“Eat your vegetables” is the mantra of nutritionists and mothers everywhere. And for good reason. Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Studies have linked vegetable consumption with a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. So what are some healthy vegetables? And which types of healthy vegetables are easy to grow in the garden?
Let’s take a look at the 10 healthiest vegetables to eat and grow:
- Kale: This leafy green is packed with nutrients, which makes kale one of the healthiest vegetables to eat. One cup of raw, chopped kale contains more than the recommended daily value of vitamins A, C and K. It’s also good source of plant-based minerals, including calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron. But, more importantly, kale contains antioxidants, cholesterol-lowering compounds, cancer-fighting substances and micro-nutrients which protect vision.
- Tomatoes: Consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products, like sauce, improves heart health and reduces the risk of certain cancers. This garden staple is rich in antioxidants, including vitamins C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. It also contains lycopene, a unique antioxidant which research has linked to a reduction in prostate cancer.
- Beets: These root veggies are super-easy to grow and contain 20% of the recommended daily allowance of folate. This water-soluble B vitamin prevents birth defects in developing fetuses and helps the rest of us produce healthy red blood cells. Beets are also a natural source of nitrates which lowers blood pressure.
- Spinach: This easy-to-grow spring crop is another one of the healthiest vegetables to eat. Spinach is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. The organic compounds found in spinach are believed to reduce the risk of cancer, help control blood pressure, promote eye health and reduce oxidative stress.
- Red Bell Peppers: All bell peppers pack over 100% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, but red peppers contain more of this beneficial antioxidant. Red peppers also have higher levels of vitamin A and carotenoid-type antioxidants. Whenever possible, leaving those California Wonders on the vine to ripen will up the nutrient levels of homegrown peppers.
- Broccoli: This high-fiber veggie is brimming with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In combination, these can help lower blood sugar and promote digestive health. Compounds in broccoli are also believed to slow the aging process, including age-related mental decline.
- Sweet Potatoes: Baked, fried or in a casserole, sweet potatoes supply an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. They’re especially high in vitamin A, which supports healthy vision.Â
- Green Beans: In addition to providing an abundance of vitamins and minerals, green beans are a legume crop. This means they also contain significant amounts of protein. One cup of chopped green beans adds 1.8 grams of this essential nutrient to the diet.
- Fennel: This often overlooked garden delight is considered a heart-healthy food. The strong licorice flavor of this unusual veggie may also ward off hunger pangs. Grow an herb variety for the seeds or Florence fennel for the celery-like bulb.
- Turnips: These easily-grown cruciferous vegetables have many of the same health benefits as their broccoli, cabbage and kale brethren. Turnips are chock full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and are a particularly good source for a range of B vitamins. But don’t limit yourself to turnip roots. The leaves are also a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Veggie Gardening Tips
Healthy vegetables start with healthy plants. To get the most nutritional value out of your garden, provide plenty of rich, organic compost or fertilize regularly. Plant at the correct time to increase yields.
Harvest at the peak of maturity when most vegetables have their highest nutrient levels. Finally, consider gardening with organic methods to reduce exposure to chemicals which can have negative impacts on health.