“Eat vegetables!”, “Don’t forget to include vegetables in your diet!”, “Go veggie!”… We hear these inspiring slogans almost 24/7.
Every Insta-nutritionist or wellness blogger thinks that these mesmerizing phrases make them look professional in the eyes of their audience (no surprise there, they do). But, to be honest, do the reasons to include vegetables in your nutrition plan look obvious enough? Let’s find out what they can offer us in terms of health promotion and weight control!
In this series of articles, we discover the real benefits of vegetables.
This time, we’ll find out what nature’s treasures are hidden inside so common, but still so inscrutable vegetables. Let’s talk about vitamins!
Check out the previous articles of “The real benefits of vegetables” series:
The real benefits of vegetables: vitamins
What do we know about vegetables? First of all, they’re good for your health. Secondly, they’re rich in dietary fiber and have low calorie density. And thirdly, they’re tasty and can always brighten the mood with their colorful appearance (remember how pumpkin soup, eaten in one of those melancholic autumn days, affected your spirits!). The list is already full of benefits. But today we are discussing another advantage of vegetables. Besides all of the mentioned benefits, vegetables are also a great source of vitamins, which help our bodies to function properly and promote health in general.
When it comes to vitamins, each vegetable is unique. For instance, parsley, carrot, and tomatoes contain a lot of carotene, a forerunner of vitamin A. Carotene plays enormous role in the body. First of all, it may help prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering the level of cholesterol. Another benefit of carotene is its ability to promote skin health and lower sensitivity to sunlight for some people. And thirdly, carotene may help prevent cancer because of its antioxidant features. Imagine, all those wonderful features can be found in one ordinary carrot!
In vegetables you can find such vitamins as B-group (except B12), C, E and K vitamins
In comparison with animal-sourced food, plants contain much more C and E vitamins, which is a good reason to include more vegetables in your diet.
Another good example of a great vitamin profile is sweet red pepper. Did you know that a single cup of chopped red bell pepper contains three times more vitamin C than one orange? Moreover, a lot of other vegetables contain more vitamin C, than any citruses do. According to the latest research, vitamin C can positively affect the immune system and help the body fight inflammation, reduce bad cholesterol, and improve iron absorption. Pure wonder in an edible form!
The list of vitamins, which can be found in vegetables
play a very significant role in the processes of metabolism. Help the body decompose macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) to simpler components and absorb them properly in accordance with the body’s needs.
supports the normal functioning of the nervous system, muscles, and heart. It can be found in cauliflower, potatoes, kale, and asparagus.
maintains the healthy state of tissues of the majority of the body’s organs. Artichokes, avocados, broccoli, and beans are rich in vitamin B2.
contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and supports stable psychic condition. Can be found in green peas, mushrooms, avocados, and potatoes.
helps the body produce red blood cells and sex- and stress-related hormones. Lentils, broccoli, cabbages, and peas can be great sources of this vitamin.
just like B5, participates in the production of red blood cells, and also plays a crucial role in the creation of neurotransmitters and hemoglobin. Carrots, spinach, chickpeas, and potatoes are great sources of B6.
B7 (A.K.A. vitamin H)
perhaps, the most enigmatic vitamin of the B-group. Besides the common function of the whole B-group, it may help promote a healthy condition of skin, nails, and hair. Also possible, that B7 supports the normal functioning of the nervous and immune systems. It can be found in black beans, acorn squashes, and corn.
participates in the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and amino acids metabolism (that is what builds your muscle and other tissues). Spinach, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts, and all dark green leafy veggies are the best sources of B9.
well-known as an antioxidant. It is actively involved in protein metabolism. In addition, vitamin C also supports the immune system and helps to absorb non-heme iron, coming with plant food. You can find vitamin C in sweet red and green peppers, cabbages, broccoli.
also a well known antioxidant. It helps prevent or delay chronic diseases, connected with oxidative stress (such as hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.). In addition, Vitamin E supports the proper work of the immune system, helps support the normal condition of blood vessels, and regulates gene expression. Tomatoes, spinach, soybeans, and broccoli are great providers of vitamin E.
plays an incredibly significant role in the synthesis of proteins. Besides, vitamin K1 is related to the promotion of the heart and bone health and participates in the blood clotting function. You can find K1 in kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and collard greens.
What vitamins can’t be found in vegetables
The list of vitamins and minerals, contained in vegetables, is really impressive. But some vitamins still can be found only in animal-sourced food or food supplements. Let’s take a look at the list (happily, it’s short!).
