While all vegetables are nutritious, some are more nutritious than others. If you’re looking to spice up your diet with nutrient-dense veggies, try adding spinach, broccoli, garlic, beets, or others to the menu.
It’s no secret that vegetables — which are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — are a must-have in a healthy diet.
Although all vegetables are healthy, several stand out for their supply of nutrients and powerful health benefits.
Here are 14 of the most nutrient-dense veggies available.
This leafy green tops the chart as one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables.
That’s because 1 cup (30 grams (g)) of raw spinach provides 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A plus 120% of the DV for vitamin K — all for just 7 calories.
Spinach also boasts antioxidants, which may help reduce your chance of developing diseases such as cancer.
Carrots are packed with vitamin A, delivering 119% of the DV in just 1 cup (128 g). It also contains nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.
They also contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that provides them with a vibrant orange color. Your body converts it into vitamin A.
One study of more than 57,000 people associated eating at least 2–4 carrots per week with a 17% lower risk of colorectal cancer in the long run.
A review of 18 studies also found that carrots may also reduce the chance of developing lung cancer.
Just 1 cup (91 g) of raw broccoli provides 77% of the DV for vitamin K, 90% of the DV for vitamin C, and a good amount of folate, manganese, and potassium.
Broccoli is rich in a sulfur-containing plant compound called glucosinolate, as well as its byproduct sulforaphane. It may be able to help protect against cancer, as well as decrease inflammation linked to chronic conditions like heart disease.
Garlic is very nutritious while fairly low on calories, and most people usually consume a small amount as an ingredient in cooking. One clove of garlic only has about 4.5 calories. It contains nutrients such as selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber,
It has also been used as a medicinal plant for millennia. Its main active compound is allicin, which has been shown to aid blood sugar and heart health.
Although further research is needed, test-tube and animal studies also suggest that allicin has powerful cancer-fighting properties.
5. Brussels sprouts
are a great source of fiber, an important nutrient that supports bowel regularity, heart health, and blood sugar control. Each serving is also packed with folate, magnesium, and potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, and K.
They also contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may be particularly effective in preventing cell damage.
Kaempferol has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties, which may protect against disease.
Only 1 cup (21 g) of raw kale is loaded with potassium, calcium, copper, and vitamins A, B, C, and K.
In one small study, eating kale alongside a high carb meal was more effective at preventing blood sugar spikes than eating a high carb meal alone.
Consuming Kale as a powder (made from dried leaves) or drinking its juice has been found in various studies to support decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. That said, more research is needed to confirm these findings regarding kale juice specifically.
7. Green peas
Peas are a starchy vegetable, which means they have more carbs and calories than non-starchy veggies and may affect blood sugar levels when eaten in large amounts.
Nevertheless, just 1 cup (160 g) contains 9 g of fiber, 9 g of protein, and vitamins A, C, and K, as well as riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folate.
One cup (36 g) of Swiss chard contains just 7 calories but nearly 1 g of fiber, 1 g of protein, and lots of manganese, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
It’s also loaded with health-promoting antioxidants and plant compounds, including betalains and flavonoids.
Though more studies are needed, research has found these compounds may be anti-inflammatory and help reduce the chance of various chronic diseases
Beets are a vibrant, versatile root vegetable that packs fiber, folate, and manganese into each serving with very few calories.
They’re also rich in nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide — a compound that can help dilate blood vessels. This may help reduce blood pressure and lower the chance of developing heart disease.
What’s more, beets and their juice have been linked to improved endurance and athletic performance.
Just 1/2 cup (90 g) of cooked asparagus provides 33% of the DV for folate, as well as plenty of selenium, vitamin K, thiamine, and riboflavin.
Getting enough folate from foods such as asparagus may protect against disease and prevent developmental irregularities of the neural tube during pregnancy.
One animal study also suggests that asparagus extract protects against liver and kidney damage by reducing oxidative stress.
11. Red cabbage
Just 1 cup (89 g) of raw red cabbage contains 2 g of fiber and 56% of the DV for vitamin C.
It’s also rich in anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds that contribute to its distinct color and numerous benefits.
In one animal study, red cabbage extract reversed oxidative stress in rats with high cholesterol levels.
Similarly, in another study of mice fed a high fat diet, red cabbage microgreens significantly lowered levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreased weight gain.
12. Sweet potatoes
One medium sweet potato contains about 4 g of fiber, 2 g of protein, and a good amount of potassium, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C.
This root veggie is also high in beta-carotene, packing 122% of the DV for this vitamin.
According to a review of in vitro and animal 23 studies, sweet potatoes may be particularly effective for regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. However, human studies are needed
13. Collard greens
A mere 1 cup (130 g) of cooked collard greens boasts about 6 g of fiber, 4 g of protein, and 25% of the DV for calcium.
In fact, collard greens are one of the best plant sources of calcium. which is a mineral that plays a key role in muscle function, nerve transmission, hormone production, and bone health.
Some research links an increased intake of specific vegetables, including collard greens, to a lower chance of developing glaucoma, an eye condition that can lead to blindness (50).
Another review also associated a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables such as collard greens with an 8% and 19% lower risk of colorectal and stomach cancers, respectively.
Cauliflower is known for both its versatility and its stellar nutrient profile. Just 1 cup (155 g) cooked packs 3 g of fiber, 3 g of protein, and a variety of other important nutrients, including folate and vitamins C and K.
Like other cruciferous veggies, it
It’s a great source of compounds such as glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, both of which possess potent cancer-fighting properties.
Cauliflower is also often used as a low carb alternative and may help support weight loss.
The bottom line
Not only are most vegetables brimming with antioxidants and an array of essential vitamins and minerals, but many also offer health-promoting properties.
Although the veggies listed above are great nutrient-dense options to add to your diet, many others are loaded with nutrients as well.
For the best health outcomes, try to consume a variety of vegetables to take advantage of their unique health benefits. Be sure to include them as part of a balanced diet.
Just one thing
Try this today:Smoothies, wraps, and sandwiches are all easy ways to squeeze more vegetables into your daily diet. Aim to include at least 1–2 servings of veggies with each meal to ensure you’re meeting your needs.
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Last medically reviewed on January 9, 2024
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