There are so many types of vegetables available in the fresh produce, frozen and canned sections of your local grocery store that you could eat different vegetables every day of the week. These vegetables may be gnarled roots, serrated leaves, starchy tubers, colorful seeds, rounded bulbs and even flower buds of plants. Others may actually be fruits that you eat as vegetables. Regardless of which part of the plant they come from, vegetables are chock-full of nutrients and phytochemicals. To help you vary your vegetable and nutrient intake, the United States Department of Agriculture has divided vegetables into five subgroups.
Dark Green Vegetables
You will find that most dark green vegetables are leaves of plants. Especially rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and fiber, some common dark green vegetables include spinach, kale, collard, mustard and turnip greens, mesclun, romaine, bok choy, Swiss chard and watercress. Fresh broccoli, a flower bud, also makes its way into this group because of its dark green color, while some less common members include arugula, rapini, dandelion greens, and amaranth, or Chinese spinach. You should eat about 2 cups of these low-calorie dark green vegetables every week.
Potatoes, corn, green peas, water chestnuts, taro, cassava, cowpeas, field peas, black-eyed peas, green lima beans, green bananas and plantains are some of the most frequently consumed starchy vegetables in the United States. Rich in carbohydrates, starchy vegetables are a good source of energy and may replace some grains in your meals. The USDA recommends that you consume 4 to 6 cups of starchy vegetables every week. Apart from the carbohydrate content, vegetables in this group also provide you with fiber, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
Red and Orange Vegetables
Add color, variety and a little zing to your meals by including vegetables from this group. Carrots, red, orange and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, different squashes such as acorn, hubbard and butternut all come under the category of red and orange vegetables. They are not only rich in nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber, but also excellent sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Consuming 4 to 6 cups of these vegetables every week helps improve immunity, maintain vision, bone, lung and heart health, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer.
Beans and Peas
Beans and peas make their way into two food groups – the protein food group, because they are an excellent source of protein, and the vegetable group because they contain nutrients found in vegetables such as fiber, folate and potassium. While beans and peas contain very little fat and are free of cholesterol, they provide zinc, iron and some antioxidants. Make a conscious effort to include 1 to 2 cups of beans and peas such as kidney beans, black beans. chickpeas, pinto beans, split peas, white beans, navy beans, soy beans and lentils in your meals every week.
The list of vegetables in this group is as long as it is colorful. Some familiar vegetables in this group include mushrooms, zucchini, wax beans, celery, cucumbers, green peppers, turnips, onions, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, okra, artichokes, beets, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and avocado. These vegetables provide you with vitamins, minerals and good amounts of fiber, which helps maintain bowel health, decreases blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels and may prevent colon cancer. The USDA recommends consuming 3 1/2 to 5 cups of these nutrient-rich vegetables every week.
- United States Department of Agriculture: Choose MyPlate: What Foods Are in the Vegetable Group
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Is Tomato a Fruit or Vegetable?
- FoodPyramid.com: MyPlate – Vegetable Food group
- American Diabetic Association: Non-starchy Vegetables
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: What Are Phytochemicals?
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vegetables and Fruits: Get Plenty Every Day
- University of Nebraska Lincoln: MyPlate: Vegetable Group
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images