Top 5 Most Nutritious Vegetables in The World
All vegetables are healthy, but which are the most nutritious vegetables in the world?
According to Dr. Everett Koop (former US Surgeon General) and to Health magazine, 10 of the most nutritious vegetables in the world are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Lima beans
- Sweet potatoes
Broccoli belongs to the cabbage family (Brassicaceae – to be more specific). The green flower heads and the stalk of the plant are both edible. Broccoli plants are closely related to cauliflowers, although the plants have extremely different colors.
Broccoli contains high quantities of vitamin C, soluble fibers and the compound glucoraphanin. Glucoraphanin in broccoli leads to anticancer compound sulforaphane.
Referring to the history of broccoli, the plant was first mentioned in France in 1560 (the name “broccoli” is Italian). 150 years later, in England, the plant was still unknown and was called “sprout colli-flower” or “Italian asparagus”.
During the centuries, broccoli has became a very popular vegetable and has gained the reputation of one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. The plant is now mentioned in a lot of TV shows, cartoons. There even is a world contest for eating broccoli. The actual champion is Tom “Broccoli” Landers, who ate 1 pound of broccoli in 92 seconds. The secret, he says, is: “Just swallow, don’t bother to chew”.
Eating 100g of raw broccoli can give you (according to the USDA Nutrient database):
- Energy – 30 kcal / 140 kJ
- Carbohydrates – 5 g
- Sugars – 1.7 g
- Dietary fiber – 6.64 g
- Fat – 0.37 g
- Protein – 2.82 g
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1) – 0.071 mg (5% of the daily recommended doze for adults)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) – 0.117 mg (8%)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 0.639 mg (4%)
- Pantothenic acid (B5) – 0.573 mg (11%)
- Vitamin B6 – 0.175 mg (13%)Folate (Vitamin B9) – 63 µg (16%)
- Vitamin C – 89.2 mg (149%)
- Calcium – 47 mg (5%)
- Iron – 0.73 mg (6%)
- Magnesium – 21 mg (6%)
- Phosphorus – 66 mg (9%)
- Potassium – 316 mg (7%)
- Zinc – 0.41 mg (4%)
So, by eating 100 g of broccoli, your body gathers two times more vitamin C as compared to oranges. Also, broccoli has only 0.37 g of fat, while chicken breast and steak have 7 g and 18 g, respectively. Broccoli has almost half of the total quantity of calcium in milk (in 100 g of milk there are 113 mg of calcium, while broccoli has 47 mg).
These are just some of the reasons why broccoli is at the top of most nutritious vegetables in the world list.
Although it might seem a little strange, broccoli is not seen only as a very healthy and nutritious food. There are a lot of delicious cakes that are made of broccoli. Here an example for you:
- 500 g unsalted butter, softened
- 800 g broccoli, cut into florets
- 100 g caster sugar
- 7 eggs
- 550 g plain flour, sifted
- 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 rounded teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of curry powder
- 0.5 teaspoon of salt
Preparation: the oven is first heated to 180ºC; butter a 25 cm loaf tin and line its base and sides with parchment paper; blanch the broccoli in boiling water for about 3 minutes, then drain well; beat the butter till it is very light and creamy, then beat in the sugar; add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix together the baking powder, turmeric, curry powder and salt, and fold into the mixture with the flour; mix well and spoon into the preferred thin; push the broccoli into the mixture; bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Spinach belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, native to central and southwestern Asia. At the beginning, spinach was cultivated in Persia and in 647 arrived to China where it was called “the herb of Persia”.
In the past, spinach was considered to be one of the best sources of iron and this made this vegetable very popular. It was also considered as one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. In reality, 100 g of raw spinach has 2.7 mg of iron (about 22% of the daily recommended doze for adults), a very high concentration for a vegetable but not as high as people believed in the past.
Still, the quantity of iron made available by spinach for the human body depends on its absorption. Iron enters the body in two forms: heme and nonheme iron. All the iron in grains and vegetables and more than half of the iron in animal food sources is nonheme iron. Heme iron can be found only in meat and in smaller quantities.
Nonheme iron is absorbed much slower as compared to heme iron. Still, the absorption process is influenced by the presence of other elements, like: binders – fiber, enhancers – vitamin C, etc.
So, the good news is that consuming foods rich in vitamin C increases the absorption of iron. However, the bad news is that spinach contains high levels of oxalate, substance that binds with iron to form ferrous oxalate and remove iron from the body (consuming foods with high levels of oxalates will decrease substantially the quantity of iron absorbed by the human body).
A funny thing about spinach is that in 1870, Dr. E. von Wolf published an iron content in spinach that was ten times too high. The scientist misplaced a decimal point in his publication, transforming spinach in the most miraculous vegetable in the world. This lead to numerous stories, including the famous “Popey the sailor man”. Still, the truth was revealed in 1937 by a German chemist who corrected the mistake.
