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Broccoli, spinach, and peppers are among the more "famous" vegetables, but there are lots of others out there, too. Just because they're less known doesn't mean they don't have value. This is part of a continuing series to keep you informed about the benefits of the "not-so-famous" vegetables.Cabbage
Value: Cabbage is a member of the cruciferous family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy. "Like broccoli and other members of this family, cabbage is full of nutrients and has cancer-fighting capabilities," says Lanah J. Brennan, RD, a Los Angeles dietitian. Cabbage is a good source of potassium, fiber, folate, B vitamins, and vitamin A.
Nutrients: One cup of chopped cabbage contains 32.6 milligrams vitamin C (54.3 percent of the daily value), 151 milligrams of potassium (4 percent), 38 micrograms folate (10 percent), 67.6 micrograms vitamin K (80 percent). Cabbage also contains almost 9 percent of the daily recommended amount of dietary fiber.
Health Perks: "Green cabbage is a top source of 'indirect antioxidants' called glucosinolates. These are phytonutrients that remove free radicals from the body by stimulating the body's own natural antioxidant systems. This cascade of antioxidant activity -- unlike the one-shot, finite amount you get from most direct antioxidants -- actually cycles over and over within the physiology, continuing to protect your system for as many as three to four days after the cabbage has been consumed," says Nicholas D. Gillitt, PhD, nutrition researcher at Dole Nutrition Institute. When cabbage is sliced or chewed, phytochemicals called indoles and isothiocyanates are also released.
Nutrition Stats: (1 cup) 22 calories, 5.2g carbohydrates, 1.14g protein, 2.2g fiber, 0.09g fat, 16mg sodium.
Purchasing: Cabbage is in season during the fall and winter. Look for heads that are colorful and firm. Check the stem to make sure it's not dried out. Avoid cabbages that are cracked or bruised. To get the most vitamin C, buy whole cabbage heads instead of those that are precut, says Brennan.
Avoid heads that feel light because they likely have lost a lot of moisture. The head should not have blemishes or withered leaves, says Molly Morgan, RD, of Creative Nutrition Solutions in Vestal, New York.
Storage: An uncut head should last about a week in your refrigerator, but it's best eaten as soon as possible after you buy it. Store it in a plastic bag, says Morgan.
Value: They're low in calories, inexpensive, and have low energy density -- so you get filled up with fewer calories. Also, these mushrooms are known to have antioxidant benefits similar to those of fancier mushrooms. They are a great source of vegetable protein, says Brennan. Oh, and they're a fungus, not a vegetable.
Nutrients: (five medium) 362mg vitamin B2 (riboflavin) (21 percent of the daily value), 3.3mg vitamin B3 (niacin) (16 percent) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) (13.5 percent), 0.286mg copper (14.3 percent), 8.4mcg selenium (10 percent), 286mcg potassium (8 percent), 77mg phosphorous (8 percent), and 4.5mg iron (2.5 percent).
Health Perks: They are a good source of three important B vitamins that help convert food to energy and promote healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain function. They also supply a good source of selenium, a trace element that functions as an antioxidant in the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This important enzyme helps neutralize the free radicals -- unstable oxygen molecules -- produced by normal cellular processes. Once used, the enzyme needs riboflavin -- also found in mushrooms -- to regenerate into its active form. Thus, everything you need to help this particular antioxidant enzyme system function optimally is supplied in mushrooms. Selenium is also needed for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and may play a role in fertility, especially for men. In addition, research suggests that selenium may reduce the risk of lung, liver, and prostate cancers, says Gillitt.
Nutrition Stats: (five medium) 20 calories, 3g carbohydrates, 3g protein, 1g fiber, 0.3g fat, 4mg sodium.
Purchasing: Select mushrooms that are firm and white, not browning or broken, says Brennan. Also, look for caps that are closed on the bottom, as they tend to be fresher.
Storage: Brush off dirt with a soft vegetable brush. Do not rinse or soak mushrooms or they may get soggy. Store them in a paper bag or vented container to allow air flow. Mushrooms will keep for about three days in the refrigerator, says Brennan.
Value: Like cabbage, cauliflower is a top source of the "indirect" antioxidants known as glucosinolates.
Nutrients: (1 cup) 46.4mg vitamin C (77 percent), 16mcg vitamin K (20 percent), 57mcg folate (15 percent), 0.222mg vitamin B6 (11.1 percent) and, notably, 303mg potassium (9 percent), 2.5g fiber (10 percent) and 15mg manganese (4 percent).
Health Perks: In addition to antioxidants, cauliflower has high amounts of vitamin C, which is healthy for the skin and the immune system. Lastly, "Diets rich in potassium (which lowers blood pressure), fiber (which reduces cholesterol), vitamin C (which prevents oxidation of LDL 'bad' cholesterol), and vitamin B6 (which reduces homocysteine levels) are associated with maintaining a healthy heart," adds Gillitt.
Nutrition Stats: (1 cup) 25 calories, 5.3g carbohydrates, 1.98g protein, 2.5g dietary fiber, 0.1g fat, 30mg sodium.
Purchasing: Look for firm, white, clean tops. Avoid brown spots and soft heads.
Storage: Cauliflower will keep for up to five days if stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator. If the head is not purchased wrapped, store it in an open or perforated plastic bag. Keep it stem-side up to prevent moisture from collecting on it.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder and editor of DietDetective.com, the health and fitness network and author of The Diet Detective's Calorie Bargain Bible. Copyright 2008 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission from www.dietdetective.com, May 2008.