It’s no secret that I talk about vegetables a lot! In fact, I frequently talk about them in terms of their varied and beautiful colours providing the amazing array of nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.
They are actually some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, gifted to us from nature, packed with vitamins and minerals, plenty of antioxidants and many other beneficial plant compounds too.
There are so many to choose from but this National Vegetarian Week I have picked my top five:
Did you know that one cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? Which is great but it’s not the main reason why I rate broccoli’s health benefits so highly. Broccoli is part of the healthy family of cruciferous vegetables which contain a sulphur compound called sulforaphane. Essentially, sulforaphane helps the liver to detoxify, is great for supporting brain health and importantly, is known to help protect the body from degenerative diseases.
Broccoli is also rich in folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These three nutrients work as a triad in many key biochemical reactions throughout the body, especially when it comes to the brain, hormone, and energy levels. The list of positives goes on and on with broccoli; try to eat some at least two or three times a week.
Available in both orange and purple varieties, the purple type has even more antioxidants than its orange counterpart.
If you are trying to lose weight but feel the need for some carbs, then sweet potatoes are a great option as they don’t have such an impact on blood sugar balance. Even better, whatever their colour, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant, and is also turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body, as needed.
Sweet potato wedges are a real go-to veggie for me!
I know they’re not enjoyed by everyone, but I genuinely love them! If you’re not a fan of Brussels sprouts, have you tried them with some bacon bits which helps to reduce some of their slightly bitter taste?
Just like broccoli, being part of the cruciferous vegetable family, Brussels’ health benefits are far-reaching. They are high in vitamin K which is essential for the bones and heart, vitamin C and folate, and are especially rich in fibre.
The daily recommended amount for fibre intake is around 30g; most people manage only about 8 grams, which can have an impact on your digestive system not working as efficiently as it could. Many of the plant compounds in Brussels sprouts also help manage pain and inflammation throughout the body which can be caused by many different health issues. Go on, give them another try!
Onions are fairly easy to include in the daily diet because they add so much flavour to so many dishes. They’re especially helpful at this time of year because onions are high in quercetin which helps reduce histamine levels. Hay fever sufferers, take note!
Onions are also rich in flavonoids – powerful antioxidants which have so many beneficial effects on health and are especially protective against heart disease.
Don’t hold back with onions; add them to stir fries (spring onions have the same benefits), soups, curries, pasta dishes or with other roasted vegetables.
Whilst carrots don’t quite contain all the pizazz of the cruciferous veggies, they’re certainly in my top five because they do have great health benefits and they’re so versatile too! Interestingly, although carrots are often eaten raw, their beta-carotene content is better released when they’re cooked.
Whether you eat them raw or cooked, carrots still contain loads of fibre, heart-loving potassium, and immune-boosting vitamin C. If your kids love raw carrots, you’ll still be providing them with some great nutrients.
I love all vegetables and try to eat as much variety as possible. And always remember – colour = nutrients. Enjoy!
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