Everyone is familiar with the phrase “eat your greens.” It’s been drilled into most people’s brains since childhood. Even though some people embrace green vegetables for their health benefits and flavors, others rarely eat them. In fact, a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 1 in 10 American adults eats enough fruits and vegetables daily. That is a major problem, considering the amount of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that produce provides.
Before we continue, it’s important to note that most dietitians endorse the concept of “eating the rainbow.” This means that it’s beneficial to eat produce items across the color spectrum. Not only do different colored produce items exhibit different nutritional profiles, but they also contain specific phytonutrients and antioxidants. For example, lycopene gives tomatoes their rich redness, and chlorophyll gives green vegetables their color.
There are many green vegetables in existence, so this article is not solely focused on leafy greens. There are some leafy greens on this list because, well, they are just that beneficial to your health. Read on to see which greens you should add to your diet, if you don’t consume them already.
What a wonderful spear the asparagus is! It’s an incredible spring vegetable with a fibrous stalk that’s chock full of vitamins C & K and iron. Asparagus is also rich in several B vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and B6. B vitamins assist with making energy from the food you eat and aiding red blood cell formation. Asparagus also contains inulin, a type of soluble fiber that acts as a prebiotic, stimulating healthy bacterial growth in the gut.
Microgreens are immature greens that come from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. Even though they may only be one to three inches big, they are rich sources of powerful nutrients and flavors. One study found that microgreens may exhibit 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts. Some of these nutrients include vitamins C, E, and K.
Enhance the flavor of your meals with herbaceous basil, an herb that is rich in numerous antioxidants. Two such antioxidants include caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, both of which exhibit neuroprotective properties. Basil also contains eugenol, an essential oil that may help reduce inflammation. One review found that eugenol’s anti-inflammatory properties have the potential to be a complementary treatment for inflammatory diseases.
Who doesn’t love avocado? It’s always worth the extra charge! The buttery, rich texture goes great on sandwiches, inside burritos, or as a smooth dip. Avocados are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are monounsaturated fats that may help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Additionally, avocados contain vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect the body from harmful free radicals. Lastly, avocados contain lutein, another antioxidant that helps protect the eyes.
Kiwi fruit is one of the best sources of vitamin C, with one kiwi offering 71% of the recommended daily intake. The fruit also contains folate, which is is necessary for making DNA and other genetic material. Folate is crucial for fetal development, but it also assists with helping cells divide. One small study found that kiwi may contribute to a better night’s sleep. Eating kiwi fruit helps to increase serotonin, which may benefit people who have sleep disturbances.
Green beans, or string beans, are excellent sources of fiber and have a low glycemic load, making them excellent for diabetics. In fact, the Mayo Clinic suggests that diabetics eat green beans because they are slowly digested. This contributes to a lower and slower rise in blood sugar, so you don’t have to fear spikes. You can eat them raw, but cooking them in olive oil with some garlic, onions, and fresh lemon juice makes a great side dish.
Seaweed is a mineral-rich green vegetable that should be on your grocery list if it isn’t already. Dried seaweed is an excellent source of iron, according to the National Institutes of Health, satisfying 21% of your recommended daily intake in 1 cup. A 2016 study found that seaweed may be a sodium-free replacement for salt in certain dishes because the flavor is naturally salty. Lastly, seaweed is one of the richest sources of iodine, an essential trace mineral necessary for nervous system, metabolic, and musculoskeletal function.