In commemoration of June being National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, let’s take a look the top five most nutrient-dense vegetables. If you already serve these vegetables in your child nutrition program, you’ll learn exactly what makes them so nutritious for your students. If you don’t serve them, maybe these facts will help you consider serving them in your school nutrition program.
This leafy green possesses quite a few potent nutritional benefits. A single serving (3.5 oz) of spinach provides at least 20% DV of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, iron and folate, and does so at only 23 calories! Most children are familiar with spinach, amongst the other lesser-known greens. And although I joke about Popeye, there are still plenty of young people who still make the association with well-developed forearms.
Beets are a fantastic source of fiber. They also deliver significant amounts of protein, phosphorous and zinc. Aside from containing little fat and cholesterol, they also pack a potent punch of vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. However, this taproot is best known for providing blood clotting assistance, helping increase bone density and strength (along with calcium) and helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.
Also known as Swiss chard, this versatile vegetable serves many nutritional purposes. A serving of chards provides ample amounts of vitamin A, K and C. They also deliver significant amounts of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, iron and potassium. The only downside with chards is that they are quickly perishable. It’s best to use them fresh as part of a chopped salad to gain maximum nutritional value and avoid spoiling.
Cabbage delivers some of the most nutritional bang for your buck. Widely available and easy to prepare, cabbage is well-known for combating type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The wealth of antioxidant properties make this turnip quite effective in preventing cardiovascular disease. The flavonoids, phenols and polyphenols of cabbage help combat oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and cancer.
Watercress comes in as the most nutrient-dense vegetable amongst competing greens. Historically served to Roman soldiers, this green contains high levels of dietary nitrate which lowers blood pressure, reduces oxygen needed during exercise and improves athletic performance. This green also carries considerable amounts of vitamin K, C and A ,along with calcium, manganese, potassium, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, magnesium and phosphorus. Prepare watercress just like any other green to kick the nutrition of your program up a notch!
Overall, increased consumption of any vegetable will lead to an overall decrease in the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while providing a plethora of behavioral benefits for students coming through your line.
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