You know the ones. The weird alien-looking vegetables you give a cold shoulder to every week as you meekly stride past them in the produce section. You don’t even want to think about cooking them because you wouldn’t even know where to begin. How do I cut this thing? Does it need any special kind of rinsing? What if I undercook it? Will I die of food poisoning?
Despite their foreign appearances and hard-to-pronounce names, many of the vegetables you pass by on a regular basis are some of the most nutrient-dense, toxin-free foods you can find. So without further ado, hopefully I can encourage you to give these neglected vegetables a second chance.
Hailing from the onion family, the leek is an incredibly tasty and versatile piece of produce that is often overlooked by shoppers in lieu of its more popular cousin. If you’re a little rusty on your knife skills, you may find them much easier to slice and dice than onions, as they consist of one long stalk. They give your food, in my opinion, a milder yet much more satisfying flavor than onions. And replacing onions isn’t their only use. Lather on some healthy fats and toss them on the grill. Cook a pot of cauliflower leek soup. They are also fantastic with eggs.
Why you should eat it: Nutrition-wise, leeks best the onion on many fronts including vitamin k, manganese, and iron. They are also a good source of antioxidant polyphenols.
Bok Choy has become an increasingly popular vegetable in the world of healthful food stuffs. However, many people are still hesitant to cook this relatively simple to prepare ingredient. The flavors of bok choy really come alive when sauteed with garlic lemon or just tossed into a stir-fry. It’s also a great accompaniment to healthy fish like salmon.
Why you should eat it: Bok Choy has one of the highest nutrient per calorie ratios of any food. It also contains lots of antioxidants and vitamin K, making it a great anti-inflammatory food.
So this is more of a category of foods including sprouted legumes, nuts, and grains. Lots of legumes can be sprouted like alfalfa, lentils, and many types of beans. They often make for a nutritious addition to any salad, smoothie, or sandwich. If you’ve ever had phở then you probably enjoyed the crunchy taste of mung bean sprouts. Sprouted grain bread is a viable option for people with grain sensitivities (not Celiac).
Why you should eat it: While the nutrition profiles of different kinds of sprouts are obviously extremely variable, the process of soaking and sprouting generally has very positive effects (but not with soy). Sprouting helps to reduce anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, tannins, lectins, and even gluten. Because of this, people with food sensitivities will likely find sprouted foods easier to digest. Broccoli sprouts are especially notable for a compound called sulforaphane which can help to prevent cancer, improve gut health, and enhance brain function.
Growing up I always thought that plantains were just yucky bananas. And if not prepared right, that’s kind of true. First of all, plantains typically need to be cooked to be enjoyable. You can use the starchier green plantains or the sweet yellow ones. I absolutely love me some fried tostones with chimichurri sauce. They are a healthier replacement for french fries, and in my opinion, a much tastier one.
Why you should eat it: Plantains contain a substantial amount of potassium and magnesium, important electrolytes that many of miss in our diets. They are also loaded with resistant starch, which is fantastic for people with gut problems.
This is an incredibly underrated leafy green and you will be amazed at its versatility. It’s fairly unique in that it has a somewhat peppery taste which is derived from mustard oil in the leaves. Watercress can be used in soups, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and it goes great with eggs.
Why you should eat it: Watercress is the most nutrient dense food per calorie, and like other cruciferous veggies, wields powerful anti-cancer properties. It also tops the CDC’s list of powerhouse vegetables, meaning that it is “strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk”.
Fennel is an interesting celery-like vegetable with a very distinct licoricey flavor. It is often used as a secondary ingredient in salads and pasta dishes to bring the flavor to the next level. It can also be roasted and served alongside roasted meat. Here is a fabulous looking beef stew featuring our fernlike friend.
Why you should eat it: Fennel is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, calcium, as well as other trace minerals. It therefore promotes bone and immune health. It can also balance the pH level of your body. This is especially helpful for people with acid reflux.
Jicama is a large root vegetable somewhat resembling a potato. The exciting thing about it is that it can be eaten raw! It has a sweet flavor almost like that of an apple. You can also make some really healthy french fries out of it.
Why you should eat it: Jicama has lots of helpful prebiotic fiber, which is great for digestive health. It also packs quite a bit of the immune-boosting power of vitamin C. And it’s surprisingly low in carbs for a root vegetable.
Kohlrabi is a very versatile ingredient that can be eaten cooked or raw. It tastes kind of like a sweeter broccoli stem. This makes it great as a topping for salads, but it is also really good roasted or stir-fried. If you plan on making a creamy soup, you may want to consider using pureed kohlrabi as a base.
Why you should eat it: If you’re looking to give your immune system a helping hand, look no further. 1 cup of kohlrabi contains 140% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C. It is also a cruciferous vegetables, which means it has lots of those cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates.