The Benefits of Eating Vegetables: Part 2

Did you miss the first part of this article? If you can't remember reading about green leafy vegetables or cruciferous vegetables, check out part 1 here.

Or jump ahead to part 3 here to learn about legumes, Allium vegetables, and root vegetables.

All caught up? Great. Let's continue to the other groups of veggies. 

Red and Orange Vegetables

The next "best" vegetable subgroup is red and orange. The most popular are squash, carrots, pumpkin, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams

Sweet potatoes are a staple in my diet. I love foods I can have more than one way and that pair well with other foods so I don't get bored. This is why spinach, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes are on my shopping list every week.

Yams and sweet potatoes are actually two different foods (they aren't even in the same plant family), but they are often used interchangeably and taste similarly.

Both are high in fiber (assists in digestion), potassium (promotes heart health and healthy muscles), vitamin C (good for immune system), iron, and folate (mentioned above). A serving of sweet potatoes also contains almost 4 times your daily need for vitamin A (good for skin, hair, bones, etc.).

Medical News Today says that regular consumption of sweet potatoes reduces your risk of diabetes (and helps those already with it), high blood pressure, cancer, indigestion, and constipation. They can boost immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve vision, and the high vitamin A is wonderful for pregnant and nursing women.

Furthermore, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin B6, which breaks down a substance in the body called homocysteine, that hardens the blood vessels and arteries.

Squash

Different types of squash vary on different levels of vitamins, but they all are high in carotenoids (which protect against free-radicals). Of all the vegetables, it is the best source for beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha carotene, and beta carotene, all of which convert to vitamin A in our bodies and help prevent free-radicals, cancer, and heart disease. It's good for the skin and eyesight.

Squash has high levels of vitamin C (boosts immune system, good for skin, helps the body absorb iron). The potassium and manganese content in squash is good, too, and it contains healthy amounts of vitamins E (good for skin), B (helps the body's metabolism process), B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (converts food to energy), folate, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. It is fat-soluble, so you'll need to include healthy fats in your diet to get the benefits of eating squash.

There are several different types of squash, all very good for you. Butternut squash is my favorite. It's very flavorful and versatile. It can be savory or semi-sweet and still taste good to me.

Summer squash (including zucchini) is easy to find and pretty inexpensive. It has high levels of manganese, which some studies report lessens PMS symptoms. Win!

Yellow squash tastes better raw to me. Cooked, it has a very soft and wet, almost slimy, texture. Instead of cooking it, I slice it up and eat it raw on my salads. If you don't like squash, grate it. It mixes in better.

Acorn Squash has a very smooth texture when cooked right. This has been my favorite recipe for acorn squash to date. Like butternut, it's versatile and delicious. 

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables includes green bananas, green peas, green lima beans, plantains, potatoes, taro, and water chestnuts. It also includes some of the vegetables listed under the "red and orange" section and the "green" section. I don't like a lot of these vegetables listed here, and it's a work to make myself eat them (except for potatoes).

People who are trying to lose weight tend to avoid the starchy vegetables because their caloric content is higher than other vegetables, but athletes and people who exercise regularly shouldn't shy away from them. Starchy vegetables are complex carbohydrates, so they provide energy. And they are high in fiber, so they ensure regular bowel movements.

Starchy vegetables also contain antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene. They improve your eyesight, promote healthy bones, hair, and skin. They have B vitamins and folate, as well as magnesium and zinc.

Green bananas have a lower sugar content than yellow bananas, which is good news for Type 2 Diabetics or those avoiding even natural sugars. Also, they are more difficult to digest than yellow bananas, and may cause gas and bloating. They're not any better for you than yellow bananas except for the sugar content, so that's up to you.

I have never eaten plantain, so I can't tell you much about them except that they are less sweet than bananas, do not taste good raw, and that they can be substituted for potatoes for people who must avoid nightshades. Plantain has a higher potassium content than bananas, and they can also help PMS symptoms and prevent UTI's. 

Potatoes are such a wildly popular vegetable (they make mashed potatoes, french fries, chips, vodka...) they hardly need my introduction, but in case you were wondering, yes, it is possible to include potatoes in a healthy diet. 

If you are sensitive to nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, etc.) you shouldn't eat them, and should turn to plantain or cauliflower instead.

Even though I can't have a lot of dairy, I made some wonderful twice-baked potatoes by using Kerrygold butter, coconut milk, lots of garlic, green onions, and bacon.

Click here to back and read Part 1

or

Continue to Part 3, the last part of this series.

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