Vegetables aren’t always the best part of a meal. You’re lying to yourself if you’ve never indulged in a delicious dinner and subtly pushed your veggies to the side. While you shouldn’t feel guilty about that, you should understand the importance of eating at least one serving of veggies with every meal. They provide nutrients in a way that vitamin supplements and your favorite cheat meal never will. Believe it or not, some vegetables are healthier than others—here are five of the healthiest veggies you definitely want on your plate.
Spinach is probably the most versatile vegetable on this list. Fresh or cooked, it can add flavor to arguably any dish. It’s virtually zero calories yet loaded with important nutrients such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Spinach has about twice the amount of iron as other leafy greens, which keeps the blood rich in oxygen and keeps the body energy efficient. Add it to a smoothie, pasta salad, or have it as a side with dinner.
Kale is a leafy green that’s a bit more bitter than traditional lettuce, which is why some love it and some don’t. It’s commonly referred to as a “superfood” because it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Kale is loaded with vitamins A, K, and C, all of which help the body function in different ways. Vitamin A helps keep your vision strong and your immune system working; vitamin K helps regulate your calcium levels; vitamin C plays a role in nearly every bodily function, from building a strong immune system to absorbing iron. Studies show eating kale can help lower your heart disease risk, too.
Broccoli is another green veggie that is bursting with vitamins. It’s a cruciferous vegetable, so other cruciferous veggies, such as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, are also good alternatives if you have a serious aversion to broccoli. This veggie is packed with vitamins K and C, along with fiber, potassium, and plenty of B vitamins. One piece of advice: Don’t boil your broccoli. It can remove up to 90% of the nutrients; steam, roast, or microwave it instead to get the greatest nutritional benefit.
4. Red bell pepper
Finally, a veggie that isn’t green. Red bell peppers are 92% water, so there is no downside to eating pretty much as many as you want. They are loaded with vitamins C, K, and B6 (necessary for the formation of red blood cells). They also contain lesser amounts of vitamins E and A. Red bell peppers have a high potassium content, which regulates heart health. Don’t cook bell peppers for too long, though, since it may reduce some of their nutrient content.
This crunchy, orange veggie is the perfect snack for any time of day — you can’t overindulge in these. One of the most important benefits of carrots is everything they do to protect your eyes. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which can help keep your vision strong, especially as you age. They’re also full of carotenoids, which can help prevent macular degeneration. Aside from eye health, carrots also contain fiber and various vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and K, plus biotin and potassium.