Can you remember sitting at the dinner table and your mother repeatedly telling you to “Eat your greens!”? Did she really know the nutritional value of these foods or was it just so food (and money) wouldn’t be wasted? Well, it was probably a little of both . . . but the fact remains: those greens have a TON of nutritional value! Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables is recommended per day, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, less than nine percent of American adults are meeting or exceeding that recommendation. So what kinds of “greens” should you be getting on a regular basis? Almost all veggies have tremendous nutritional value, but some carry more than others. Keep reading to find out which ones . . .
It is recommended by USDA to eat between 17-21 cups of vegetables per week (recommendations vary per age and gender). The food pyramid suggests you divide the vegetable sub-groups this way (average for an adult):
- Dark green vegetables – 2-3 cups per week
- Orange Vegetables – 2 cups per week
- Legumes (dry beans) – 3 cups per week
- Starchy Vegetables – 3-6 cups per week
- Other vegetables – 5-1/2-7 cups per week
People don’t normally eat this many vegetables every week and the USDA says this deficiency is leading to an insufficient intake of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate and Potassium, as well as other important nutrients.Good Greens
Asparagus is of the lily family and is one of the most nutritional vegetables known. Asparagus should be eaten fresh as it loses flavor over time. Asparagus is low in calories (less than 4 calories per spear) and low in sodium. Asparagus is also a good source of potassium, fiber, folacin, Thiamin and vitamin B6.
Broccoli is another sure winner when it comes to nutritional value. Cousins to broccoli include Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard and turnip greens, collards, kohlrabi, rutabaga and turnips. All of these choices contain nutrients, compounds and phytochemicals as well as providing calcium, iron and fiber.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce are a good source of Vitamin A, and contribute to healthy bone growth and vision. Tomatoes and carrots are also a good source of this vitamin.
Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is needed for disease resistance and healthy skin. Everyone knows that oranges are a good source for Vitamin C, but vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, spinach, and cabbage also provide Vitamin C.
Vitamin B from Folate (or Folic Acid) is needed for blood cell function and promotes a healthy pregnancy. Spinach, mustard greens, peas and cooked dry beans are all sources.
Potassium is important for electrolyte balance and some sources include cooked dry beans, soy beans and beet greens.
If you’re not getting enough greens (and other colorful vegetables) in your daily diet, consider taking vitamin and nutritional supplements to make up the difference in your nutritional needs.