The Nutritional Benefits of Vegetables in Your Daily Diet - dummies

The Nutritional Benefits of Vegetables in Your Daily Diet

By Jane Kirby, The American Dietetic Association

A diet rich in vegetables contains beneficial antioxidants that help reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. These antioxidants are just some of the nutritional benefits of eating vegetables.

Vegetables contain vitamins, such as folate and B6, and carotinoids — such as lycopene in tomatoes, beta carotene in mangos and carrots, lutein in spinach and collard greens, and zeaxanthin in greens and corn.

Researchers point out that many phytonutrients that haven’t been isolated yet factor in to the health benefits of eating more plant foods. Eating more fruits and vegetables, instead of popping supplements, ensures that you won’t miss a single one.

Use these guidelines to determine single serving sizes for vegetables:

  • 1/2 cup vegetables, cooked or chopped raw

  • 1 cup leafy raw vegetables, such as lettuce or spinach

  • 1 medium tomato or 5 cherry tomatoes

  • Seven to eight 2 1/2-inch carrot or celery sticks

  • 3 broccoli florets

  • 1/3 medium cucumber

  • 10 medium green onions

  • 13 medium radishes

  • 9 snow or sugar peas

  • 6 slices summer squash (yellow or zucchini)

  • 1 cup mixed green salad

  • 1/2 cup cole slaw or potato salad

  • 1/2 cup leafy cooked greens, such as kale, Swiss chard, or spinach

  • 2 spears broccoli

  • 1 medium whole green or red pepper, or 8 rings

  • 1 artichoke

  • 6 asparagus spears

  • 2 whole beets, about 2 inches in diameter

  • 4 medium Brussels sprouts

  • 1 medium ear of corn

  • 7 medium mushrooms

  • 8 okra pods

  • 1 medium whole onion or 6 pearl onions

  • 1 medium whole turnip

  • 10 French fries

  • 1 medium baked potato

  • 3/4 cup sweet potato

  • 1/2 cup tomato or spaghetti sauce

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup cooked dry beans (if not counted as a meat alternate)

  • 3/4 cup vegetable juice

  • 1 cup bean soup

  • 1 cup vegetable soup

Some vegetables are “starchy” and calorie dense; others are mostly water. If you’re watching your weight, limit your starchy vegetables to one or two servings per day, and make the remainder of your veggie servings nonstarchy. The following table lists examples of starchy and nonstarchy vegetables.

Nonstarchy Vegetables Starchy Vegetables
Asparagus Beets
Broccoli Cassava (yuca)
Brussels sprouts Corn
Cabbage Lima Beans
Cauliflower Peas
Celery Potatoes
Chicory Pumpkin
Cucumbers Rutabaga
Eggplant Sweet Potatoes
Escarole Taro
Green beans Turnips
Greens (such as collard, kale, mustard, and turnip) Winter squash
Lettuce Yams
Summer squash

Looking for ways to up your veggie intake? Try these delicious ideas:

  • Pile a sandwich high with lettuce, tomato, and vegetables.

  • Start every meal with a salad: a mix of dark green varieties of lettuce and colorful vegetables, drizzled with just a bit of low-calorie dressing.

  • When you need a snack, reach for cherry tomatoes, celery, or sweet pepper strips. Many supermarkets carry small packages of celery or carrot sticks in their produce sections. They make good lunch box (or briefcase) snacks for kids of all ages.

  • Toss pasta with steamed broccoli, carrots, and other veggies and top with a smidgen of Parmesan cheese for pasta primavera. Or add finely chopped veggies — such as carrots, onions, cooked eggplant, squash, or chopped spinach — to pasta sauce.

  • Toss a can of veggie or tomato juice into your briefcase for a quick pick-me-up (and a serving of vegetables to boot!).

  • Top a baked potato with thick vegetable salsa or stir-fried vegetables.