A stern warning from the doctor about the need to eat more produce hasn’t done much to improve American eating habits. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported only 8.9% of adults in the U.S. were eating the recommended amount of vegetables. Most barely make it past one serving a day. Processed convenience foods are a big part of the problem. On the other hand, the veggies themselves might play a role.
Certain greens and cruciferous vegetables have enjoyed quite a bit of popularity in recent years. Still, a person can only take so many servings of roasted cauliflower before it starts to get old. Additionally, increased demand has made a lot of produce much costlier than it once was. But who says you need to be on trend in order to eat healthy? You might be surprised by the nutrition some of the most humble produce is hiding. The next time you hit the grocery store, load up on these 10 vegetables to eat well with ease.
The vibrant orange hue should give you a clue as to how great this veggie is. The color indicates high levels of carotenoids, powerful compounds that research has linked to a reduced risk of some types of cancer and eye disease. Other veggies in the same color spectrum have similar nutritional benefits, but Eat This, Not That! pointed out carrots are probably the easiest to prepare.
As for the specifics, Verywell reports one medium carrot contains 25 calories, 1.5 grams of fiber, a decent amount of vitamin C, and a whopping 204% of your daily vitamin A needs. Since that last nutrient is a fat-soluble vitamin, you should always include something like oil, nuts, or avocado with the veggie.
Tossing a few slices into your salad is probably the easiest way to get more of the orange veggie in your diet. Carrots also play the roasted game just as well as cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, so try this grown-up twist on glazed carrots from Bon Appétit. You can even turn them into hummus with The Kitchn’s flavorful recipe.
2. Bok choy
A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, bok choy doesn’t get very much attention here in the States. Consider it your secret weapon because, according to Livestrong.com, 1 cup contains only 10 calories, but gives you a good dose of fiber and vitamins A and C. Studies indicate eating cruciferous veggies may also help prevent certain types of cancer. And bok choy is a complete bargain compared to its pricier vegetable siblings.
This veggie is a staple in Chinese cuisine, so try it in a stir-fry or steam it with some fish. The texture is also perfect for grilling. Try this sweet and salty recipe from Sunset.
Parsley is sort of the forgotten herb. It’s usually used as a pasta garnish while cilantro, basil, and mint steal the spotlight. You might want to start giving parsley a little more love because it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals, including a decent amount of folate. This B vitamin has long been touted as an important nutrient for pregnant women, but the benefits don’t stop there. One 2012 meta-analysis published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases found sufficient folate intake could reduce the risk of heart disease. And according to Reader’s Digest, you can eat 2 full cups for just 35 calories.
Since this herb is mild compared to a lot of others, you can actually use it as you would lettuce. Try this simple salad with onions and parsley from Saveur. You can also fold it into Eating Well’s delicious soup.
Usually considered a flavoring rather than a vegetable, onions can do a world of good for your health. Consider this recent study from the British Journal of Nutrition that found regular doses of onion skin extract helped lower blood pressure for adults with hypertension. The key player is likely quercetin, a type of antioxidant that’s also found in tea and berries. Onions are also pretty smart for those watching their weight. WebMD reports an entire allium is just 63 calories and also contains loads of vitamin C.
Onions make a great base for any soup, stew, or braise. You can also caramelize them for a sweet topping, which goes great on pizza and sandwiches. If you’d rather skip the constant stirring, Alton Brown shared a cool recipe to caramelize them in the microwave.
Very few people buy watercress at the grocery store. When they do, it’s usually just for some sort of garnish. What this green lacks in popularity, it makes up for in nutritional value. Self Nutrition Data shows the calorie count is almost negligible and it’s a great source of vitamins and other nutrients, including lutein, a potent antioxidant.
This green is also a particularly good choice for athletes. In a small study published in 2013, researchers found subjects who consumed watercress prior to workouts recovered better than control subjects. Surprisingly, the benefits were noticeable even in the short term.
Watercress has a peppery flavor sort of similar to arugula, so you can use it in a very similar way. For something a little different, try wilting it with some garlic using this recipe from Epicurious. It’s also a starring ingredient in a traditional German herb sauce. You can whip it up with this fast recipe from Saveur.
When they’re not fried in grease or smothered in sour cream, potatoes are nutritional powerhouses. According to Mother Nature Network, one medium potato is about 100 calories and contains plenty of vitamins C and B6, plus more potassium than a banana. There’s been some recent debate about whether or not this electrolyte can really help eliminate cramping during exercise, but the University of Maryland Medical Center said it’s still important for keeping your body functioning properly.
As for cooking, potatoes are a great way to add heft to soup and they always taste great roasted with some herbs and olive oil. It’s hard to beat a stuffed potato, so build a better version with some healthier toppings. Try this Cajun-inspired version from Cooking Light.
7. Frozen peas
Think fresh is always best? Think again. When any type of produce is picked, it immediately starts losing nutritional value. Peas are particularly finicky and lose their nutrients a lot faster than sturdier vegetables. In fact, one study indicated peas any older than three days could be less nutritious than frozen ones.
A quick glance at the label on the package shows this freezer-aisle staple is a really smart choice. Verywell reports a ½-cup serving of frozen peas will set you back 42 calories and give you a decent amount of vitamins A and C, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 2.8 grams of protein. Pea protein is quickly becoming one of the go-to ingredients for nutrition bars, but you may as well save your money and get the real thing.
Like many of the other vegetables on this list, frozen peas are easy to add to just about any meal. Toss a handful into your favorite soups and rice dishes or serve them with just a dab of butter and a little bit of mint. Check out Serious Eats for more recipe inspiration.
This crunchy veggie is a lot more nutritious than the blue cheese dressing and fried wings it usually accompanies. According to the USDA’s nutrient database, 1 cup of chopped stalks is only 16 calories and provides you with a decent amount of vitamin A and folate. Most notably, though, celery is an excellent source of vitamin K, a key nutrient for bone and blood health. If that’s not enough to convince you to chow down, consider the boost it could give your sex life. Men’s Health says celery is loaded with pheromones, chemicals that get both you and ladies in the mood. The effect is nearly immediate, so munch away.
If you’re sick of eating celery raw, try some cooked preparations to jazz things up. It’s surprisingly delicious when roasted. Just chop the stalks into 1-inch lengths, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake the veggies in a hot oven until the edges brown. You can even turn celery into a tasty gratin with Food Network’s simple recipe.
One of the biggest bargains in the supermarket, cabbage doesn’t get much attention aside from the occasional slaw. Maybe the rock-bottom price has people thinking the nutrition is also on the low side, but that couldn’t be more wrong. According to Verywell, 1 cup of chopped, raw cabbage will only cost you 22 calories and you’ll get a good dose of fiber and vitamin C. Cabbage is also a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes kale and cauliflower. These veggies all contain substances called glucosinolates. According to the National Cancer Institute, they break down into a number of compounds that have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer.
Like celery, cabbage is usually left in its raw state. While it certainly tastes great without adding any heat to the equation, cooked preparations completely transform the flavor. You can turn cabbage into chips with Bon Appétit’s recipe or caramelize it for a fast weeknight pasta with this dish from The New York Times. Since the vegetable is relatively sturdy, it’s also perfect for grilling.
This water-packed veggie offers more than just a spicy kick for your salad. WebMD says a full cup contains 19 calories plus a good amount of vitamin C and fiber. Radishes are also filled with phytosterols, a type of compound that can help lower cholesterol, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Skip the bagged ones and go for bunches with the greens still attached. They’re often much fresher and you basically get a bonus vegetable. Add the greens to salads or sauté them like spinach. The tops tend to be sandy, so give them a good rinse prior to cooking.