General Information About Vegetables

Of all the plant foods, the vegetable group offers the most diversity.  There are
hundreds of varieties available in many different colors, shapes, sizes, flavors, and
textures.  The various shades of vegetables include green, yellow, orange, red, white,
and purple.  Technically, the vegetable realm consists of any edible part of a plant
including the leaf, stem, tuber, root, bulb, berry, and seed.  It excludes mushrooms
because they're considered to be a fungus.  In common usage however, vegetables
are referred to as fleshy edible plants that are more mineral rich and less sugary than
fruits.   Most vegetables are easy to prepare and can be eaten raw or cooked.  
Around the world, vegetables are eaten as either an accompaniment to the main
course (such as meat) or they are the main dish and meat or another protein is the
side dish.  


Locally Grown Produce

At one time, the fruits and vegetables that consumers bought had been grown on
local farms and orchards or they came from family gardens.  Today, due to advances
in agricultural and food-handling technology, most fruits and vegetables are mass
produced to be distributed nationwide.  In many parts of the world, fruits and
vegetables are still grown on local farms, orchards, and in family gardens.  Aside from
chemical-free wild plant foods, fruits and vegetables from local farms, orchards, and
family gardens are the most nutritious.  In several other parts of the world, modern
technology has made it possible for mass production growers to harvest a steady
year-round stream of produce.  The produce is then distributed in refrigerated train
cars and trucks to food brokers and wholesale food distributors nationwide.   

Although consumers in these locations are never limited to seasonal foods from their
own locality, greater availability of fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods has come
at a price.  Mechanical growing and handling methods combined with the rigors of
long distance shipping, have prompted large-scale commercial growers to be more
concerned with the hardiness of the produce and less concerned with its flavor and
texture.  So, although fruits and vegetables in supermarkets often appear fresh,
sturdy, and of uniform size, they usually don't equal the taste of produce that's
grown locally.  Also, most produce that's grown locally (on small scale farms and
orchards) is usually organically grown.  This means more nutrients and less toxins.  
Consumers who live in large-scale production regions of the world are becoming
more aware of the differences between locally grown organic produce and that which
has been grown on a large scale and shipped from suppliers nationwide.  Due to the
increased demand for locally grown organic produce, there has been an increase in
the number of local farms and orchards who send their harvests to green markets in
nearby cities.  In the United States, residents of suburbs and small towns can also
buy local produce at farm stands, farmer's markets, or directly at the farms and
orchards.


Types of Vegetables

There are several ways to classify vegetables.  Generally, vegetables are classified
according to their botanical families or what part of the plant is eaten (such as the
root, stalk, or leaves).  

Leafy Vegetables - This vegetable group includes salad greens, spinach, collards,
kale, radicchio, and watercress.  Leafy vegetables may grow in tight loose heads or
individually on stems.  A few leafy greens, such as turnip greens and beet greens, are
actually the tops of root vegetables.  Salad greens, such as lettuce, are usually
served raw.  Sturdier more flavorful greens, such as kale and collard greens, are
usually served cooked.  They can also be eaten raw.  Most leafy vegetables are rich in
carotenoids (such as beta carotene), vitamin C, and are good sources of fiber and
folate.  They also provide varying amounts of chlorophyll, iron, and calcium.  

Flowers, Buds, and Stalks - This vegetable group includes celery, broccoli,
cauliflower, asparagus, and artichokes.  Most vegetables in this category are great
sources of vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.  They also provide a great supply of
dietary fiber.  Their flavors are mild to slightly sweet.  These vegetables are usually
eaten alone or served with a range of sauces or other accompaniments.   

Seeds and Pods - The vegetables in this category are the parts of plants that store
energy.  They include corn and fresh legumes (edible pod legumes and shell legumes)
such as snap beans, lima beans, and green peas.  Although all legumes are
vegetables, dried legumes are usually placed in their own category.  Generally,
Seeds
and Pods
vegetables contain more protein than other vegetables and contain more
complex carbohydrates than leafy, stalk, or flower vegetables.  When these
vegetables are immature and freshly picked, their carbohydrate content is in the form
of sugars.  In time, after harvesting, the sugars turn into starch.  These vegetables
tend to be good sources of B vitamins and the minerals zinc, potassium, magnesium,
calcium, and iron.  

