By Andrea Boldt Updated December 06, 2018
Loading up your plate with fresh produce is a super way to improve your health, maintain your weight and reduce your risk of disease. Most fruits and vegetables are an asset to your diet, but some make better choices than others. Choose ones with high antioxidant, vitamin and mineral content over watery options that may take up space in a salad, but lack the rich nutrition your body craves.
These 10 options are among the best for you, plus they taste good, too.
Sweet potatoes are a nutritional superstar, especially when compared to regular white potatoes. They’re rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects your body from inflammatory free radicals. Plus, they offer more than 700 percent of the daily value of vitamin A per serving and are a good source of vitamins C and B6. Sweet potatoes also help regulate blood sugar levels.
To benefit the most from the nutrients, skip the sweet potato fries and chips or the marshmallow-laden holiday casseroles. Choose plain baked sweet potatoes or wedges grilled with a smattering of heart-healthy olive oil.
Avocados are a fruit, not a veggie, and the only one that offers substantial amounts of heart-healthy unsaturated fat. You need this good fat for healthy skin and hair, as well as for nutrient absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. The fruit itself offers more than 20 vitamins and minerals, including potassium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K. Avocados also provide ample fiber, which helps keep you regular.
Citrus fruits, particularly oranges and grapefruit, contain lots of vitamin C — an antioxidant — and potassium, which plays a significant role in your body’s chemical balance and metabolism. Opt for the whole fruit, rather than juice, which makes you miss out on the high fiber content of these fruits. Fiber helps keep you feeling satisfied and helps your digestive tract run smoothly.
A comprehensive review of research published in the online journal, Antioxidants, in 2017, deemed blueberries as a fruit with one of the highest antioxidant content and capacities available. The berries also have anticancer properties, which make them an essential part of any balanced diet.
In a study published in Preventing Chronic Disease in 2014, researchers from William Paterson University found watercress topped a list of 47 fruits and vegetables in terms of nutrient density. It’s rife with 17 specific nutrients considered to be important for lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer. Add watercress to sandwiches or toss it with other delicate lettuce into a salad.
In the 2014 William Paterson University study, spinach also ranked highly as a vegetable high in nutrients. Spinach is also a good source of iron. Increase iron absorption by consuming foods high in vitamin C alongside the spinach. For example, toss orange segments or strawberry slices into a spinach salad.
Asparagus has long been used as an herbal treatment for a variety of conditions. These long stalks have proven themselves to be potent antidotes to a hangover, and can reduce toxicity of your liver. Steam them or roast them with sea salt and olive oil to reap their tasty benefits.
Tomatoes, provide you with ample amounts of a powerful antioxidant known as lycopene. The lycopene is best absorbed when combined with fat, so salad dressing on raw tomatoes or a little olive oil in spaghetti sauce is helpful. This compound protects your DNA and cell structures from damage from free radicals and research suggests it may reduce your risk of stroke, as well as prostate and other cancers, Harvard Health Publications reported in 2012.
Skip the iceberg and load up your salads with nutrient-dense varieties, such as green or red leaf and romaine. They’re low in calories, flavorful and full of fiber. They also ranked in the top 10 on the 2014 William Paterson University study of 47 fruits and vegetables.
Broccoli pleases many palates and is a super nondairy source of calcium. A study in the 2011 issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests that broccoli has multiple anti-cancer benefits, too.