Vegetables are well-known for being good for your health. Most vegetables are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
However, some vegetables stand out from the rest with additional proven health benefits, such as the ability to fight inflammation or reduce the risk of disease.
This article takes a look at 14 of the healthiest vegetables and why you should include them in your diet.
This leafy green tops the chart as one of the healthiest vegetables, thanks to its impressive nutrient profile.
Spinach also boasts a great deal of antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
One study found that dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are high in beta-carotene and lutein, two types of antioxidants that have been associated with a decreased risk of cancer (2).
In addition, a 2015 study found that spinach consumption may be beneficial for heart health, as it may lower blood pressure (3).
They contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives carrots their vibrant orange color and could help in cancer prevention (5).
In fact, one study revealed that for each serving of carrots per week, participants' risk of prostate cancer decreased by 5% (6).
Another study showed that eating carrots may reduce the risk of lung cancer in smokers as well. Compared to those who ate carrots at least once a week, smokers who did not eat carrots had a three times greater risk of developing lung cancer (7).
Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables.
It is rich in a sulfur-containing plant compound known as glucosinolate, as well as sulforaphane, a by-product of glucosinolate (8).
Sulforaphane is significant in that it has been shown to have a protective effect against cancer.
In one animal study, sulforaphane was able to reduce the size and number of breast cancer cells while also blocking tumor growth in mice (9).
Eating broccoli may help prevent other types of chronic disease, too.
A 2010 animal study found that consuming broccoli sprouts could protect the heart from disease-causing oxidative stress by significantly lowering levels of oxidants (10).
In addition to its ability to prevent disease, broccoli is also loaded with nutrients.
The main active compound in garlic is allicin, a plant compound that is largely responsible for garlic's variety of health benefits (13).
Several studies have shown that garlic can regulate blood sugar as well as promote heart health.
In one animal study, diabetic rats were given either garlic oil or diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic. Both garlic compounds caused a decrease in blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity (14).
Another study fed garlic to participants both with and without heart disease. Results showed that garlic was able to decrease total blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol in both groups (15).
Garlic may be useful in the prevention of cancer as well. One test-tube study demonstrated that allicin induced cell death in human liver cancer cells (16).
Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables and contain the same health-promoting plant compounds.
Brussels sprouts also contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may be particularly effective in preventing damage to cells (17).
One animal study found that kaempferol protected against free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells and can contribute to chronic disease (18).
Brussels sprout consumption can help enhance detoxification as well.
One study showed that eating Brussels sprouts led to a 15–30% increase in some of the specific enzymes that control detoxification, which could decrease the risk of colorectal cancer (19).
Additionally, Brussels sprouts are very nutrient-dense. Each serving provides a good amount of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese and potassium (20).