9 the Healthiest Vegetables and How To Eat More of Them

Some of these healthy veggies may surprise, disgust or make mouths water, but they should be a staple in any balanced diet. Here’s how to eat more!

The healthiest foods to add to a diet are not always the least appealing, like Brussels sprouts and tofu. In 2010 and 2011, more dietitians and nutritionists brought to light lists of the healthiest vegetables for the body and mind—some of which you probably didn’t even know were healthy.

So make a new grocery list and get ready to try some new recipes to look and feel great in no time.

Pumpkin

This winter squash is full of potassium to prevent high blood pressure, along with antioxidants for healthy skin. And the benefits apply even if it is out of those pumpkin puree cans that are so frequent around the winter holidays.

Combine the canned pumpkin with a little sour cream to make a soup or add it to yogurt or cottage cheese. Or, peel and dice up fresh pumpkin, then roast it with olive oil and fresh thyme for a snack or side dish.

Edamame

These soybeans, best known as an appetizer in Asian eateries, have more fiber than shredded wheat cereal and more protein than roasted turkey. Its even healthier than tofu—edamame are unprocessed and have more fiber and protein than tofu, which is made from the the milky liquid extracted from the soybeans.

If you don’t like steamed edamame sprinkled with sea salt, try pureeing the soybeans with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to create hummus or dip for chips and pita bread. Or, dice up the soybeans and toss with pasta, into lettuce salads for added texture, or mixed with brown rice under fish or chicken.

Seaweed

Don’t say “ewwww” just yet. Seaweed is not only low in cholesterol, but also high in vitamin K, iron, riboflavin, magnesium, calcium and potassium to normalize blood pressure. Sprinkle dried seaweed on salads, seafood dishes, or grilled fish, or marinate in lime juice and soy sauce before tossing with radish and watercress. Even better? Try making sushi at home.

Spinach

This veggie is a give-in; packed with iron, folate and more than a dozen flavonoids. Toss with garlic and olive oil for a flavorful side dish, saute onto pizza, or puree a handful of spinach leaves into a favorite smoothie recipe—the drink will barely taste any different but pack tons of antioxidants.

Mushrooms

These fungi range from little to large, and can be just as sufficient as a slab of beef if meaty enough, like the large portobellos. They cut the calories from a meal but up to 400 if substituted (and they also regulate estrogen levels). Use mushrooms stuffed with lean chopped chicken and vegetables as a side or main dish, or sauté with white wine and shallots under half the liquid has evaporated, then serve over fish or chicken.

Chard

Swiss chard has a beautiful color to match its fancy name, and is supercharged with fiber, B vitamins, beta-carotene and calcium. The leafy greens taste best when cooked or sauteed.

Toss with pasta salad packed full of beans, raisins, and garlic. Broiling chard gives it a nice crispy texture on the edges, and can also be used to hold rice as a side dish. Once it’s cut up with the rice, a contrast of flavors and texture is delicious.

Sweet Potatoes

Tasty and hearty, sweet potatoes are rich in anti-oxidants and help rid the body of free radicals. There are even some studies that link sweet potatoes to lessen the effect of arthritis and asthma, since the orange wonder spuds have anti-inflammatory tendencies. Also rich in fiber, calcium and iron, they can replace regular white or red potatoes as a much healthier option.

Slice them lengthwise into skinny french fries, toss in olive oil and sea salt and bake in the over to accompany sandwiches or burgers and hot dogs off the grill. Or, bake and mash with Greek yogurt, add roasted chunks to pasta dishes or toss onto pizza, and make into a savory pie for breakfast.

Asparagus

These tender veggies are an excellent source of potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C, K and B complex – especially B6 and folic acid. At just four calories a stalk, lightly steamed asparagus can help reduce weight, inflammation and depression.

Grill with sea salt and pepper (make sure they are seasoned very well), dice up finely into cold pasta or lettuce salads, wrap in puff pastry and bake with Parmesan cheese, or fry lightly in tempura batter to accompany sushi rolls.

Eggplant

Low in calories, rich in potassium, fiber and copper, and known for cardiovascular health support, eggplants are a staple among dieters and those who love veggies. And although everyone loves eggplant parmesan, but that’s not exactly the healthiest dish when breaded and saturated in oil.

Stuff eggplant halves with shredded chicken or pork, along with some other veggies from this list, then bake until tender. Toss chunks into stir fry or onto pizza, or create a healthy version of eggplant parmesan by lightly coating the vegetable in an egg wash, patting on Panko bread crumbs, and baking until toasty.

Keep in mind also that herbs and spices can help enhance any veggie; toss red pepper flakes with spinach, asparagus or mushrooms; oregano with eggplant; cumin with chard.

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