Roots, Bulbs, and Tubers - These vegetables grow underground and act as the
nutrient storehouses of plants.  This vegetable group includes onions, turnips,
potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, and parsnips.  These vegetables are considered to
be satisfying because they're sturdy and dense.  In some cases, the tops of these
vegetables (such as beet greens and scallions) contain more nutrients than their
roots or bulbs.  

Due to their high starch content, vegetables in this category tend to be higher in
calories than most above ground vegetables.  Also due to their high starch content,
some of these vegetables can act more like simple sugars.  This means that they can
trigger rapid rises in blood sugar and insulin.  When eaten in moderation, these
vegetables provide a good source of nutrients.  Potatoes are good sources of vitamin
C and potassium.  Sweet potatoes and carrots are great sources of beta carotene.  
Radishes and turnips are good sources of fiber and vitamin C.  Several studies
suggest that onions and garlic may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.   

Fruit Vegetables - Eggplants, squash, peppers, and tomatoes are all part of this
vegetable group.  They are the pulpy, seed-bearing bodies of the plants on which they
grow.  Technically, in botanical classification, these vegetables are classified as fruits
because they are the fleshy part of plants and contain seeds.  Since they're
commonly used as vegetables, that's how they're generally categorized.  Most fruit
vegetables are higher in calories than leafy vegetables, stalks, or flowers and tend to
be good sources of vitamin C.  Since these vegetables offer a variety of flavors and
textures that blend well with many dishes, they're useful as seasonings and accents.  
In many parts of the world, fruit vegetables are staple foods.  


Selecting Vegetables

When selecting vegetables, choose those with vivid colors and crisp textures.  Check
for mold and avoid buying those with strong unpleasant odors.  

Leafy vegetables that are yellowing or browning indicate wilting and rotting.  They
should be vivid in their green color, moist, and crisp.  Tiny holes in leafy vegetables
are an indication of insect damage.  

When selecting
flowers, buds, and stalks - florets, such as those on broccoli and
cauliflower, should not have strong unpleasant odors.  The florets should be tightly
closed and uniform in their color.  The leaves on flower vegetables should be vivid
green and not wilted.  The stems should be firm and crisp without any slime.  

When selecting vegetables in the
Seeds and Pods category the husks of corn should
be fresh-looking, tight, and green.  They shouldn't be yellowed or dry.  Part of the
husk can be pulled back to insure that the corn kernels are plump and fill the ear.  The
kernels at the tip should be smaller (large kernels at the tip are an indication that the
corn is over-ripe). The silk should be moist, soft, and light golden in color.  The best
way to choose fresh podded beans is at a market that sells them loose so pods of
equal size can be selected.  When edible pod legumes are very stiff or the seeds are
visible through the pods, this is an indication that the fresh legumes are over-ripe.  
Fresh shell legumes should be plump and tight-skinned.  Shelled lima beans should be
grass-green.  Fava beans should be a light grey-green.  

In regards to vegetables in the
Roots, Bulbs, and Tubers category, roots (such as
those of beets, carrots, and turnips) should be smooth, hard, and uniform in shape.  
Their surface should be unbruised and free of cuts.  Their colors should be vivid.  
Carrots should be a healthy reddish-orange, not pale or yellow.  The darker the
orange color, the more beta carotene is present.  The top or shoulders of carrots
may be tinged with green, but dark green or black on the top of carrots is an
indication of decay.  The green part on the top of carrots (not the leaves) will
probably be bitter and should be trimmed before eating the carrots.  The leaves of
root vegetables should be crisp and vivid green with no wilting or yellow spots.  
Potatoes should feel firm and be clean, smooth, well-shaped, uniform in color, and
free from sprouts.  A sprouting potato is an indication that the potato has started to
age and may contain increased amounts of solanine (a naturally occurring toxin).  
The eyes of potatoes (the buds from which sprouts can grow) should be few and
shallow.  The skins of potatoes should be free of cracks, wrinkles, and dampness.  
Green tinged skins are an indication of improper storage and also the presence of
solanine.

Fruit vegetables should be plump and heavy with smooth skins.  They shouldn't have
any bruises, blemishes, or deep cracks.  Sometimes cracks may appear at the ends
of stems.  That's considered acceptable and doesn't affect the vegetables' flavors.  If
there are any leaves, they should be fresh and green.            


