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The 10 healthiest vegetables

June 13, 2000

The vegetables listed here hold the top positions in the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest's scorecard for vegetables, based on how much they contribute to a person's dietary needs.

Each vegetable was allotted points corresponding to the percentage they provide of the U.S. government's recommended daily amounts of fiber and five nutrients - vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium and iron - and of carotenoids, which convert to vitamin A.

While there are many other beneficial things in vegetables, the Center for Science in the Public Interest focused on those seven areas for two reasons.

"Those are the things that make vegetables important to eat," said Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist for the nutrition advocacy group.

Vegetables didn't get credit for containing potentially beneficial phytochemicals - like indoles, which may help prevent cancer - because the area of research is young and the content of various phytochemicals hasn't been distinguished for all vegetables, Hurley said.

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What they do

All of the Center's top 10 veggies are high in carotenoids and are sources of fiber and vitamin C.

Carotenoids are antioxidants, meaning they act as chemical magnets to disarm damaging forms of oxygen in the body. They appear to play an anti-cancer role and enhance immunity and may play a role in heart health.

Among other benefits, vitamin A and carotenoids help prevent night blindness, other eye problems and some skin disorders; help protect against colds, influenza and kidney infections and are important in the formation of bones and teeth.

Cooking foods lightly makes their carotenoids more available.

Vitamin C is important in tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function and healthy gums; enhances immunity; helps protect the body against infection; promotes healing of wounds and burns; can help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and may help prevent cancer.

Fiber helps to lower "bad" cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar and maintain good digestive tract health and has been linked to reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

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