Besides iron, spinach is also a good source of calcium. Calcium absorption, as iron absorption, is influenced by oxalate. The body can only absorb about 5% of the total quantity of calcium in spinach.
Spinach also contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, antioxidants and folic acid. The most important nutrients in spinach (100 g), as mentioned in the USDA Nutrient Database, are presented below:
- Energy – 20 kcal/100 kj
- Carbohydrates – 3.6 g
- Sugars – 0.4 g
- Dietary fiber – 2.2 g
- Fat – 0.4 g
- Protein – 2.9 g
- Folate (Vitamin B9) – 194 µg (49% of the daily recommended doze for adults)
- Vitamin C – 28 mg (47%)
- Vitamin E – 2 mg (13%)
- Vitamin K – 483 µg (460%)
- Calcium – 99 mg (10%)
- Iron – 2.7 mg (22%)
Caution: reheating spinach may cause the formation of poisonous compounds that are especially harmful to infants younger than six months.
The nutrients in spinach are very important for red blood cell formation, growth and cell division and protein metabolism. It also contains lutein, a very important antioxidant for eye, skin and cardiovascular health. Vitamin C and vitamin A plus the folic acid and fiber help the body fight cancer, especially colon, lung and breast cancer. Spinach also protects the body against heart diseases and against age related memory loss (flavonoids).
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup of low fat milk
- 1/3 cup granted parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- Salt and pepper
- (10 ounce) packages of spinach
How to prepare: preheat oven to 175º C; whisk together egg, milk, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper; fold in spinach; bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
3. Brussels sprouts
The Brussels sprout is part of the cabbage family and it is cultivated for its small leafy green heads, much like miniature cabbages.
The name of the Brussels sprout comes from the capital of Belgium: Brussels, as it was first cultivated in this country. Today, this vegetable is cultivated mainly throughout Europe and the United States.
Brussels sprouts are the most hated vegetable in the UK (according to a survey conducted in the UK in 2002). The main reason for this dissatisfaction with Brussels sprouts is that, when overcooked, the vegetable releases sulphurous compounds that give it an unpleasant smell. Thus, Brussels sprout has become a symbol for all vegetables hated by children.
Brussels sprouts are a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid. Also, this vegetable contains high amounts of fiber, potassium and folacin. Brussels sprout is also high in protein, very uncommon for a green vegetable.
According to USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 100 grams of raw Brussels sprout contains 43 kcal and 0.30 g of fat. The most important nutrients found in this amount of raw Brussels sprout are:
- Protein: 3.38g
- Carbohydrate: 8.95g
- Dietary fiber: 3.8g
- Sugars: 2.20g
- Calcium: 42mg
- Iron: 1.40mg
- Magnesium: 23mg
- Phosphorus: 69mg
- Potassium: 389mg
- Manganese: 0.337mg
- Vitamin C: 85.0mg
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 0.139mg
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 0.090mg
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 0.745mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.219mg
- Folate: 61mcg
- Vitamin A: 754IU
- Vitamin K: 177.0mcg
- Tryptophan: 0.037g
- Carotene, beta: 450mcg
- Lutein + zeaxanthin: 1590mcg
The phytochemicals in Brussels sprout, like beta Carotene, Lutein and Zeaxanthin help the natural defense system of the body.
Brussels sprouts are particularly good for pregnant women, due to its high amount of folic acid. This nutrient is a B-vitamin needed during the cellular division, as it is essential in DNA synthesis.
It is known that Brussels sprouts’ glucosinolates help prevent colon cancer. In a study, animals were given water supplemented with Brussels sprouts. As a result the development of pre-cancerous cells was reduced by 41-52% in the colon and 27-67% in the liver. Also, the pre-cancerous lesions in the liver were reduced by 85-91%.
There are many ways to cook Brussels sprouts, but it is best to quickly steam or boil it in order to preserve its nutritional value. The main problem when cooking Brussels sprouts is to avoid overcooking in order to prevent the release of bad smells (caused by sulphurous compounds) and loss of nutritious elements.
When cooking Brussels sprouts, there might be an unbalance caused by the fact that leaves cook faster than the core. Many believe that by cutting the base of the stem in a cross shape will result in a more even cooking. However, there are some people who think that this leaches the flavors and breaks the leaves and the Brussels sprouts.
Usually, this vegetable should not be cooked for more than 10 minutes, when steaming, braising or boiling.
4. Lima beans
Very popular in the United States, Lima beans are part of the fabaceae family. Their place of origin is uncertain, but it is believed that they came from the South American country of Peru (the capital of Peru is Lima, from witch this vegetable gets its name) or Guatemala.
