There are few foods whose nutritional halo shines bright as that of the nutrient-dense, calorie-scarce vegetable.
Vegetables' unquestioned status as a health food has existed for years. For generations, mothers have denied their children dessert before they finished their vegetables. Health fanatics shove vegetables into blenders to choke down the "delicious" green-colored, earth-tasting sludge. Nutritionists insist we eat a minimum of three to five servings of vegetables per day.
After years of vegetable glorification, we were surprised to learn that not all veggies are as healthy as we thought. In fact, there are a number of vegetables you might be better off avoiding altogether.
Do eat: Zucchini
Like cucumbers, zucchini is also considered one of most easy-to-digest vegetables, which makes it a great choice for anyone who regularly experiences stomach woes. What's even better, they're just as easy to prepare, often requiring little no cooking at all. "Zucchini squash are so versatile raw," Brooklyn-based food writer and entrepreneur, Hetty McKinnon, told me in an interview. "Shave them into ribbons to make 'zoodles' (zucchini noodles) or try my favorite preparation — teamed with pearl couscous and a creamy chili-lemon ricotta."
Do eat: Yams
Like rutabaga, yams are another gut-friendly food, according to Kresser, because of their high amounts soluble fiber. An added bonus: yams are also a fantastic source of vitamins C and B6. In fact, just one cup of yams provides nearly 20 percent of the daily requirement for each of these nutrients.
Do eat: Celery
If you're looking for ways to shed unwanted pounds, you may want to consider incorporating more celery into your diet. "Although science is still not sure if it takes more calories to digest celery than to eat it, this vegetable is great to eat raw if you're dieting," Maat van Uitert, author of Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel's Guide To Backyard Gardening, told me. "It contains just 16 calories and can satisfy your need to snack if you're craving something to chew. It's packed with vitamin K, and might help lower your cholesterol."
Do eat: Bell peppers
Bell peppers are a flavorful, crispy vegetable that can be utilized in both raw and cooked formats. They're great diced raw in salads, or serving as a vessel for stuffing and baking. And they're a key ingredient in sofrito, a flavor base for Caribbean cooking, and a cooking staple in my Cuban family. Their flavor varies depending on their color, with green being cool and slightly bitter, and red being as sweet as it gets. And while they may appear to be separate from each other, they're all the same veggie; green is just unripe yellow, as yellow is just unripe red. To top it off, they're super good for you, as they're high in vitamin C and fiber. They even have a significant levels of potassium, magnesium, and a host of vitamins, so definitely eat up an enjoy.
Don't eat: Onions
Love them or hate them, onions are tricky to avoid. In cuisines around the world, these crunchy bulbs are omnipresent in everything from burgers.
But if your stomach is on the sensitive side, you may want to proceed with caution around onions. Onions contain fructan, a carbohydrate well-known for causing mild to severe gastrointestinal problems. Onions, along with other allium veggies like leeks and shallots, can be difficult for your body to absorb and result in excessive water content in your intestine. As a result, chowing down on onions can bring bloating and discomfort.
For those who suffer from heartburn or gastric reflux, onions can aggravate heartburn — particularly if eaten raw. And if you're on blood-thinning drugs or you suffer from hemophilia or another blood-clotting disease, onions can prevent your blood from clotting the way it needs to.
On a nutritional level, you aren't losing too much by slicing onions out off your diet. Onions are primarily made of water, fiber, and carbs, so you can pack your nutrition in more effectively by reaching for spinach, carrots, or any of the other nutrition-dense veggies labelled "do eat" on this list.
Don't eat: Eggplant
Firm and hearty, the eggplant is often used as a meat substitute in kebabs, burgers, and stir-frys. Eggplants — aka aubergines — while tasty and filling, are not the healthiest vegetables (although, as we noted above, if we're speaking botanically, eggplant is actually a fruit).
For starters, eggplants are relatively lacking in protein and get a large portion of their calories from sugar. Beyond that, eggplants are a part of the nightshade family, a group of vegetables that include peppers, potatoes, tobacco, tomatoes, and tomatillos. Although these vegetables have been consumed over hundreds of years, they are associated with certain health problems due to their solanine content. Solanine is a bitter-tasting glycoalkaloid poison, naturally produced by plants as a defense mechanism against predators (predators like your eggplant Parmesan-cooking grandma, for example). In large amounts, solanine could cause gastrointestinal issues.
Eggplants also contain calcium oxalates, which could — in high quantities — encourage kidney stones. And finally, when served in certain types of dishes, eggplant's spongy texture allows it to soak up tons of fat and salt.
Don't eat: Fresh pumpkin
First, the good: Pumpkins are tasty and versatile, and packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. For the most part, the danger of pumpkins doesn't lie in their nutritional content, but the risks that accompany preparation. Thanks to their tough skin and unusual shape, pumpkins rank as one of the most dangerous vegetables (or if we're speaking botanically, fruits) to cut and prepare.
To investigate the perils of pumpkins, a group of scientists from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse performed a study with various kitchen knives, pumpkin knives, and cadaver hands. According to researchers, injuries like hand punctures and lacerations were common when pumpkin carving. The scientists suggest sticking to tools specially designed for pumpkin carving when preparing the fall vegetable to avoid serious injury — or better yet, leaving pumpkin slicing and dicing to professional chefs. If no professional chefs are around, you can always swap out pumpkins for similar veggies like sweet potatoes or carrots — or even better, grab some of the canned stuff. You'll get similar nutritional benefits without the risk of injury.
Don't eat: Peas
Remember that Harvard study we mentioned that found that starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes could lead to weight gain? Well, so can peas.
Like corn, peas have a high glycemic index and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels when consumed in excess. Also like corn, peas contain phytates that keep key nutrients from being absorbed.
As legumes, peas are high in protease inhibitors that can prevent proteins from being properly absorbed by the body. This may cause your body to overcompensate by producing excessive amounts of certain enzymes, which in turn can lead to problems like inflammation and allergic reactions.
Also like other legumes, peas are packed with FODMAPS (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols). This group of carbs can case the bloating and discomfort. Green peas also contain lectins (though at lower levels than other legumes), which are associated with problems like inflammation and conditions like celiac disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
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