic of vegetables is not simply that they are nutrient-dense. Vegetables also are generally low in calories – they provide a ton of nutrition relative to how much energy they deliver (Lintas, 1992). This may be because most vegetables also have a high water content, relative to other categories of foods. People who eat high amounts of other foods, which tend to be more calorie-dense and less nutrient-dense, are getting much less of the vital nutrients they need before they feel full and don’t want to eat anymore. Switching to eating more vegetables allows people to eat more food that packs more nutrition and fewer calories – a likely recipe for less strain on the body, greater functioning, and even weight loss.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
― Ann Wigmore

Vegetables Low in Carbs

Vegetables such as beets, carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables are higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables, although these carbohydrates are typically complex rather than simple sugars, meaning they are still far from as bad for your health as something like white bread (Lintas, 1992). Vegetables low in carbs include most of the other categories of vegetables (i.e., leaf, stem, and fruit or flower vegetables). So if you are looking for low-carb vegetables, salad greens, and vegetables especially high in water content, such as celery, cucumber, and zucchini, should meet your needs.

Vegetables High in Fiber

Most vegetables, with the exception of stalk vegetables and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, are a great source of fiber (Lintas, 1992). This is especially true for dark green leafy vegetables and certain root vegetables. You can get so much of your daily dietary fiber needs from root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets, and from leaf vegetables such as spinach, beet greens, and chard.

List of Vegetables With Vitamin D

Vegetables are not generally a good source of vitamin D (Lintas, 1992). Fish, mushrooms, and chicken eggs can provide vitamin D, as can foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk or orange juice.

Vegetables High in Protein

When you hear the word protein, you might think of a meat or dairy product, or perhaps those big containers of protein powder in the supplements aisle. However, green vegetables offer you plenty of protein, and by delivering that protein alongside other beneficial vitamins and minerals, they make it even easier to absorb and process (Aletor et al., 2002). Increasing the ratio of protein you get from vegetables versus meats has many potential health benefits (Song et al., 2016). Some of the most protein-heavy vegetables include spinach, cauliflower, collard greens, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and watercress.

In Sum

Two fundamental truths: (1) nearly all vegetables are good to consume and (2) some vegetables are really, really good for you. Eating as many green leafy vegetables as possible, for example, seems like it could only help your overall health. Vegetables are densely packed with nutrients, high in water content, and low in calories. They are the most energy-efficient way to acquire the essential nutrients you need to function at your best. And if you can prepare or cook them in ways that taste great, you can safely and beneficially eat way more of them than you would be able to eat in other food groups.

References

● Aletor, O., Oshodi, A. A., & Ipinmoroti, K. (2002). Chemical composition of common leafy vegetables and functional properties of their leaf protein concentrates. Food Chemistry, 78(1), 63-68.

● Lintas, C. (1992). Nutritional aspects of fruits and vegetables consumption. Options Mediterraennes, 19, 79-87.

● Masih, L., Roginski, H., Premier, R., Tomkins, B., & Ajlouni, S. (2002). Soluble protein content in minimally processed vegetables during storage. Food Research International, 35(7), 697-702.

● Robinson, D. S. (1987). Food-biochemistry and nutritional value. Longman Scientific & Technical.

● Song, M., Fung, T. T., Hu, F. B., Willett, W. C., Longo, V. D., Chan, A. T., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2016). Association of animal and plant protein intake with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(10), 1453-1463.

● Ülger, T. G., Songur, A. N., Çırak, O., & Çakıroğlu, F. P. (2018). Role of vegetables in human nutrition and disease prevention. In Asaduzzaman M, Asao T (Eds.), Vegetables: importance of quality vegetables to human health. (pp. 7-32). InTech: London, UK