Storing Vegetables

Most vegetables should be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator (also
called vegetable crisper).  Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and garlic should be
placed in ventilated containers and stored separately in a cool dark place instead of
the refrigerator.  Unused portions of cut onions can be stored in the refrigerator.  All
vegetables should be stored away from fruits.  Fruits give off ethylene gas as they
ripen, which causes vegetables near them to decay rapidly.   

Many health experts highly recommend cleaning and drying produce soon after
bringing it home.  This makes it more readily available.  Organic fruits, vegetables, and
herbs just need to be rinsed with cold water to remove any dirt that may have
accumulated on them during picking and transporting.  Non-organic produce can be
cleaned with a biodegradable produce wash which is available at local health food
stores.  After washing with produce wash, non-organic produce should be rinsed with
cold water.  Produce should be dried with soft cloth towels or left to air-dry.  
Depending on the produce and its' degree of ripeness, it should be stored in the
refrigerator crisper or the countertop.  Greens can be spin-dried.  Once dry, they
should be placed in Ziploc plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator crisper.  Greens
should be thoroughly dry before storage, otherwise they may turn slimy.  Dried herbs
and spices should be placed in glass jars or bottles and kept in a dark cupboard.  
Dates should be placed on them.  Dried herbs should not be kept for more than three
or four months.    


Health Benefits of Vegetables

Vegetables stand as the cornerstone of a healthy diet.  They supply nearly all of the
vitamins and minerals required for good health, and most of them contain complex
carbohydrates which provide energy.  Most vegetables also provide fiber and a few of
them, such as legumes, are great sources of plant protein.  Vegetables contain no
cholesterol, have little or no fat, and are low in calories.  Vegetables are nutrient
dense.  This means that for the small amount of calories they contain, their level of
nutrients is high.  

Although cooked vegetables contain some of their original nutrition properties, raw
vegetables are the best source of vegetable nutrients.  Raw vegetables are most
often consumed in salads or alone with vegetable dip.  With the increase for health
improvement and the various electronic appliances available on the market today,
vegetable consumption in other forms is becoming more common.  Due to their high
nutrition content and their low levels of natural sugars, vegetables are often the main
ingredients in live food juices and green smoothies.  Drinking raw fresh-pressed juice
is not only a great source of nutrition, but has been used as a protocol to heal
various illnesses such as cancer.  Raw vegetable/fruit juice consists mostly of
vegetables, and compatible fruit (such as apples) are often added.  Never drink green
juice by itself.  Green juice is nutritionally overpowering and will cause adverse effects
when consumed by itself.  The most recommended way to consume green juice is to
add non-green vegetables such as carrots and/or fruit such as apples.  Green
smoothies are another great way to consume raw vegetables.  They usually consist
of green leafy vegetables and sweet fruits.  The best tasting green smoothies are
those made with mild tasting green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, watercress, or
lettuce) and tropical low-water content fruits (such as bananas, mangoes, and
papaya).  Other fruits and vegetables can be added.   Either way, consuming a variety
of raw vegetables is a great way to get an adequate supply of plant food nutrition.   

Color is a good clue to the nutrient content of vegetables.  Most yellow and orange
vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash get their color from
their high content of beta carotene and other carotenoids.  Carotenoids are
precursors of vitamin A.  Dark-green leafy vegetables also contain carotenoids, but
they're masked by the vegetables' high content of chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is a
natural blood purifier, an anti-inflamatory, and it's nutrient dense.  It also helps to
bring acid/alkaline balance to the body, it helps to remove unwanted residues, and it
helps to activate enzymes.       

Leafy vegetables (such as collard greens and dark green lettuce) contain lots of
water, few carbohydrates, and are rich in carotenoids and vitamin C.  They're also
good sources of fiber, folate, and supply varying amounts of iron and calcium.  
Flowers, buds, and stalks (such as celery, broccoli, and cauliflower) tend to be rich
in vitamn C, calcium, and potassium.  They're also a good source of fiber.  Cauliflower
and broccoli also provide cancer-fighting compounds.  
Seeds and pods (such as lima
beans, peas, and corn) generally have more plant protein than other vegetables.  
They're also a good source of complex carbohydrates and contain varying amounts
of B vitamins, zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.  
Roots, bulbs, and
tubers
are also good sources of nutrients.  Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C
and potassium.  Sweet potatoes and carrots are great sources of beta carotene.  
Radishes and turnips are good sources of fiber and vitamin C.  Several studies
suggest that onions and garlic may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  
Fruit
vegetables
(such as eggplants, squash, peppers, and tomatoes) tend to be good
sources of vitamin C.  


