Top ten Healthy Veggies

June 13, 2000

Deep color is a good indication that a vegetable is really good for you.

It doesn't have to be deep green, according to Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist for Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

A deep yellow, orange or red color also indicates the vegetable contains a lot of the stuff your body needs to be and stay healthy, Hurley said.

In the nutrition advocacy group's comparison of vegetables - scored based on how well they meet an average person's need for fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, iron and carotenoids - red peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots appeared in the top 10 with collard greens, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli and okra.


All of those vegetables are packed with things the human body needs, particularly carotenoids, like beta carotene, which give the vegetables their deep pigmentation and convert to vitamin A in the body.

Most of the high-scorers also contain high amounts of vitamin C and are sources of potassium and fiber, according to the report.

While the top-rated vegetables benefit the body in many definite ways, you shouldn't give short shrift to any vegetable, the experts warn.

"It's really important to have a variety of vegetables because they have a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients," said Barbara Gollman, a registered dietitian, spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association and co-author of "The Phytopia Cookbook: A World of Plant-Centered Cuisine."

Tomatoes make Gollman's top veggie list for their content of vitamin C, the carotenoid lycopene, which studies have linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer, and phenolic acids.

In animal studies, caffeic and ferulic acids - phenolic acids found in virtually all vegetables and fruits - have been shown to prevent the formation of cancer-causing substances in the stomach, according to Gollman.

There's still a lot of research to be done, and it could be the benefits of a particular vegetable just haven't been discovered yet, she said.

"The main thing here for people to know is there's no such thing as a bad vegetable," Hurley said. "The problem is people aren't eating enough of any kind of vegetable."

People should eat at least five servings, preferably more, of a variety of vegetables each day, she said.

A serving would be 1 cup for raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup for cooked or other raw vegetables, chopped, or 3/4 cup for vegetable juice.

Hurley suggests people find ways to "sneak" vegetables into their diet, for example, by topping pizza with a mix of vegetables instead of meat or by snacking on raw carrots and other vegetables.

About half of the food you eat throughout the day should be fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on vegetables, Gollman said.

In addition to their particular attributes, as a group, vegetables are good for keeping weight in control and energy high, she said.

Broccoli - A good source of folate; a source of potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin K, magnesium and vitamin B-6.Carrots - A good source of vitamin B-6; source of potassium and niacin.Collard Greens - A good source of calcium and folate; source of vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin E, magnesium and vitamin B-6.Kale - A source of calcium, vitamin E and vitamin K.Okra - A source of folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B-6.Pumpkin - A source of potassium, iron and magnesium.Red pepper - A source of bioflavonoids and vitamin B-6.Spinach - A good source of folate, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B-6; source of riboflavin, vitamin E and vitamin K.Sweet potato - A good source of potassium and vitamin B-6; source of folate, riboflavin, vitamin D and magnesium.Swiss Chard - A good source of iron, potassium and magnesium; source of calcium, vitamin E and vitamin K.

See also:

-- Benefits and potential benefits

-- The 10 healthiest vegetables

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