Eat Your Vegetables

By: Co+op

Smooth black eggplants, juicy red tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and mixed greens of myriad varieties and flavors: getting your daily minimum veggie requirements is easy when they're fresh and bursting with flavor!

And more is better when it comes to vegetables. They’re low in calories and high in nutrients, which makes them great for diets and overall health. In fact, one comprehensive study at Harvard found that the higher your average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower your chance of developing cardiovascular disease. So buy enough for your main dish, side dishes, soups, salads, and snacks (like raw veggies with bean dip or yogurt), too!

As a group, veggies are full of vitamins A, C, B, and folate. And they're high in minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They're also a great source of fiber and are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, valuable plant nutrients. A healthy diet that's rich in vegetables (and fruit) may be helpful in preventing certain cancers, heart disease, kidney stones, bone loss, and type 2 diabetes. It can also help improve gastrointestinal and eye health. In other words, eat your veggies, and you win all the way around.

To get the most out of your selection, experts recommend choosing a variety of colors. It's also a good idea to select from these vegetable subgroups each time you're in the produce aisle:

  • Dark green vegetables are high in vitamins A and C and contain a carotenoid that aids vision health. These include bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, dark spinach, kale, and other, similar leafy greens. Generally, the darker the color and the wrinklier the leaves, the higher the nutrient content, so look beyond that iceberg lettuce.
  • Orange vegetables are high in vitamin A. Good sources include squash (acorn, butternut, and Hubbard), pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
  • Starchy vegetables bring vitamin B6 and copper to the table. Some examples are corn, green peas, lima beans, and potatoes.
  • Other vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, green beans, mushrooms–you name it!) pack a solid vitamin C punch across the board. Again, think variety!
  • Legumes (peas and beans) are also considered a vegetable subgroup. Here's where you can add folate, copper, and fiber to your diet.

Keep in mind that while fresh is generally considered best, quality frozen and canned veggies are typically processed shortly after harvesting to lock in nutrients and flavor, so they count, too. For even more variety, dried veggies and 100% vegetable juice can add some spice to your nutritional bottom line.

Be brave in the produce aisle. Go ahead and pick up your old standbys, but try something new, too; those heirloom tomatoes or warty squashes just might end up being new favorites. Your co-op is a great source for local, organic, in-season vegetables—and great ideas on how to cook, serve, and enjoy them.