Note:  Although vegetables have several nutrients in common, each vegetable is a
great source of one or more nutrients that other vegetables may not have.  To learn
more about the vegetable nutrition facts and health benefits of individual vegetables,
you may visit the vegetable nutrition pages by clicking on the links above.


Sources:

Wood, Rebecca.  The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.
Penguin Group, 1999

Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D., C.N.S. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.
Fairwinds Press, 2007

U.C. Berkeley Wellness Letter Books.  Wellness Foods A to Z.
Rebus Inc., 2002

Kordich, Jay.  The Juiceman's Power of Juicing.
Harper Collins, 2007

Produce For Better Health Foundation

Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia
Copyright © EveryNutrient.com
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Vegetable Nutrition Facts
Health Benefits of Each Vegetable
Although vegetable nutrition facts vary with each individual vegetable, vegetables of
similar colors contain similar nutritional benefits.  While some vegetables are considered
to be superfoods due to their large supply of nutrients, all edible vegetables provide
exceptional nutritional benefits.  
Nutrition research shows that each vegetable contains
its own set of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important nutrients.  To view
the vegetable nutrition facts for individual vegetables, you may visit the vegetable
nutrition pages by clicking on the links below.  
.....Blue/Purple

    *Nutrition Information - Blue and purple vegetables are especially good sources
    *of phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolic compounds.
    *Vegetable Sources - Purple Asparagus, Purple Cabbage, Purple Carrots, Egg
    *Plant, Purple Belgian Endive, and Purple Fleshed Potatoes.
.....Green

    *Nutrition Information - Green vegetables are especially good sources of potent
    *phytochemicals such as chlorophyll, lutein, and indoles.
    *Vegetable Sources - Artichokes, Asparagus, Avocados, Broccoli, Brussels
    *Sprouts, Celery, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Green Cabbage, Green Leafy
    *Vegetables (including collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard,
    *and watercress), Green Onions, Green Peas, Green Peppers, Leeks, Okra, and
    *Zucchini.
.....Orange/Yellow

    *Nutrition Information - Orange and yellow vegetables are especially good
    *sources of antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids.
    *Vegetable Sources - Butternut Squash, Carrots, Corn, Yellow Beets, Yellow
    *Peppers, Pumpkins, Yellow Potatoes, Rutabagas, Yellow Summer Squash, Yellow
    *Winter Squash, and Sweet Potatoes  
.....Red/Pink

    *Nutrition Information - Red vegetables are especially good sources of
    *phytochemicals such as lycopene and anthocyanins.  
    *Vegetable Sources - Beets, Radishes, Radicchio, Red Onions, Red Peppers, Red
    *Potatoes, Rhubarb, and Tomatoes
.....White (also Tan/Brown)

    *Nutrition Information - The white vegetable group also includes tan and brown
    *vegetables.  Vegetables in this group are especially good sources of
    *anthocyanins and other various nutrients for each individual vegetable.   
    *Vegetable Sources - Cauliflower, Garlic, Ginger, Jerusalem Artichokes, Jicama,
    *Kohlrabi, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Shallots, Turnips, White Corn, and White
    *Fleshed Potatoes
Artichokes
Arugula
Asparagus
Avocados
Beans
Bean Sprouts
Beets
Bell Peppers
Broad Beans
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chard
Chickpeas
Chilies
Cilantro   
Collard Greens    
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplants
Endive
Fava Beans
Fennel
Garlic
Ginger  
Green Beans
Greens
Jicama
Kale
Leeks
Lentils
Lettuce
Mushrooms    
Mustard Greens
Okra
Olives
Onions
Parsley
Parsnips
Peas
Peppers
Plantains
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Radishes
Rhubarb
Spinach
Squash    
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnips
Watercress
Wheatgrass
Yams
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