Mom told you to eat your vegetables for a good reason! Chock-full of vitamins and minerals, vegetables are an excellent source of disease-fighting antioxidants, which may help protect you from heart disease, certain cancers, and a host of other ailments. Many vegetables are also rich in soluble fiber, which means they help slow down digestion and keep you feeling fuller, longer.
What’s more, veggies are wonderfully versatile: Not only are there hundreds of different varieties to choose from, but most can be prepared in a variety of ways. Whether you like your vegetables steamed, roasted, sautéed, or served up raw in a salad, they can complement any meal — or be part of the main dish itself! Another benefit: You can enjoy an unlimited amount of most veggies on all Phases. Dr. Arthur Agatston, creator of the South Beach Diet, recommends a minimum of 4 1/2 cups of vegetables each day, but you can eat more if you like!
Getting the Most Out of Veggies
To benefit most from vegetables, eat a wide variety in as many colors as possible, since different-colored veggies contain different nutrients. Be sure to include the following:
Sweet potatoes (and other orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash) are an outstanding source of carotenoids (including beta-carotene), as well as vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. These vegetables can help reduce LDL cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, fight cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of partial blindness in people over the age of 50), and boost your resistance to colds and infections.
Tomatoes are not only rich in the antioxidant vitamin C, they also contain a red pigment called lycopene, which is a powerful carotenoid that may help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer (especially prostate, breast, and skin cancers). Tomatoes also contain lutein and zeaxanthin — antioxidant-rich plant pigments that can play a role in reducing the risk of macular degeneration.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and bok choy are antioxidant powerhouses that can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and possibly help to reduce age-related memory loss. In addition, a sulfur compound called sulforaphane found in cruciferous vegetables, may increase the activity of cancer-fighting enzymes in the body.