There’s a lot of evidence out there to support the fact that eating vegetables is good for your heart, and a crucial part of a balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. But with all of the different options to choose from, it’s hard to figure out which ones are really “the best.”
While consumption of a few servings of most vegetables every day will be sufficient to keep yourself healthy and lower your risk of heart and other health problems – and while we’re not necessarily in the habit of choosing favorites – there are a few vegetables that the pros tend to gravitate toward, not only for their nutritional benefit, but their taste and versatility as well.
Check out the three vegetables that athletes swear by, which you can easily incorporate into your own diet.
There’s a reason why spinach gave Popeye his powers, and why so many athletes look to spinach as their go-to leafy green.
Most leafy green vegetables are high in iron, which can help improve the vitality and quality of your blood. In fact, lots of Americans have iron deficiencies due to the lack of leafy greens in their general diet. Iron plays a pivotal role in the function of red blood cells, helping to better oxygenate the blood. It’s also a great source of other vitamins like K, A, and C as well as some other micronutrients and minerals, like fiber. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and a powerful antioxidant that can minimize aging effects.
Above all, spinach can be used in so many different ways. From sautéing to throwing it in a salad to using it as your veggie base for a power smoothie, this vegetable packs a vitamin punch that’s easy to incorporate into your regular meals, making it an essential part of most athletes’ diets.
Sweet potatoes have seemed to grow in popularity among athletes over the past few years, and for good reason. One of the most important benefits of these yummy root vegetables is that they’re high in fiber, which is a crucial nutrient that will promote a healthy digestive system. Their orange flesh also contains beta-carotene, which helps raise levels of vitamin A in our blood, a vitamin that helps with proper immune function, healthy skin, and vision.
But make sure to eat the whole sweet potato, skin and all, because research suggests that the skin of sweet potatoes is actually where a lot of the benefits may be, including the potential to prevent certain types of cancers.
Sweet potatoes are also filling (they provide about 27g of healthy carbohydrates per cup, which helps fuel your body) yet pretty low in sugar. This bit of sweetness compared to a white potato helps make this vegetable delicious for roasting and using as a great-tasting side dish to almost any meal with a chicken base. Throw in another non-starchy veggie like spinach, broccoli, or asparagus and you’ve got a well-rounded meal sure to keep you full, energized, and satisfied.
This oft-hated veggie gets a bad rap, but there are plenty of great ways to spice up broccoli while reaping all of its health benefits.
Broccoli is high in vitamin K (essential for proper clotting of blood), vitamin C, fiber, potassium (helps with nerve function and heart contractions), and folate (necessary for new cell production). This nutrient profile makes broccoli a start at helping prevent certain types of cancer, maintain healthy skin, and serve as an anti-inflammatory due to the presence of omega-3, just to name a few benefits.
There are many ways to prepare broccoli – steamed, raw, roasted, sautéed – and with only a touch of olive oil and a sprinkle of garlic salt and pepper, you’ll have a great tasting side dish that’s sure to keep your body happy. Due to the availability of broccoli, the fact that it’s filling, and the ease of preparation and storage, this green is a great choice for most adults looking to eat healthier.