Vegetable nutrients are vital for every bodily function. Without them, our bodies don't work well and our health breaks down.
Vegetables are packed with essential nutrients found only in plant foods, especially in vegetables.
Exercise, avoid fat & salt, go veg, quit smoking, drink lots of water. If you don't eat your veggies, none of it will do you much good.
You might ask, “Won't I be OK if I take a multi-vitamin every day?”
Well, actually, NOT. Nutrition is synergistic- that means it works best in the context of food. Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other food nutrients support, enhance and balance each other, so our bodies can absorb and use them for best effect.
Nutritional supplements are crude approximations of nutrients, isolated elements extracted from whole foods, or synthesized in laboratories.
Many critical nutritional elements are discarded in the production of supplements, and that can lead to nutritional imbalances.
Not that we shouldn't ever take supplements, but they should be just that - supplements to a healthy diet. E.G. Vitamin D for people in northern climates who don't get enough sun, or B12 supplements as needed by vegans or those who can't absorb it.
The best place to get your vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, and dietary fiber is from your food, especially vegetables, but also fruit, beans & lentils, whole grains, nuts & seeds.
There are so many kinds of vegetables - a hundred or more varieties in the average supermarket. You don't have to eat veggies you don't like to get abundant vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber - not found in meat, poultry, fish, or dairy.
Beta-carotene: Anti-oxidant, gives orange veggies their color, converts to Vitamin A in the body, helps protect against cancer, heart disease, asthma, depression, infertility, Parkinson's disease, psoriasis, and arthritis. Beta-carotene is plentiful in dark green and orange-yellow vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, apricots, and green peppers. More Beta-Carotene Info
Calcium: Needed for strong bones, nerve and muscle function and blood clotting. When dietary calcium is too low, calcium is taken from bones and used for other critical functions. Well-absorbed non-dairy calcium sources: fortified soy milk and juice, calcium-set tofu, soybeans and soy nuts, bok choy, broccoli, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and okra. More Calcium Info
Copper: Essential trace mineral, supports immune system, plus bone and connective tissue formation, health, and repair. It's necessary for iron utilization, energy, respiratory function, and delivering oxygen to red blood cells. Copper is needed to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the bodies' key energy producer. Good plant sources: nuts, legumes (peas, beans, corn), whole grains. More Copper Info
Fiber: Improves gastrointestinal health, glucose tolerance and insulin response, reduction of hyperlipidaemia, hypertension and other coronary heart disease risk factors, reduces cancer risk, and increases satiety (weight management). Whole grains, legumes and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber. More About Dietary Fiber
Folate: Water-soluble B vitamin - folic acid is the synthetic form, found in fortified foods and supplements. Folate is abundant in leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, lettuce), okra, asparagus, mushrooms, and tomato juice. More About Folate
Iron: Primary function is to transport oxygen. About 67% of body iron is present as haemoglobin and myoglobin. Haemoglobin, present in red blood cells, transfers oxygen from lungs to tissues; myoglobin accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen in the muscles. Good vegetable sources of iron: green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli, and potatoes. More About Iron
Magnesium: Critical factor in hundreds of body functions, affects the nervous system, organs, skeletal system, muscles, reproductive system, digestion and elimination, cardiovascular, and vision. Magnesium is abundant in many vegetables. More Magnesium Info
Manganese: Trace mineral, activates enzymes responsible for the utilization of biotin, thiamin, ascorbic acid, and choline. It is a catalyst in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol, facilitates protein and carbohydrate metabolism, important in the formation of bone. Vegetable sources of manganese include mustard greens, kale, chard, romaine lettuce, and collard greens. More About Manganese
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: Minimize inflammatory responses, lowering the risk factors for heart disease and cancer. Omega 3 is necessary for cell wall manufacture and pliability; for optimal intake of nutrients and oxygen, and the excretion of wastes; for healthy development of nerves and eyesight.
Omega 3's are highly concentrated in the brain, and this helps: memory, brain performance, mood & behavior (depression, Schizophrenia, bipolar, ADHD), learning, thinking, cognition, and brain development in children
Omega 3 also helps diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, weight loss, asthma, burns, skin problems, eating disorders, nerve myelin sheathing, hormone maintenance, energy, and allergies. Plant sources of Omega 3: Green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds. More About Omega 3s
Pantothenic Acid: AKA Vitamin B5, essential to all forms of life, found throughout living cells in the form of coenzyme A (CoA), vital in numerous chemical reactions. Good vegetable sources of pantothenic acid are broccoli, avocado, sweet potato and mushrooms. More About Vitamin B5
There are over one thousand known phytochemicals, and they are all found in vegetables and fruits. Plants produce these phytonutrients to protect themselves, and they also protect humans against diseases - but only if the humans eat the plants!
A Short List of Phytochemical Protections:
Potassium: Important mineral for proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs; conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium; crucial to heart function and skeletal and smooth muscle contractions; important for normal digestive and muscular function. Potassium is found in many fruits, vegetables, and legumes. More About Potassium
Phosphorous: Next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body. They work closely together to build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues and cells, and production of DNA and RNA, to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium, and zinc. More About Phosphorous
Good Vegetable Sources: Amaranth, artichoke, asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, celeriac, Chinese cabbage, corn, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, summer squash, pumpkin. Very Good Veg Sources: green beans, lima beans, peas. More About Vegetable Sources
Protein: Many vegetables (and fruits) have significant amounts of protein. If you eat 6 - 10 servings a day, as recommended in the new nutrition guidelines, you can get up to 25% of your daily protein fix from vegetables and fruit. How to Get Enough Veg Protein
Riboflavin: Vitamin B2: water-soluble vitamin, must be replenished daily. Vitamin B2 supports energy production by helping to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins required for red blood cell formation and respiration, antibody production, and regulating human growth and reproduction. It's essential for healthy skin, nails, hair growth, and general good health, including regulating thyroid activity. Vegetable sources: Dark green leafy vegetables, seaweed, fortified flour & cererals. More About Riboflavin
Thiamin: Vitamin B1: involved in numerous body functions: nervous system and muscle functioning; multiple enzyme processes; carbohydrate metabolism; and production of hydrochloric acid (necessary for proper digestion). Because there is very little thiamin stored in the body, depletion can occur within 14 days. Vegetarian sources: legumes (beans & lentils), whole grains, nuts). More About Thiamin
Vitamin A: See Beta-Carotene
Vitamin B6: Water-soluble vitamin which can't be stored in the body, helps the immune system produce antibodies, helps maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells. The body uses it to help break down proteins. Vegetarian Sources of Vitamin B6: beans, nuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and fortified foods. More About Vitamin B6
Vitamin C: Helps protect cells from free radical damage, lowers cancer risk, regenerates vitamin E supplies, improves iron absorption. Excellent sources of vitamin C include: parsley, broccoli, bell pepper, strawberries, oranges, lemon juice, payaya, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts. More About Vitamin C
Vitamin E: Fat-soluble vitamin, antioxidant, involved in metabolism of all cells; protects vitamin A and essential fatty acids from oxidation in the body cells and prevents breakdown of body tissues. Good vegetarian sources: olive oil, almond oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ oil, mango, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, avocado, sweet potato. More About Vitamin E
Vitamin K: Allows blood to clot normally, helps protect bones from fracture, prevent postmenopausal bone loss, calcification of your arteries, possible protection against liver and prostate cancer. Excellent sources of vitamin K: spinach, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, kale and mustard greens. Very good sources include green peas and carrots.More About Vitamin K
Zinc: Involved in cellular metabolism; catalyst for approximately 100 enzymes; plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division; supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence; required for proper sense of taste and smell. Daily intake of zinc is necessary because the body doesn't store it. Good vegetarian sources: cashews, almonds, chickpeas, peas, fortified foods. More About Zinc
Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2000 calorie a day diet.
Cruciferous Vegetables (aka The Cabbage Family): Includes kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts; Help prevent cancer, support heart health and good digestion.
The cabbage family is high in Vit. K, Vit. C, Vit. A, Omega 3s, phytonutrients, dietary fiber, and protein. There isn't another food group with as many health benefits.
1 cup chopped raw broccoli has 11% DV Vitamin A, 135% DV Vitamin C, 116% DV Vitamin K, 14% DV folate, and 2.6 g protein. It's a good source of calcium iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Broccoli Recipe: Steamed Broccoli & Cheese Sauce
1 cup chopped raw kale has 206% DV Vitamin A, 134% DV Vitamin C, 685% DV Vitamin K , 9% DV calcium, 6% DV iron, 121 mg Omega 3, and 2.2 g protein. It's a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Kale Recipe: Thai Kale Tempeh Curry
One bunch of raw spinach (about 1 cup cooked) supplies 638% DV of Vit. A, 159% DV Vitamin C, 34% DV calcium, 51% DV iron, and 10 grams of protein. It's a good source of niacin & zinc, and a very good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin, K, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. It's high in sodium. Spinach Recipe: Spinach Tofu Calzones
1 cup cooked chard supplies 214% DV Vitamin A, 53% DV Vitamin C, 10% DV calcium, 22% DV iron, and 3 g protein. It's a very good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. It's also high in sodium (so doesn't need added salt). Chard Recipe: Greens, Potatoes & Carrots
1 cup shredded lettuce has 82% DV Vitamin A, 19% DV Vitamin C, 2% DV calcium, 3% DV iron and 1 g protein. It's a very good source of Vitamin K, thiamin, folate, potassium and manganese. Lettuce Recipe: Green Salad
1 ounce (about 1 cup) raw arugula has 13% DV Vitamin A, 7% DV Vitamin C, 4% DV calcium, 2% DV iron, and 1 g protein. It's a good source of thiamin, ribolflavin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Zinc and Copper. It's a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin K, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and manganese. Arugula Recipe: Green Salad
2 Tbsp chopped basil has 6% DV Vitamin A, 27% DV Vitamin K, 16.6 mg omega 3. It's a good source of folate, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Basil Recipe: Basil Pine Nut Pesto
1 ounce of raw parsley has 574% DV Vitamin K, 11% DV folate, 47% DV Vitamin A, 62% DV Vitamin C, 4% DV calcium, 10% DV iron, and 1 g protein. It's a good source of potassium, phosphorus, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and magnesium. Parsley Recipe: Parsley Walnut Pesto
1 cup cooked green beans has 17% DV Vitamin A, 20% DV Vitamin C, 5% DV calcium, 5% DV iron and 2 g protein. It's a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium. It's a very good source of fiber, Vitamin K, folate, and manganese. Green Bean Recipe: Steamed Cauliflower & Green Beans
1 cup of raw green peas has 22% DV Vitamin A, 97% DV Vitamin C, 4% DV calcium, 12% DV iron, and 8 g protein. It's a good source of niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus and copper. It's a very good source of fiber, Vitamin K, thiamin and manganese. Green Peas Recipe: Indian Cabbage & Green Peas
1 cup chopped raw asparagus has 20% DV Vitamin A, 13% DV Vitamin C, 3% DV calcium, 16% DV iron, 17% DV Vitamin K, and 3 g protein. It's a good source of pantothenic acid, magnesium, Zinc and selenium. It's a very good source of fiber, Vitamin E, , thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin, B5, folate, iron phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. Asparagus Recipe: Simple Steamed Asparagus
1 large baked potato, including the skin, has 48% DV Vitamin C, 4% DV calcium, 18% DV iron, and 7 g protein. It's a good source of Vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. Potato Recipe: Mashed Potatoes
Onions contain as many as 150 phytochemicals. The flavonoid quercetin helps eliminate free radicals, inhibits oxidation, protects and regenerates Vit. E., and helps to circumvent the harmful effects of heavy metals. Absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that of tea, and more than three times that of apples.
Onions are thought to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, and may help prevent asthma attacks and inflammatory reactions.
1 raw leek has 30% DV Vitamin A, 18% DV Vitamin C, 5% DV calcium, 10% DV iron and 1 g protein. It's a good source of fiber, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin K, folate and manganese. Leek Recipe: Potato Leek Soup
1 cup chopped raw summer squash has 4% DV Vitamin A, 18% DV Vitamin C, 3% DV calcium, 3% DV iron and 1 g protein. It's a very good source of Vit. B6, folate, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. Summer Squash Recipe: Summer Squash & Bok Choy
1 cup chopped butternut squash has 298% DV Vitamin A, 49% DV Vitamin C, 7% DV calcium, 5% DV iron, and 1 g protein. It's a good source of Vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, Vit. B6, folate, and magnesium, a very good source of potassium and manganese. Butternut Squash Recipe: Pasta with Butternut Squash & Chickpeas
1 medium raw carrot has 204% DV Vitamin A, 6% DV Vitamin C, and 1 g protein. It's a good source of thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Manganese, a very good source of Vitamin K and Potassium. Carrot Recipe: Carrot Apple Salad
1 medium baked sweet potato has 438% DV Vitamin A, 37% DV Vitamin C, 4% DV calcium, 4% DV iron, and 2 g protein. It's a good source of Vitamin B6 and potassium, a very good source of manganese. Sweet Potato Recipe: Chickpea Kale Sweet Potato Stew
1 cup raw avocado, cubed, has 4% DV vitamin A, 25% DV vitamin C, 2% DV calcium, 5% DV iron, 3 g protein, 40% DV fiber, 165 mg omega 3 fatty acids, 16% DV Vitamin E, 39% DV vitamin K, 30% DV folate. Avocado Recipe: Simplest Guacamole
1 raw plum tomato has 10% DV Vitamin A, 13% DV Vitamin C, 6% DV Vitamin K. It's a good source of Vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. It's a very good source of fiber, potassium and manganese. Tomato Recipe: Tomato Chickpea Soup
1 8” cucumber, with peel, has 6% DV Vitamin A, 14% DV Vitamin C, 5% DV calcium, 5% DV iron, 2 g protein, 62% DV Vitamin K. It's a good source of pantothenic acid, magtnesium, phosphorus and manganese. It's a very good source of potassium. Cucumber Recipe: Tabouleh Middle Eastern Salad
If you want to be healthy for the rest of your life, eat your veg & love them too!
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian