Chances are you know vegetables are good for you, and even more importantly that you need to eat a whole lot more of them. With data showing that fewer than 1 in 10 Aussies get their daily recommended serves of fruits and veggies, it is safe to say most of us will benefit from a lot more veggie action.
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Whilst any type of vegetable is good for us, there are a handful of super nutrient rich veggies that are a little more obscure and as such do not frequent the menu as often as they should to help reap the many nutritional benefits. So, if optimising nutrient intake is of interest to you, here are some of the super nutrient rich veggies we need to include more often as part of our weekly intake.
Not a common veggie staple in the diets of Australians, specifically Jerusalem artichokes are one of the few rich natural sources of prebiotic fibres, the special type of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in the gut, helping to support digestive health. Relatively low in carbohydrates and calories, and relatively high in protein for a vegetable, Jerusalem artichokes are best enjoyed roasted with olive oil, or even mashed as an alternative to potato mash.
The rich, bright colour and texture of beetroot give you some idea of how chock full of nutrition this vegetable really is. Beetroot contains a number of extremely powerful antioxidants including beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin known to support cell health and with minimal calories per serve, is a daily must include in your diet.
Recent research also confirmed that the high levels of nitric oxide in beetroot helps to improve blood flow with makes them a must as part of an anti-inflammatory diet and shots of concentrated beetroot juice have also been shown to improve cycling performance in sprint events.
Roast and add to salads, juice for a tasty mixed vegetable juice or grate and keep handy as an addition to sandwiches, crackers, dips and pates.
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Without a doubt, leafy green veggies are one of the most nutrient foods we can eat, but one type of greens that we rarely hear of, yet which are one of the most nutrient rich vegetables are collard greens. Related to kale, collard greens are extremely nutrient rich with significant amounts of vitamin K, calcium, vitamin A and folate. Specifically it is the high antioxidant content of collard greens that associates it with healthier cells and a reduced risk of developing some types of cancer. Enjoy collard greens fresh or lightly cooked with olive oil for enhanced nutrient absorption.
A relative of nutrient rich broccoli, remember that cauliflower is just as nutrient rich as its green cousin and extremely versatile. Rich in vitamin C, K, B6, folate and dietary fibre, specifically it is the sulforaphane found in this group of vegetables that is associated with healthier cells and lower levels of inflammation in the body. Best enjoyed raw or lightly cooked, mashed cauliflower or grated makes a lower carb alternative to rice and can even be turned into a pretty tasty, low-carb pizza base. Even richer in nutrients are the less common purple cauliflowers, which contain the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin known for its anti-cancer properties.
Polarising, people tend to either love or hate Brussels but you cannot deny that these hearty veggies are chock full of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K, as well as dietary fibre and have proven anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits which are not negatively impacted when the Brussels are cooked. For this reason, if the intense flavour of Brussels is not your thing, enjoying them cooked with a more appealing sauce will still mean you can reap all the nutritional benefits in a flavoursome dish.
Rich in vitamins C and A, all varieties of cabbage have been associated with a reduction in cancer risk, especially for breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.
Best consumed raw or lightly cooked, red cabbage in particular is also a rich source of the antioxidant ‘anthocyanin’, known for its cell health benefits. Fermenting cabbage and turning it into sauerkraut is also a way to increase your intake of probiotics, the bacteria that supports gut health.
While Aussies enjoy plenty of potatoes, it is the way we consume them via fried crisps or French fries that is the issue. Rather increasing our intake of whole, fibre-rich potatoes makes sense nutritionally. Not only is a potato one of the naturally most filling foods you can find, but potatoes, especially when enjoyed with a jacket offers plenty of dietary fibre, vitamin C and vitamin B6 all for just over 100 calories and 20-30g of carbs. And there is also now lower carb varieties of potato available if you are wanting lighter options.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.