When it comes to fruit and veg, we’re probably all aware of the 5-a-day rule, but does it matter which five we choose? Are all veggies created equal, or are some better than others for meeting our daily vitamin and mineral needs?
As it happens, the answer is yes – some vegetables do pack more of a punch, being more dense in certain nutrients. Here are a few to add to your diet if you want to boost your vitamin/mineral intake.
What vitamins and minerals do we need?
First things first, let’s establish what exactly we’re talking about.
Vitamins are organic substances – they’re derived from or made by living things and usually contain carbon and hydrogen atoms. Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic, naturally occurring substances that come from rocks, soil, or water.
Our bodies need small amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in order to function – for most people, these can be gained from eating a varied and balanced diet.
The essential vitamins we need include vitamin A, B vitamins and folic acid, and vitamins C, D, E, and K.
In terms of minerals, we require calcium, iodine, iron, copper, potassium, and zinc, among others.
What veg should we eat to get these nutrients into our diets?
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is important to ensure we’re getting enough of all of these vitamins and minerals. However, some veggies are particularly nutrient-dense, offering us a heap of nutrients in one. These are some of the big hitters:
- Broccoli: Loathed by kids everywhere, broccoli is crammed with nutrients, from vitamins A, B-5, B-9, C, and K, to magnesium, sodium, and sulfur.
- Leafy greens: It turns out you really should eat your greens. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are packed full of vitamins, including A, B-9, C, E, and K, and they’re not short on minerals either, containing calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and iron.
- Carrots: Carrots might not help you see in the dark, but they will provide you with vitamins A, C, and K and the minerals sodium and potassium.
- Sweet potatoes: For your fix of vitamins A and C, as well as sodium and manganese, look no further than the humble sweet potato.
- Peppers: Vitamins A, C, and E are all abundant in bell peppers, as is the mineral sodium.
- Legumes: Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils, are part of the overarching vegetable family. And they’re teeming with nutrients, including vitamins B-6 and B-9, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, and copper.
- Asparagus: Asparagus contains vitamins B-9, E, K, and sulfur – but did you know how it grows?
- Avocado: The millennials' beloved veggie is hyped for a reason: it contains vitamins B-3, B-5, E, and the mineral magnesium.
Other great sources of essential vitamins and minerals include mushrooms, potatoes, and – if we’re throwing fruit into the mix – mangoes, watermelon, bananas, citrus fruits, strawberries, and tomatoes, according to the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report.
It may feel overwhelming to be hit with such a long list of nutrients and the veggies that they can be found in, but remember, the best way to ensure you get enough of each of them is to adopt a broad, healthy diet. Eating a range of fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans means you can squeeze heaps of vitamins and minerals into your body. Those listed here make good nutrient-dense options, but that’s not to say that others should be overlooked (apart from sprouts, obviously).
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The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.