There's a cornucopia out there! Vegetables of every colour, flavour and texture are now in season to tempt your taste buds and keep you healthy, happy and vibrant. Here are the 10 healthiest vegetables from this season's harvest, each with its own deliciously easy recipe and a tip or bonus way to include it in your diet.
By now you've probably heard that carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that your body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital for healthy hair, skin, eyes and bones and also helps protect your immune system. It's essential to include antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, in your diet for their cancer-fighting properties, so eat up!
Bravo for broccoli
To retain most of the vitamin C and other cancer-fighting phytochemicals that broccoli has in abundance, it's best to eat it raw, or steamed or stir-fried just until tender-crisp. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin A and folate and is high in fibre and low in calories. Wonder vegetable? We think so.
Small but mighty brussels sprouts
Like other cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, brussels sprouts have healthy amounts of vitamin C, potassium, folate and the plant chemicals that protect against cancer. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps repair wounds, boosts the immune system and helps the body absorb the nonheme iron found in brussels sprouts.
Studies have drawn a connection between the consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, and a lower incidence of certain kinds of cancer. No wonder high-fibre, low-calorie cabbage is a staple around the world.
Squashes that fall into this category are acorn, butternut, delicata, sweet dumpling, Hubbard and other firm, thick-skinned, bright-fleshed varieties. A general rule is the richer the orange colour of the flesh, the denser it is in nutrients, such as beta-carotene, folate and potassium. Squash keeps for weeks or even months in a cool, dark place, so stock up on all the interesting varieties as they become available.
Superb sweet peppers
By weight, peppers contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits. Although red peppers contain 50 per cent more vitamin C than green peppers, one green pepper still provides more than 100 per cent of the adult recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Red peppers are also a good source of beta-carotene. Did we mention that they're also delicious?
Tomatoes are a source of vitamins A and C and contain a carotenoid related to beta-carotene called lycopene, which is a natural cancer-fighting agent. Cooking a tomato releases the fat-soluble lycopene, so cooked or canned tomatoes – particularly those cooked with a bit of fat – offer more-intense benefits than raw.
Rah Rah for spinach
Although it is a source of nonheme iron, spinach offers even more impressive nutrition. It has a rich helping of vitamin A and folate and is high in vitamin C and potassium. Eating spinach with a grain, such as rice, makes it a complete and healthy protein. No wonder Popeye couldn't get enough!
Like all other cruciferous veggies, cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and is very low in calories, weighing in at about 25 calories per cup (250 mL) of florets. Although raw cauliflower has more folate than cooked, it's still very healthy either way.
Good-for-you garlic and onions
Many of our recipes include garlic and onions – and that is no accident. They're healthy and add key flavour notes to thousands of delicious recipes. They also contain sulphur compounds, some of which are believed to protect the heart and lower your risk of cancer.