These days, the fact that so many fruits and veggies are dubbed "superfoods" makes you wonder if a food that isn't considered super is even worth eating. As a fighter for the underdog—one who roots for the Mets instead of the Yankees—I'm here to tell you about the many vegetables that deserve more recognition.
Peas. I'm not sure how this happened, but many of my patients think peas shouldn't be eaten because they're too high in calories. (For the record, cooked peas have 62.5 calories per ½ cup serving.) What my patients don't realize is that one serving of peas is loaded with more than 4 grams of fiber and protein each, which is more than many other vegetables. Peas are also an excellent source of vitamins C and K, as well as folate, iron, niacin, potassium, and zinc. They're also packed with phytonutrients, including flavanols, phenolic acids, and carotenoids.
Peas are great eaten alone, or added to pasta sauce, brown rice, or salad for extra nutrients and flavor. While I do recommend watching the portion size because of their higher calorie count, do not leave peas off the plate.
Cabbage. You don't hear many people talking about the cabbage in their meals, unless it's in reference to the Cabbage Soup Diet, which was popular in the '80s. I grew up with this veggie because my grandmother made an amazing stuffed cabbage, but as an adult, I rarely eat it. Cabbage is an excellent source of potassium, calcium, and vitamins C and K. Plus, cabbage contains omega-3 fats in what little fat it has. One serving of cooked cabbage (about ½ cup) has only 16.5 calories, but 1.5 grams of fiber, which means you can consume large quantities without worrying about gaining weight.
Cabbage can be enjoyed in many ways. Include it in soup, salad, or a stir-fry with other veggies and shrimp.
Corn. This is another great vegetable that my patients complain is too high in calories. (Cooked corn is 77.5 calories per ½ cup serving.) I remind them that it isn't necessarily the corn itself that can be unhealthy, but all the butter most people pile onto it. Each serving of corn is loaded with fiber (1.75 grams) and protein (12.6 grams), and it's rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids. Niacin, folate, and vitamin C are just a few of the other nutrients it packs.
Try corn on the cob cooked on the grill. Simply wrap the corn in tin foil with a spritz of oil—no butter needed. You can also toss corn into a salad of black beans and tomatoes. Buy the low-sodium version of canned corn, which is easy to store year round, and rinse with water to remove excess sodium before cooking.
Cauliflower. Ever since we were told to load our plates with color, white foods have been getting a bad rap. But, as you know: Never judge a book by its cover. Cauliflower is an excellent source of folate and vitamins C and K. In each serving, there's also plenty of vitamin B5, potassium, and dietary fiber (1.7 grams). Cauliflower also packs phosphorus, magnesium, B vitamins, and iron. Added bonus: It only has 13 calories, so you can definitely enjoy second or third helpings of this veggie.
Try cauliflower roasted, puréed as a soup, or mashed in lieu of potatoes.
So what's the takeaway when choosing veggies? Simply pick the ones you like. Just because something is labeled a "superfood" doesn't mean that you'll like it. The ultimate goal with veggies is that you actually eat them.
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Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.