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The 6 Healthiest Vegetables (Backed By Science)

Key takeaways:

  • Vegetables are an excellent source of nutrition for the body. Science has shown they can help fight cancer, prevent diabetes, and even help you live longer.

  • All vegetables are healthy, but some pack an extra-strong boost of nutrients. This includes broccoli, kale, and spinach as well as carrots, bell peppers, and beets.

  • The way you cook and prepare your vegetables can affect their nutrients. Steaming can increase nutrition content. Boiling and freezing can decrease it.

“Eat your veggies!” Most people have heard this at some point in their life. And while many people know that vegetables are good for them, they may not know just how healthy vegetables can be.

Eating vegetables every day can reduce your risk for chronic diseases, improve brain function, and even help you live longer. But only about 1 in 10 American adults actually consumes the recommended amount of 2 or more servings per day. In this article we’ll review the health benefits of vegetables and point out the powerhouse veggies to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Which nutrients do vegetables provide?

Vegetables are an excellent source of many essential nutrients:

  • Fiber helps keep digestion regular, lowers cholesterol, and helps with weight maintenance.

  • Potassium is essential for muscle and nerve function. It can also help lower blood pressure and risk of stroke.

  • Folate helps the body make red blood cells. It’s especially important during pregnancy because it helps reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine.

  • Vitamin A keeps the skin healthy and strengthens the immune system.

  • Vitamin C also helps keep the immune system strong. And it plays a role in iron absorption.

  • Iron is important for brain function and the production of red blood cells.

  • Calcium is important for bone health. And it may help protect against cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  • Phytonutrients are nutrients that come from plants. They have a wide variety of health-boosting properties. An example is antioxidants, which may help prevent anything from heart disease to cancer.

Which vegetables are the healthiest?

All vegetables are healthy. They are naturally low in fat and salt, and they’re packed with nutrients. So you can’t go wrong when choosing a vegetable. But when it comes to proven health benefits, here are the six healthiest vegetables according to scientific research.

1. Broccoli

Broccoli contains a special chemical compound called “sulforaphane,” which scientists have studied for its medicinal effects. Studies show that sulforaphane can:

Some studies suggest that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are the best vegetables to fight cancer. Eating just 3 to 5 servings per week may lower your risk of cancer by 30% to 40%.

Broccoli is also an excellent source of vitamin C and iron.

2. Kale

Kale has become more popular as a health food in the past few decades. But this leafy green vegetable has been used as medicine for much longer than that.

Kale owes its healthy reputation to lutein. This nutrient helps prevent:

  • Neurological problems, like memory loss or difficulties with learning

  • Eye diseases, like cataracts or diabetic eye problems

  • Cardiovascular problems, like high blood pressure

  • Skin irritation

  • Bone decay

Kale is also an excellent source of iron, calcium, and folic acid.

3. Spinach

Spinach contains many of the same health benefits as broccoli and kale. But it is also rich in phytochemicals. These cause the body to release hormones that make you feel full, which can be helpful for people who want to lose weight. It is also high in iron and vitamin A.

4. Carrots

Carrots contain carotenoids, which give them their vibrant orange color (or yellow or red). Carotenoids also have antioxidant properties. This means they can play a role in:

  • Preventing age-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s and memory loss

  • Protecting you from sunburns (and skin cancer)

  • Keeping your immune system healthy

Carrots are also a great source of fiber and vitamin A.

5. Bell peppers

Yellow, green, and red bell peppers each have their own unique health benefits. So eating a variety of colors is a great way to get all of their nutrients:

  • Red peppers: These contain capsaicin, which can help with pain relief, cancer prevention, and weight loss.

  • Yellow peppers: These have a high amount of flavonoids, which are especially helpful for learning and memory.

  • Green peppers are a great source of phenolic acids. This can lower your risk of diabetes and help prevent skin damage.

Bell peppers also have an especially high amount of vitamin C — 1 cup has about 3 times more vitamin C than an orange.

6. Beets

Beets contain betalains. These are pigments that contain nitrogen, which give them that deep-purple color. They can lower your risk of developing:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • High cholesterol

  • Cancer

Beets are also rich in folate and potassium.

How does nutritional value change between different forms of vegetables?

All forms of vegetables supply the body with healthy nutrients. But some ways of preparing your veggies may be better at preserving those nutritious vitamins and minerals:

  • Fresh vegetables: These serve as the baseline for nutritional content. But even among fresh veggies, the level of ripeness can affect nutrient content. And the timing of harvest may affect how many nutrients remain.

  • Frozen vegetables: These have similar nutritional content to fresh vegetables. Although the beta-carotene level may be lower for certain vegetables in their frozen form.

  • Boiled vegetables: Boiling can lead to lower amounts of nutrients for certain vegetables. This is because the vitamins can “leak out” into the water.

  • Steamed vegetables: Steaming is probably the best way to maintain or even improve the availability of nutrients. For example, steaming broccoli can actually increase the availability of its antioxidants and polyphenols.

  • Fermented vegetables: Fermentation keeps most of the nutrients. Fermented veggies also provide a powerful dose of probiotics.

The bottom line

Eating vegetables every day is a great way to boost your health. They can help keep your body running smoothly and even decrease your risk of developing many diseases. If you want to take advantage of these health benefits, aim for two servings a day. But even one vegetable each day can be beneficial, so don’t be afraid to start small. And different colors have different nutrients, so eating a rainbow of colors is a great way to keep your meals healthy and fun!


Bakoyiannis, I., et al. (2019). Phytochemicals and cognitive health: Are flavonoids doing the trick? Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

Barkat, N., et al. (2018). Effect of harvest time on the levels of phytochemicals, free radical-scavenging activity, α-amylase inhibition and bile acid-binding capacity of spinach (Spinacia oleracea)Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.


Gh Blinks

Gh Blinks is a young industrious, motivated, passionate, highly productive, and creative blogger and writer with strong communication and problem-solving skills. He has a couple of awards and honors to his credit.

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