by Lynn Little
From a health standpoint, vegetables are a five-star food group: naturally
nutrient-rich; better tasting than a vitamin pill; low in calories and fat;
cholesterol-free; and packed with disease-fighting phytonutrients.
A study in the November Journal of Nutrition emphasizes the double benefit
of vegetable intake. Volunteers who ate vegetables consistently for two
weeks had higher blood levels of vitamin C - and lower levels of some
compounds that impair health. In this study, the vegetables were eaten as
gazpacho, an antioxidant-rich soup of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and
To maximize your health with vegetables, nutrition experts suggest at least
three to five servings per day - in a rainbow of colors. All types of
vegetables can be nourishing and delicious - fresh, frozen, canned and
juiced. Hearty soups and stews are a great way to enjoy veggies on frosty
winter days. Other ways to bump up your intake during cold and flu season
include: crunchy carrots for a snack at school or work; a tossed spinach
salad at lunch or dinner; and a quick-to-cook side of frozen broccoli in the
Here are a dozen vegetables and ways to enjoy them, at the same time,
treating yourself to good health:
· Broccoli and cauliflower: They are versatile and very healthful. Eat them
raw (with dip if you like) or cooked, in a salad, or even a slaw.
· Carrots: They're sweet, crunchy, and good for your teeth, eyes and heart.
They're perfect raw (as a snack or salad) or cooked in a stew.
· Peppers: They come green, red, yellow, orange, even purple. Enjoy peppers
in a salad, stir-fry, casserole or as a snack.
· Spinach: A salad of baby spinach leaves with pears or apples can turn
anyone into a real spinach lover.
· Onions: The zesty onion family (scallions, leeks, and garlic, too) offers
some powerful antioxidant nutrients.
· Peas: Fresh, frozen, or even canned, peas are a treat to eat, and they are
popular with small children.
· Beets: If you've never liked beets, try them in a new way - roasted,
grilled or lightly steamed in the microwave.
· Sweet potatoes and yams: Switch the color on your usual baked potato - and
you'll get a lot more nutrients, along with great taste.
· Mushrooms: Just a mushroom or two adds rich flavor to a casserole, soup,
stew, stir-fry, or even a tossed green salad.
· Leaf and romaine lettuce: Rule of thumb for a healthy salad: The darker
green or red the lettuce leaves, the more nutrients you get.
· Green, yellow or purple beans: Like their pea "cousins," beans offer some
fiber and a bit of protein, along with vitamins and minerals.
· Tomatoes: Cooking increases the availability of some tomato nutrients - so
enjoy canned sauce, paste and chunks.
Eating more vegetables (and fruits) might be one of the smartest choices you
can make. Eating at least five servings of produce a day helps fight
cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as everyday colds. It
also helps maintain your eyesight and improve overall health at the same