This leafy green tops the chart as one of the healthiest vegetables, thanks to its impressive nutrient profile.
One cup (30 grams) of raw spinach provides 56% of your daily vitamin A needs plus your entire daily vitamin K requirement — all for just 7 calories.
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.
Carrots are packed with vitamin A, providing 428% of the daily recommended value in just one cup (128 grams).
They contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives carrots their vibrant orange color and could help in cancer prevention.
In fact, one study revealed that for each serving of carrots per week, participants’ risk of prostate cancer decreased by 5% .
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 .
Carrots are also high in vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
Garlic has a long history of use as a medicinal plant, with roots tracing all the way back to ancient China and Egypt (12).
The main active compound in garlic is allicin, a plant compound that is largely responsible for garlic’s variety of health benefits.
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
One animal study found that kaempferol protected against free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells and can contribute to chronic disease .
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.
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.
Like other leafy greens, kale is well-known for its health-promoting qualities, including its nutrient density and antioxidant content.
A cup (67 grams) of raw kale contains plenty of B vitamins, potassium, calcium and copper.
It also fulfills your entire daily requirement for vitamins A, C and K .
Due to its high amount of antioxidants, kale may also be beneficial in promoting heart health.
In a 2008 study, 32 men with high cholesterol drank 150 ml of kale juice daily for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, HDL cholesterol increased by 27%, LDL cholesterol decreased by 10% and antioxidant activity was increased .
Another study showed that drinking kale juice can decrease blood pressure and may be beneficial in reducing both blood cholesterol and blood sugar .
Peas are considered a starchy vegetable. This means they have a higher amount of carbs and calories than non-starchy vegetables and may impact blood sugar levels when eaten in large amounts.
Nevertheless, green peas are incredibly nutritious.
One cup (160 grams) of cooked green peas contains 9 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein and vitamins A, C and K, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and folate .
Because they are high in fiber, peas support digestive health by enhancing the beneficial bacteria in your gut and promoting regular bowel movements .
Moreover, peas are rich in saponins, a group of plant compounds known for their anti-cancer effects.
Research shows that saponins may help fight cancer by reducing tumor growth and inducing cell death in cancer cells.
Swiss chard is low in calories but high in many essential vitamins and minerals.
One cup (36 grams) contains just 7 calories yet 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein and lots of vitamins A, C and K, manganese and magnesium.
Swiss chard is especially known for its potential to prevent damage caused by diabetes mellitus.
In one animal study, chard extract was found to reverse the effects of diabetes by decreasing blood sugar levels and preventing cell damage from disease-causing free radicals.
Other animal studies have shown that the antioxidant content of chard extract can protect the liver and kidneys from the negative effects of diabetes .
Ginger root is used as a spice in everything from vegetable dishes to desserts.
Historically, ginger has also been used as a natural remedy for motion sickness .
Several studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of ginger on nausea. In a review comprised of 12 studies and nearly 1,300 pregnant women, ginger significantly reduced nausea compared to a placebo .
Ginger also contains potent anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful in treating inflammation-related disorders like arthritis, lupus or gout (34).
In one study, participants with osteoarthritis who were treated with a concentrated ginger extract experienced reduced knee pain and relief from other symptoms .
Further research suggests that ginger could aid in the treatment of diabetes as well.
A 2015 study looked at the effects of ginger supplements on diabetes. After 12 weeks, ginger was found to be effective in decreasing blood sugar levels.
This spring vegetable is rich in several vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent addition to any diet.
Just half a cup (90 grams) of asparagus provides one-third of your daily folate needs.
This amount also provides plenty of selenium, vitamin K, thiamin and riboflavin .
Getting enough folate from sources like asparagus can offer protection from disease and can prevent neural tube birth defects during pregnancy .
Some test-tube studies also show that asparagus may benefit the liver by supporting its metabolic function and protecting it against toxicity.
This vegetable belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables and, much like its relatives, is brimming with antioxidants and health-promoting properties.
One cup (89 grams) of raw red cabbage contains 2 grams of fiber as well as 85% of the daily vitamin C requirement .
Red cabbage is also rich in anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds that contribute to its distinct color as well as a whole host of health benefits.
In a 2012 animal study, rats were fed a diet designed to increase cholesterol levels and increase plaque buildup in the arteries. The rats were then given red cabbage extract.
The study found that red cabbage extract was able to prevent increases in blood cholesterol levels and protect against damage to the heart and liver .
These results were supported by another animal study in 2014 showing that red cabbage could reduce inflammation and prevent liver damage in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet .