Vegetables are naturally low in fat and free of cholesterol. Although some contain simple carbohydrates, starchy vegetables and legumes (beans and peas) are considered complex carbohydrates.
• Vitamins A – Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, collards, kale, mixed veggies, turnip greens, beet greens, winter squash, mustard greens, and red sweet peppers
• Vitamin C – Red sweet peppers, green peppers, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomato juice, cauliflower, and kale
• Potassium – Sweet potatoes, tomato paste, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), carrot juice, lima beans, lentils, kidney beans, and split peas
• Iron – Soybeans, white beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, chickpeas, cowpeas, lima beans, soybeans, navy beans, and tomato paste
Vegetables also contain fiber and many are high in water content; because of this, they bulk up meals and fill you up while providing fewer calories.
Vegetables also contain a variety of phytochemicals that can promote health and protect against diseases such as cancer. Here are some phytochemicals and some of the vegetables that contain them:
• Flavonoids – Eggplant, radishes, and red cabbage
• Quercetin – Onions
• Carotenoids- Beets
• Lycopene – Tomatoes, especially processed tomato products (such as canned tomato products, spaghetti sauce, and ketchup)
Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale contain glucosinolates, indoles, and other substances that can reduce the risk of some cancers.
Daily Recommended Amounts
MyPramid recommends between 1 and 4 cups (or 2 to 8 half cup servings) of vegetables each day depending on individual calorie needs.
In general, here’s what counts as 1 cup of vegetables:
• 1 cup of cut-up, raw, or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
• 2 cups of leafy green vegetables
Vegetables vary in their calorie contents. Most contain between 40 and 60 calories per cup. However, starchy vegetables such as corn, green peas, and white potatoes have about 140 calories per cup. It’s important to be mindful of the calorie differences when you choose your vegetables and to keep portions of more caloric choices (such as starchy vegetables) small to maximize nutrients and keep calorie intake in check.
Weekly Recommended Amounts
MyPyramid suggests weekly intake for several vegetable subcategories. Here are some examples of vegetables included in each subcategory:
• Dark green vegetables – Bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, dark green leafy lettuce, kale, mesclum, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, and watercress
• Orange vegetables – Acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, Hubbard squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes
• Starchy vegetables – Corn, green peas, lima beans (green), and potatoes
• Other vegetables – Artichokes, asparagus, bean sprouts, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, green or red peppers, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsnips, tomatoes, tomato juice, and vegetable juice
Cruciferous vegetables are all members of the cabbage family of vegetables; includes kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and turnips. They’re loaded with phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.