Joseph F. Sullivan Center

Vegetables

Vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet--and it is recommended to get at least 5 servings of them vegper day for good health! Vegetables have superior nutritional profiles. They are high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories and free of cholesterol. More vegetables in your diet can cut your risks of cancer, kidney stones, stroke, bone loss, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

  • Antioxidants: the rich colors you see in vegetables indicate the presence of antioxidants. These are disease fighting compounds that neutralize free radicals, which may cause cell damage in the body. High antioxidant levels are one of the major reasons that eating veggies are more beneficial than taking a multivitamin, since supplements do not provide the same compounds. Antioxidants also help prevent heart disease, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Potassium: many vegetables are high in potassium, which is an important vitamin for healthy blood pressure. 
  • Vitamins A and C: many vegetables are rich in these vitamins which help keep eyes, skin, teeth and gums healthy, fight infection and promote wound healing.
  • Fiber: this is an important nutrient found only in plant foods. Fiber helps rid arteries of bad cholesterol, thus lowering your risk of heart disease. Fiber also keeps your digestive system running smoothly and can lower your risk for cancer.  

Some vegetables are healthier than others. 

The Harvard School of Public Health states that potatoes--which some people consider a vegetable--actually do not count towards vegetable recommendations. Potatoes (and corn) are starchy foods more akin to grains than vegetables. Keep in mind that bright colored vegetables are higher in nutrients than less vivid choices! 

Some reasons to eat more vegetables:

  • a cup of raw spinach has nearly 1 g of fiber but only 7 calories
  • a cup of raw broccoli has 2.5g fiber, 81mg of vitamin C, 6g carbohydrates and only 31 calories
  • veggies have more volume for fewer calories!
  • more veggies cuts your risks of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer

There are many vegetables to choose from to compliement any diet. As the seasons change, seasonal vegetables change. At different times of the year, you will be able to find certain vegetables more easily, with more flavor, and typically for lower prices. A local farmer's market is a great source of seasonal produce (and a great way to support your own community)! At times of the year when your favorite veggies are hard to find, look for canned or frozen varieties. Canned items should be canned in water and be "low sodium" or "no salt added." Below is a chart of veggies by season:

Winter
Mushrooms Onions and Leeks Potatoes Sweet Potatoes
Turnips Yams
Spring
Broccoli Cabbage Green Beans Lettuce
Mushrooms Onions and Leeks Peas Rhubarb
Spinach
Summer
Beets Corn Eggplant Garlic
Green Beans Lima Beans Mushrooms Peas
Radishes Tomatoes
Fall
Beets Broccoli Brussels Sprouts Carrots
Cauliflower Garlic Ginger Mushrooms
Parsnips Sweet Potatoes Yams


Tips for eating vegetables:

  • Use veggies as snacks: instead of snacking on chips and dip, use veggies and a low fat dip like ranch or french onion for a delicious snack. 
  • Add veggies to everything: even if you hate vegetables, you can trick yourself into eating them. If you love cheese quesadillas, why not a broccoli, mushroom, and cheese quesadilla? Salad? Add carrots and radishes for more veggies at once. Sneak them onto your pizza and into spaghetti sauce. 
  • Stock up on canned or frozen veggies: if you don't have time to cook them, keep canned varieties on hand for a quick fix. Remember to look for "low sodium" or "no salt added". 
  • Try a salad for lunch! Even salads can get interesting! Add nuts for some extra protein, and strawberries for a serving of fruit! Remember to go light on the dressing.
  • When eating out, ask for vegetables or a salad on the side instead of fries. 

 

veg

So, what exactly is a serving? 

The USDA counts 1/2 cup as a serving

of vegetables, and says you need 3-5

servings per day! One cup looks like this: 

 

 

Remember, while vegetables are an important part of your diet, it is also just as important to get the right servings of fruits, grains, proteins and dairy! Click the links for information on these other food groups. 

Information provided by the USDA and LiveStrong