Want better health more energy, and the ability to fight off disease? Add more of the following powerhouse vegetables to your diet! While all vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients, the vegetables profiled in this article are veritable treasure troves of nutrition.
Beans, Peas, and Legumes
Inexpensive and versatile, beans are packed with B vitamins, especially folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, as well as magnesium, potassium, and phytonutrients. They’re also a good source of protein, fibre, and antioxidants. Dried beans contain more of the water‐soluble vitamins than canned beans, but both are good for you. Beans are part of the Legume family, which includes string beans, lima beans, peas, lentils, chick peas (garbanzos), soybeans, peanuts, and all forms of dried beans.
Soybeans deserve special mention. Soybeans are a complete protein – a good meat substitute ‐ and a great source of vitamin E, potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and selenium. In addition, they’re rich in phytoestrogens, compounds which mimic the human oestrogen hormone. Common forms of soy include tofu, soy milk, soy cheeses, soy cold cuts, soy “ground beef”, soy “sausage”, tempeh, edamame, and soy flour. A half a cup of tofu contains about 40 percent of the protein, 25 percent of the calcium, and almost 90 percent of the iron needed by an adult woman. Soy is also a good dairy substitute for people who are lactose intolerant.
Broccoli and the Brassicas
Broccoli is a much‐touted powerhouse vegetable. Broccoli is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, beta‐carotenes, calcium, and iron. One cup of broccoli provides 100 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C and it’s a great source of iron. Broccoli also supplies significant amounts of vitamin E, vitamin B6, and fibre. Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family, which also includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and many dark, leafy greens such as collards, kale, Swiss chard, and mustard greens. Find out more about more members of this vegetable family in Brassicas. The lesser‐known brassicas are also nutritional powerhouses: why not learn more how to cook them? See the articles under Cooking Vegetables for tips.
Spinach and Leafy Greens
Spinach is rich in vitamins C and E, beta‐carotenes, luteins, the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, B6, and folic acid), omega‐3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and many other micro‐ and phytonutrients. Spinach is the most popular of the dark, leafy greens, but collards, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard are also packed with the same nutrients.
Tomatoes, a member of the nightshade family, are rich in vitamin C and lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and is one of the carotenes that give tomatoes their bright red colour. (Yellow and orange tomatoes do not contain lycopene, but are still good sources of vitamins and minerals). Tomatoes are one of the few sources of dietary lycopene: other sources include watermelon and grapefruit. Try to eat tomatoes or another lycopene‐rich food daily.
Another member of the nightshade family, potatoes are a good source of complex carbohydrates ‐ needed for energy ‐ as well as fibre, vitamin C, and potassium. They also contain many minerals and B‐complex vitamins (especially vitamin B6). One potato (with skin) supplies 45 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C, and more potassium than a banana or a serving of broccoli. One type of potato, the Russet Norkotah, contains 40 percent of the daily requirement of iron.
Winter Squash, Pumpkin, and Sweet Potatoes
The pumpkin is a powerhouse vegetable that’s often overlooked. Rich in alpha‐carotenes, beta‐carotenes, vitamin C, vitamin E, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, and fibre, it’s a great source of nutrition. Fresh, tinned, or frozen, the orange winter squashes ‐ including pumpkin, butternut, buttercup, and Hubbard ‐ should be a mainstay of every diet. Read more about this vegetable family in Squash, Cucumbers, and the Cucurbits. Sweet potatoes, although not a squash, are another orange vegetable in this nutritional grouping: they’re rich in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fibre.
Bell peppers are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. A ripe pepper (red, orange, yellow, etc.) contains twice as much vitamin C and ten times as much vitamin A as an unripe green pepper (although all peppers are good for you!) One cup of raw red peppers contains almost 300 percent the necessary daily amount of vitamin C and 100 percent of vitamin A. Orange peppers are an especially good source of the carotene lutein – important for eye and skin health.
Add these delicious, nutritious powerhouse vegetables to your diet, and watch your health and energy improve!