Do you rely on go-to vegetables like broccoli, spinach and carrots mainly because your family will eat them? If so, some awesome veggies are flying under your radar! Our dietitians suggest you give six veggies a try:
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1. Brussels sprouts
“Properly prepared Brussels sprouts are a tremendous addition to your veggie options,” says Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD. “They’re a great source of vitamins C and K, and provide fiber, too.”
Like its cruciferous cousin the cabbage, Brussels sprouts give off hydrogen sulfide gases when cooked too long. These can be off-putting.
Prep tip: “Overcooking Brussels sprouts makes them smell and also robs them of their nutritional benefits,” she cautions. For optimum nutrition, quarter and steam Brussels sprouts for less than 5 minutes. Add a little garlic or lemon, and enjoy!
People don’t always know what to do with watercress, but this cruciferous veggie packs a serious punch, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD.
“Study after study is documenting watercress’ amazing benefits. Researchers are studying its potential in reducing smoking carcinogens, turning off breast cancer signals and alleviating physical stress from workouts,” she says.
“The big prize came in 2014, when watercress was named the top powerhouse veggie in terms of antioxidants.”
Prep tip: Watercress is an easy, toss-into-anything kind of veggie, she says. Add it to salads and pasta dishes, or place it on top of a beautiful piece of wild fish.
“Artichokes are a versatile veggie — you can eat the hearts as well as the leaves,” says Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD.
“Artichokes are extremely rich in antioxidants and are a good source of folate, potassium and many other vitamins and minerals,” she says.
Plus, they’re low in calories (just 45 in 1 cup cooked hearts) and high in fiber (5 grams).
Prep tip: Try steaming artichokes and eating the tender ends of the leaves. “Steaming veggies is fast and easy,” she says. “Then dip in olive oil, hummus, olive dip or Greek yogurt dip. You can also defrost frozen artichokes and add to green salad, tuna salad, or pasta salad.”
“Don’t be fooled by its pale color — cauliflower is packed with nutrients,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD. Like other cruciferous veggies (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy and broccoli), it’s rich in glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are being studied for their anti-cancer properties.
Prep tip: “I love roasting veggies – not just because of the taste, but also because it’s so easy!” she says. Line a cookie sheet with foil, mist it with olive oil, and line up prepped cauliflower florets.
Top with another mist of olive oil and a dash of garlic, black pepper or Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425°F for 10-20 minutes until fork-tender.
Related: Crunchy and Cruciferous: You’ll Love This Special Family of Vegetables
5. Broccoli rabe
“Everyone knows about broccoli, but this cross between broccoli and kale is underrated and underconsumed in the United States,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD.
Broccoli rabe is extremely nutritious, loaded with iron, calcium, zinc, vitamins A, C and K, she says. Like other cruciferous veggies, it contains potentially cancer-fighting glucosinolates.
People are not eating enough dark green vegetables — like broccoli rabe — according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. “It’s important to try new foods and to get variety in your diet, so consider adding broccoli rabe to your grocery cart,” she says.
Prep tip: Lightly sautee broccoli rabe’s leaves, buds and stems with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and cashew butter. “The best way to enhance cruciferous veggies’ nutrients is to prepare them raw, lightly steamed or sautéed,” she notes.
“Cucumber may not be as dense in nutrients as other veggies, but considering it has only 16 calories and 4 grams of carb per cup, it packs a punch,” says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.
Cucumbers are a good source of vitamin K, potassium, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, copper and manganese.
Prep tip: “Cucumbers can be used in so many ways — as a snack with hummus or Greek yogurt dip, in salad or in sushi, to replace chips or crackers for guacamole and cheese, to add flavor to water and mixed drinks,” she says. Cucumbers are also a great veggie to introduce to kids.
Related: 5 Veggies That Don’t Deserve the Hype: Your Dietitian’s Picks
Two easy prep methods
Keeping raw veggies on hand for munching is good for your waistline and your health. “They’re great with Greek yogurt dip — anytime and anywhere!” says Ms. Jeffers.
Adds Ms. Zumpano: “Eating veggies raw maximizes the nutrition and the crunch, and minimizes the prep work.”
Roasting cauliflower, sliced fennel, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, carrots and other veggies is also a snap. “I like the way roasting makes veggies crunchy and flavorful,” says Ms. Taylor. “And clean-up is a cinch!”