“Eat your veggies!” is more than your mom’s meal-time catchphrase. It’s really good advice! Plant foods contain a wealth of essential vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting nutrients.
If you’re eating for weight loss or weight maintenance, then specific types of vegetables may be more beneficial. Non-starchy vegetables top the list of highly nutritious, low calorie, low-carb plant foods. They should be represented heavily in your diet.
Compared to starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes, and squash, non-starchy vegetables tend to be colorful, hydrating, and more nutrient-dense for the number of calories. Plus, they provide fiber, an essential nutrient for digestive health, especially in low-carb eating. That’s why the ShiftSetGo program encourages the daily consumption of these power-house plants.
This is our list of the 15 best non-starchy vegetables and why you should eat more of them.
Dark leafy greens are your secret weapon. Arugula is full of fiber for digestion, calcium for bone health, and vitamins C and A which support immune function.
One nutrient that makes arugula stand out is the phytonutrient erucin. Phytonutrients are plant chemicals that provide numerous health benefits to the human body. One study showed that the large quantity of erucin found in arugula may prevent the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
This tender spring vegetable is a low-carb essential. The top nutrients we love it for include:
Folic acid: Well-known for its critical function during pregnancy, folic acid is also essential for normal cell growth and function. You need this vital nutrient, pregnant or not.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is an essential nutrient for normal blood clotting. And while calcium gets a lot of press for its role in bone health, vitamin K is equally necessary for strong bones.
Commonly featured in Asian cuisine, bok choy comes from the cruciferous family of vegetables. It is actually a type of white cabbage, though its unique texture and crunch give it an appeal all its own.
Add bok choy to your diet and enjoy these benefits:
Vitamin C: One serving of bok choy provides over a third of your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C is an antioxidant as well as an important nutrient for a robust immune system.
Glucosinolates: These sulfur-containing compounds have potent anti-cancer effects. In fact, one study found that eating glucosinolate-rich vegetables as little as once a week significantly reduced the risk of certain types of cancer.
We just can’t recommend cruciferous vegetables enough! Whether roasted, steamed, or raw, broccoli is one of the best vegetables out there and has unique cancer-fighting properties from these amazing nutrients.
Sulforaphane – Known by scientists as “green chemoprevention,” broccoli is high in the sulfur compound sulforaphane. This phytonutrient has been studied extensively for its cancer-fighting ability.
Kaempferol – You may have never heard of this phytonutrient, but it’s a potent antioxidant while also showing promise in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
Cabbage may get a bad rap as a stinky vegetable, but that’s only if you overcook it! Gently steamed or roasted, cabbage is delicious, filling, and ultra-low in calories.
This superstar veggie is high in:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Antioxidants that fight inflammation
High in vitamin C and fiber, cauliflower is also one of the few sources of the essential nutrient choline.
Choline’s functions include:
- Forming cell membranes
- Neurotransmitter production
- Nerve signaling
Chicory is a unique Mediterranean plant that has many uses. The roots are often ground to a powder and added to coffee or smoothies. In some parts of the world, the leaves of the chicory plant are used like spinach. Here are its top two nutrients:
Inulin: This is a form of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, promoting healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Beta carotene: Beta carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A which protects eye health and boosts immune function.
The rich, green color of collard greens is a clue to their impressive nutritional value. These leafy greens are especially good for bone health due to two key nutrients:
Calcium – The mineral calcium is a critical component of bone structure. If you don’t eat enough from your diet, your bones may become weak and brittle.
Vitamin K- Working alongside calcium and vitamin D, vitamin K produces proteins that strengthen bones and reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Relatively new to the vegetable scene, jicama has a long history of use in warm climates where long growing seasons allow it to thrive. Among its many benefits is its ability to boost digestive health.
Jicama is high in inulin, a prebiotic fiber that supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. When the bacteria in your gut are healthy it improves your immune system and may even aid in weight loss.
We may have hidden kale in the middle of the list, but truthfully, it could earn a spot as number one. Few foods can boast the level of nutrient-density kale provides, all for minimal calories and carbohydrates. It has a laundry list of beneficial nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
This oddly-shaped vegetable works great in salads and slaws. It comes in a variety of colors, and purple kohlrabi is especially high in these two nutrients:
Anthocyanins- These colorful phytonutrients support brain health and prevent oxidative stress.
Vitamin B6 – B6 is a coenzyme, partnering with enzymes in the body to carry out over 100 metabolic reactions. It is also essential for the production of many white blood cells.
Mushrooms may be a fungus, but that shouldn’t stop you from eating them! While some wild mushrooms are poisonous, the varieties you find in the store provide many key nutrients including:
Selenium – This trace mineral is essential for a variety of processes including reproduction, thyroid function, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative stress.
Vitamin D – If the mushrooms you purchase have been exposed to ultraviolet light during the growing process, they may be a good source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical for immune function as well as bone health.
Seaweed is a staple of many Asian diets and its nutrient-packed profile means you only need a little to benefit. Here are its top two nutrients:
Iodine – The thyroid gland requires iodine to create thyroid hormones. Lack of sufficient iodine can lead to thyroid dysfunction and neck swelling.
Antioxidants – It’s hard to choose just one antioxidant from seaweed. The list includes vitamin carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamins A, E, and C.
Spinach is another dark leafy green with its own profile of beneficial nutrients. Its top nutrients include:
Iron: Blood cells rely on adequate iron to carry oxygen throughout the body effectively. Spinach is a rich source of this mineral.
Carotenoids: Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients that have powerful antioxidant properties. In addition to preventing oxidative stress, many of the carotenoids present in spinach protect eye health and preserve vision as you age.
Swiss chard is from the same family as spinach. It is a multi-colored leafy green that truly deserves the name of superfood.
One serving of Swiss chard provides over 400% of your daily vitamin K needs.
Swiss chard is also an excellent source of potassium. Every cell in your body uses potassium for normal function. A diet high in potassium is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Eat more non-starchy vegetables
No matter where you are in your health or weight loss journey, non-starchy vegetables should be a central ingredient in your diet. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat enough of them!
To increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables, set a goal for how many you will consume at each meal. If you’re not sure how many you should be eating, connect with a ShiftSetGo coach to get a personalized plan. The right amount of non-starchy vegetables, balanced with a healthy, low-carb diet, can make all the difference in reaching your weight loss goals.