The seeds of Lima beans usually have a green or cream color, with a sweet potato-like taste and a grainy, but creamy texture. Among the many varieties of Lima beans, the most common is the Fordhok, also known as butter-beans. Lima beans are very high in molybdenum, tryptophan, dietary fiber and manganese. Also, this vegetable is a good source of folate, potassium, and iron. As we can see in the following list, Lima beans contain a series of nutrients, very helpful to the body. For example, in 100 g of lima beans you can find the followings:
- Energy: 38kcal
- Protein: 21.46g
- Fat: 0.69g
- Carbohydrate: 63.38g
- Dietary fiber: 19.0g
- Sugars: 8.50g
- Calcium: 81mg
- Iron: 7.51mg
- Magnesium: 224mg
- Phosphorus: 385mg
- Potassium: 1724mg
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 0.507mg
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 0.202mg
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 1.537mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.512mg
- Tryptophan: 0.254g
The source of the data is the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
Like any other beans, Lima beans are very rich in dietary fiber. Due to this nutrient, this vegetable lowers the cholesterol and prevents blood glucose (blood sugar) from rising to high. This is very useful for diabetics or people suffering of hypoglycemia.
The trace mineral, molybdenum, found in Lima beans is a component of the sulfite oxidase. This substance is an enzyme that detoxifies sulfites. Sulfites are preservatives used in salads that may cause rapid heartbeats, headaches or disorientation. People may have sensitivity to sulfites because of insufficient sulfite oxidase. 86.5% of the daily requirement of molybdenum can be provided by a cup of Lima beans.
According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, foods that are high in fiber, such as Lima beans can prevent heart disease. A study performed in America (for 19 years) concluded that eating 21 grams of fiber daily, lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by 12% and cardiovascular disease by 11% as compared to eating only 5 grams of fiber every day.
The folate in Lima beans also has cardiovascular benefits by reducing the levels of amino acid called homocysteine. High quantities of homocysteine in blood can cause heart attacks, strokes or peripheral vascular diseases. It is known that eating the total daily requirement of folate lowers the risk of heart attacks by 10%.
Besides fiber and folate, Lima beans have another nutrient that helps the heart: magnesium. This keeps the veins and arteries relaxed and smoothens the flow of blood through the body. Deficiency of magnesium is often associated with heart attacks. A cup of lima beans can offer 20.2% of the daily value of required magnesium.
Combined with whole grain, like brown rice or whole wheat pasta, Lima beans offer about the same quantity of protein as meat or other foods high in calories or fat that could increase your cholesterol level. In fact, a cup of Lima beans has 29.3% of the daily requirement of protein (14.7 grams).
Like Lima beans, peas are part of the fabaceae family. Peas come in many forms, each one having a delicious sweaty flavor, a smooth texture and lots of vitamins and minerals. The most common variety of Peas, are the Green Peas (also known as Garden Peas).
Peas have a very old and interesting history. It seems that Chinese were the first ones to taste this delicious vegetable in year 2000 BC. Through time, peas spread in Asia and Europe. Also, there are mentions of peas in the Bible and evidence that proves that this vegetable was worshipped in Egypt, Greece and Rome. The great producers of today’s peas are the United States, Great Britain, China, Hungary and India.
Peas are quite famous in the genetics community. In the year 1866, the monk and biologist Gregor Mendel published his ideas on heredity. By a selective cross-breeding on common pea plants, Mendel came to conclude his observations in two principles: the principle of segregation and the principle of independent assortment. These two principles of inheritance are today’s modern science of genetics.
Green peas are rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, magnese, dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and folate. Here is the nutritional profile of 100 grams of raw green peas provided by USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference:
- Energy: 81kcal
- Protein: 5.42g
- Fat: 0.40g
- Carbohydrate: 14.46g
- Dietary fiber: 5.1g
- Sugars: 5.67g
- Calcium: 25mg
- Iron: 1.47mg
- Magnesium: 33mg
- Phosphorus: 108mg
- Potassium: 244mg
- Zinc: 1.24mg
- Copper: 0.176mg
- Manganese: 0.410mg
- Vitamin C: 40.0mg
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 0.266mg
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 0.132mg
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 2.090mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.169mg
- Folate: 65mcg
- Vitamin A: 765IU
- Vitamin K: 24.8mcg
- Tryptophan: 0.037g
The high amount of vitamin K1 from green peas makes them very important for your bone health. This vitamin activates a protein called osteocalcin. Without this protein, the absorption of calcium in the bone would not be possible.
In addition to the upper mentioned effects of green peas on calcium absorption, this vegetable is rich in folic acid and vitamin B6 that work together to reduce the levels of homocysteine. Besides affecting the cardiovascular health, this amino acid can conduct to poor bones and osteoporosis by obstructing collagen cross-linking.
Green peas are an excellent way to increase your energy. The vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 from green peas are necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. The iron is necessary for blood cells. Deficiency of iron can result in anemia, fatigue or a week immune system.
Peas are at their best when eaten raw or barely steamed. The classic way to cook green peas is with lettuce leaves. You can also add some fresh peas in green salads. A delicious mixture is green peas with chicken, onions and almonds for an extraordinary chicken salad.