ByChelsea Natarian, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in the Jefferson Bariatric Surgery Program.
There are a whole bunch of vegetables out there that many of us have never even tried. If you're turned off by the look, wasn't exposed to them as a kid, or don't think to find them at the grocery store then now may be a great time to challenge yourself to explore! These less-than-popular vegetables are loaded with health benefits and can add variety and new flavors to your diet. You can always buy a small amount to sample…you may even find yourself going back for more.
Due to their exceptional list of nutritional benefits, cruciferous vegetables make for an excellent addition to the diet. These vegetables are anti-inflammatory and are loaded with antioxidants, zinc, omega 3s, carotenoids, and vitamins A, B, and C. They contain phytonutrients which help improve a plant's taste, aroma, and texture and reap powerful benefits to us when we consume them. In addition, cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which are shown to help prevent cancer. They also have a unique ability to bind bile acids (made by cholesterol) and remove them from the body, therefore helping to decrease cholesterol levels. Broccoli and spinach are two very popular cruciferous vegetables. Here are some others to give a try:
Cauliflower contains allicin which is shown to help with prevention of strokes and heart disease. Try fresh cauliflower cut in pieces and roasted in the oven for a buttery texture. Grate it for a fried rice alternative or steam and mash like mashed potatoes. You could also try making a cauliflower pizza crust. You can even look for orange, purple, and lime green varieties of cauliflower at your farmer's market in the fall.
Try it either cut up in a salad or sautéed on the stove with some onion and garlic. You could also add a handful raw into a protein and fruit smoothie. Collard greens are often cooked with salted pork/ham hock. Try instead with smoked turkey or Canadian bacon for a healthy alternative.
Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage. Add the harder stalk to a pan with a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp peanut oil; stir fry until soft, then add the leaves until slightly wilted.
Cut brussel sprout pieces in half and remove the outer layer of leaves. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 1-2 tbsp oil; roast in the oven at 400°F until tender (about 25-30 minutes). If they are too bitter for you, try instead tossed in 3 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate and 1 tbsp soy sauce and then roast.
Swiss chard is loaded with phytonutrients. Swiss chard also contains syringic acid which is a nutrient that can help with regulation of blood sugars. Shred finely and add to soups or stews. Or add a handful raw to a fruit and greek yogurt smoothie.
Root vegetables are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber, and antioxidants. They provide both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition, they contain betaine which is shown to promote heart health. Most people are familiar with carrots and potatoes as root vegetables. Here are a few others you may not have tried before:
Parsnips are a root vegetable that look similar to carrots but are white. They have a sweet, enjoyable flavor. Try roasted in the oven.
Try sautéed on the stove with seasonings or roast and use sliced pieces on top of a salad.
Ginger Ginger has been shown to be particularly beneficial for digestion. It gives off a rather sweet and spicy flavor that goes well in hot tea and certain ethnic dishes. Cut up small slivers and stir into a hot tea or try cutting up and using in a chicken stir-fry dish.