The guidelines to eat more vegetables are clear, and eating a rainbow of colors gets you the widest variety of nutrients and phyto-nutrients, those hard-to-duplicate compounds that go beyond vitamins and minerals.
But whether you’re at the farmers’ market or choosing a side dish at a restaurant, are some vegetables better than others?
A research study set out to rank the best “powerhouse” vegetables (and fruits) — those most strongly associated with reducing the risk for chronic diseases.
Forty-seven vegetables were ranked based on percentages of 17 known nutrients in a 100-calorie serving. Nutrients included vitamins A, C, D, E, K and many of the B vitamins, along with the minerals calcium, potassium, iron and zinc, plus fiber and even protein.
The Top 5 Vegetables
- Chinese cabbage
- Beet greens
You might be surprised to read that watercress, often used as a mere garnish, ranked No. 1. Think of this pleasantly peppery green as the perfect base for your salads or a great “bed” on which to serve a protein, like a broiled chicken breast.
The cruciferous veggie Chinese cabbage (you might know it as Napa cabbage) took the second spot. It makes a great coleslaw or health salad and can also be made into fermented, probiotic-rich kimchi.
The leafy greens chard, beet greens and spinach round out the top five, but there’s no need to stop there. Other healthful veggies high on the list include collards, kale, arugula, leaf lettuce, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Think of them when satisfying your daily vegetable needs.
You can read more about healthy vegetables at choosemyplate.gov.