Are all vegetables created equal?
Did you know that common vegetables are separated into five subgroups based on their nutrient content?
A key nutrition recommendation is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. As Americans continue to learn more about obesity prevention and healthy eating, the wide variety of affordable vegetables available to consumers is a welcome sight at local farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Savvy shoppers can choose from fresh, frozen, canned or dried vegetables, but not everyone realizes there are actually five subgroups or categories of vegetables based on nutrient content; dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.
1) Dark green vegetables, especially leafy greens, deserve all the positive attention they are getting as they provide an excellent source of dietary fiber, calcium needed for strong bones and teeth, vitamins A, C, K, minerals and antioxidants.
2) Red and orange vegetables provide beta-carotene, potassium, folate, dietary fiber, vitamins A and C. There are delicious fall vegetables included in this subgroup such as varieties of squash, and pumpkin.
3) Starchy vegetables contain a variety of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Corn, peas and potatoes are often household standbys but realize this subgroup is called starchy for a reason, they contain a higher amount of carbohydrates per cup. Interestingly, green bananas and plantains are considered starchy vegetables.
4) Beans and peas contain iron which is necessary for your body to properly build blood and important dietary fiber which helps with digestion. Dry beans and peas are very cost effective and pack a nutritional punch. If you eat meat, poultry or fish in your diet, then beans and peas will be counted as vegetables servings rather than in the protein food group.
5) The final subgroup is called the “other” vegetables subgroup. It represents an array of colorful choices and this group also provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber. Iceberg lettuce is part of this subgroup, as is cabbage, green beans and cauliflower.
Michigan State University Extension promotes using the recommendations of MyPlate to become more familiar with your nutritional needs and specific daily food plan. Vegetables are naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Whether you prefer raw or cooked vegetables you have numerous options to choose from to please your palate. For the greatest nutritional benefit, eat vegetables every day and strive to enjoy vegetables from each of the five vegetable subgroups throughout the week. Educate yourself to understand how much is recommended daily and weekly to be sure half of your plate includes delicious vegetables and fruit to nourish your body.