The list if essential vitamins you won’t find in vegetables
participates in blood formation, maintains the proper brain and nervous system functioning. B12 presents in animal-sourced food only.
plays a very important role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Also helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Vegetable-sourced food can contain the less active form of vitamin D – vitamin D2, but our body is able to convert only a small part of it into the active D3 form.
as its brother K1, vitamin K2 participates in the regulation of blood coagulation. In addition to that, K2 more actively prevents calcium deposition on blood vessels and regulates correct calcium absorption, carrying it right into the bones and dental tissues. K2 is produced during fermentation, thus can be found only in animal-sourced foods and some fermented products like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). According to some studies, K2 can act better than K1 in terms of the prevention of calcium deposition in wrong places such as blood vessels.
If, for some reason, animal-sourced food is not the best option for you, you can still add the missing vitamins to your diet without any problem. Thanks to the achievements of modern pharmacology, now those vitamins can be taken as food supplements! So even if you have special restrictions in your diet or opt for a vegan nutrition style, you don’t need to worry about vitamin insufficiency. Just make sure to consult your physician to get correct and science-proven nutrition recommendations.
How to get the most of vegetables in terms of vitamins?
Mostly, vegetables can give you the most of their vitamins if you eat them raw. Unfortunately, it happens because some vitamins start to break down when contacting boiling water, hot oil, and, sometimes, even air. The longer you cook your vegetables, the more healthy nutrients they lose in the process. Hence, the best you can do is to eat your veggies fresh and raw.
However, some conservation methods such as shock-freezing and fermentation allow saving vitamins and minerals of veggies almost untouchable for a long time. So don’t be afraid to try exotic recipes of home-made kimchi (Korean recipe of fermented cabbage) or use frozen peas in cooking! They’re fully ready to give your body all they have without casualties in the vitamin ranks.
But what if you want to consume your vegetables in cooked condition? Here are some tips to help you get the best out of the cooked vegetables!
How to save vitamins in vegetables while cooking
1. When boiling vegetables, use less water
The thing is that some vitamins like C and B group are considered as soluble and can “run away” from your veggies when contacting water. So, if you don’t plan to consume your veggies with water as a soup, try to use as little water as possible while cooking. Another one way of saving your vegetables from vitamin loss is steaming. In this case, you’ll get almost the same condition of a vegetable dish as it would have been after boiling, but your veggies won’t be in direct contact with water. Hence, won’t lose vitamins.
2. Cook your vegetables unpeeled
A lot of vitamins and minerals are contained in the skin of a vegetable. Thus, when you peel your potato or carrot before cooking, it means that you lose a lot of nutrients, hidden in the peel. In addition, if you have a habit to wash your vegetables after peeling, they massively lose soluble vitamins, which could be useful for you. To prevent that, wash and cook your veggies unpeeled whenever possible. It’s especially relevant for potatoes, beetroots and carrots.
3. Don’t chop your greens
Every good chief knows that greens like parsley, basil, lettuce, or arugula shouldn’t be chopped. Instead of chopping, just tear your greens to save flavor and taste. Besides better flavor, this method of adding greens to your salads and dishes is much more effective in terms of vitamin preservation. When you chop your greens, the juice is leaking all over your cutting board. That means that you lose some vitamins and minerals. Instead, tear your greens right before serving and right over the chosen container.
According to USDA, the average daily portion of vegetables should include about 2 ½ cups of vegetables
Try to incorporate some vegetables into your diet, experiment with various vegetables and vary recipes, and enjoy your healthy dishes with no guilt and lots of benefits! Stay healthy!
Check out the previous articles of “The real benefits of vegetables” series:
- Kim MK, Sasazuki S, Sasaki S, Okubo S, Hayashi M, Tsugane S. Effect of five-year supplementation of vitamin C on serum vitamin C concentration and consumption of vegetables and fruits in middle-aged Japanese: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003;22(3):208-216. doi:10.1080/07315724.2003.10719295
- Ljiljana M. Popovic et al., Influence of Vitamin C Supplementation on Oxidative Stress and Neutrophil Inflammatory Response in Acute and Regular Exercise, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity volume 2015, https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/295497
- Huijskens MJ, Walczak M, Koller N, et al. Technical advance: ascorbic acid induces development of double-positive T cells from human hematopoietic stem cells in the absence of stromal cells. J Leukoc Biol. 2014;96(6):1165-1175. doi:10.1189/jlb.1TA0214-121RR
- Wilhelm Stahl, Helmut Sies, β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 96, Issue 5, November 2012, Pages 1179S–1184S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.034819
- R. Jorde M. Sneve Y. Figenschau J. Svartberg K. Waterloo, Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial, Journal of Internal Medicine, volume 264, issue 6, pages 599-609, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2008.02008.x
- van Ballegooijen AJ, Beulens JW. The Role of Vitamin K Status in Cardiovascular Health: Evidence from Observational and Clinical Studies. Curr Nutr Rep. 2017;6(3):197-205. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0208-8
- Gast GC, de Roos NM, Sluijs I, et al. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009;19(7):504-510. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2008.10.004