8 underrated vegetables with surprising health benefits

corn grilled
© Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock

These vegetables may not get much attention for their health benefits, but they are packed with nutrients and a great addition to the table.

We all know that we are supposed to be eating mountains of kale and broccoli, but almost all vegetables have something to offer. In the spirit of nutritional variety and keeping one's diet interesting, I thought I'd give a shout-out to some of the vegetables that we may not immediately think of as bursting with nutrition – here are eight of them for starters.

1. Baked potato

Baked potatoes get a bum rap, probably because we love to smother them with butter and sour cream. But on their own, they are subversive little rockstars. A large baked potato with skin contains about seven grams of protein, around seven grams of fiber, plus impressive amounts of potassium, and vitamins C and B6.

2. Sugar snap peas

So sweet, so snappy! Delicious sugar snap peas have an impressive five grams of protein per cup. Each cup also provides two milligrams of iron (which amounts to 25 percent of the daily iron needs for men and 11 percent of the daily needs for women) – they are also a god source of vitamins A and C.

3. Mushrooms

They may seem quiet and wan, but mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses. They have protein, fiber, B vitamins, and are one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin D. They are also unusually packed with anti-aging potential.

4. Corn

Corn is so sweet and delicious, it may feel like a guilty pleasure – but it's got a lot to offer. Yes, it has carbs, but a medium ear only six grams of natural sugar – about one-third the sugar of an apple. A large ear of corn has almost four grams of protein, and is also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that are good for healthy vision. Plus insoluble fiber, B vitamins, iron, and potassium.

5. Artichoke

For a ball of (delicious) leaves, artichokes have a lot of nutritional benefits to offer. In addition to about 3.5 grams of protein, they are a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Plus, antioxidants; they're number seven on the USDA's top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list, according to WebMD.

6. Fresh green peas

Peas have long suffered from preparations that turn them into green mush, but cooked lightly, they are divine. And healthy! While they do contain some antinutrients – substances that may hinder some of their benefits – they are lower in them than many other legumes. And still, they are super packed with benefits. They are one of the most protein-rich vegetables around, and are loaded with fiber, vitamins A, K, C, vitamins, and iron, among other nutrients. Also, they have a relatively low glycemic index.

7. Carrots

I think most of us know that carrots are healthy, especially for their prodigious amounts of vitamin A: a whopping 428 percent of the daily recommended value in just one cup. But it feels like somewhere along the line, carrots got relegated to the kid set and have gone out of fashion with the grown-ups. I say, eat the carrots, people! They are also high in vitamins C and K, and potassium – and have been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer as well as lung cancer.

8. Cauliflower

We hear so much about dark leafy greens and "eating the rainbow" – but don't let that make you ignore the less colorful vegetables. Aside from its remarkable diversity, cauliflower delivers fiber, vitamins C (one cup provides 77 percent of the recommended daily intake), vitamin K, B6, folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous, among other things.

This list is by no means exhaustive, just a reminder that there's life after kale and broccoli...

8 underrated vegetables with surprising health benefits
These vegetables may not get much attention for their health benefits, but they are packed with nutrients and a great addition to the table.

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