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Celery. A popular crunchy stem often used for oral gratification during weight-loss programs, celery is very low in calories (fewer than ten per stalk), though higher in sodium than other veggies. Celery is a good fiber and carbohydrate food with a high water content. It is also rich in potassium, with some calcium and folic acid, and celery is relatively high in vitamins A and C. This vegetable is thought to have a relaxing effect by calming the nerves.

Leeks. Leeks are a nutrient-rich, high-fiber food that are related to green onions. They are mainly carbohydrate and fiber, though they are rich in potassium, folic acid, iron, and calcium and fairly high in vitamin C, some Bs, silicon, sulfur, magnesium, and phosphorus. They can be steamed or sauteed with other vegetables or used in soup.

Rhubarb. This is an interesting plant that comes from Tibet. The only edible part is the stem, which is actually an early sprout of the rhizome (large bulb) of the plant. The leaves are poisonous, and the stems, when eaten raw, may be toxic as well. When the stems are cooked or stewed, they can be eaten in a pie or sauce, usually with some sweetener to cover up the bitter taste. Rhubarb is a good fiber food and has some calcium and other minerals. Most of the vitamin C is lost with cooking.


Roots and Tubers

Beets Parsnips,
Carrots Rutabagas,
Garlic and Turnips
Onions Radishes
Potatoes Sweet Potatoes
    and Yams


The root vegetables, which also include the tubers (potatoes) and bulbs (garlic and onions), are probably the most commonly consumed group of vegetables throughout the world. One of these root vegetables might be cooked along with the main meal or as a dish in itself, as part of a mixed vegetable dish, or as a seasoning for other dishes. Potatoes, carrots, and garlic and onions are the most popular. These vegetables vary in their nutrient content, though they all are ?starchy?; that is, contain a high portion of complex carbohydrates. Carrots and sweet potatoes are both very high in beta-carotene, which generates vitamin A. Cooking potatoes are high in vitamin C and lots of other nutrients. Most of these root vegetables, especially yams, are rich in potassium.

Beets. Beets are those red-purple roots that stain the other vegetables red when cooked with them. Some people can have a scare after eating beets when they pass bloody-looking stools or see red water in the toilet after elimination. In fact, beets can be used to measure our intestinal transit time. Eat a couple of fresh raw beets, usually shredded in a salad, check the time, and watch when the first sign of them appears in the bowel movement. Canned beets will not work for this purpose, as much of the red pigment (and a lot of the nutrients as well) is lost in canning and storage.

Beet greens are particularly high in vitamin A, iron, and calcium, while beet roots are richest in iron, potassium, niacin, copper, and vitamin C. Folic acid, zinc, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus are also present. Beet borscht is a classic Russian beet soup, but steamed, raw in salads, or cooked beets in soups are also simple ways to get these stimulating roots. A mixed carrot, beet, and parsley juice is supportive for women during their menstrual cycle.

Carrots. Carrots are one of the more commonly eaten vegetables. Children will often eat raw carrots when they will eat few others, but cooked carrots are another story. Carrots are amazing in their vitamin A content. One cup of carrots, with only 50 calories, contains over 20,000 IUs of vitamin A, mainly as beta-carotene. Folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium are also present. And carrots usually contain selenium, a hard-to-find important nutrient. Of course, the freshness and quality of a vegetable such as carrots determines its content. For example, carrots may range widely in their vitamin A value.

Carrots are most often eaten cleaned and raw, cooked in vegetable dishes (steamed is best for nutrition), or as part of soups or salads. Sliced, diced, shredded, or swirled, they all contain lots of vitamin A. An eight-ounce glass of carrot juice contains almost five times (25,000 IUs) the RDA for vitamin A and various concentrated minerals; it has the most nourishment when it is drunk within a short time of preparing it. With this vitamin A content, carrots and carrot juice are helpful in supporting skin health and providing immune protection.

Garlic. A whole book could be devoted to all the tales and remedies of which garlic has been a part for centuries. Its strong odor, from sulfur gas, accounts for the theory that garlic keeps away evil spirits?or any spirits, for that matter, other than other garlic-eating ones. But it is with good reason that garlic has been known as the ?king of herbs?; it has been used for medicinal purposes including treatment of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, worms and other parasites, the common cold and flu, and generally as the ?poor person?s antibiotic.? It seems to help purify the body and may have immune-enhancing properties. The mineral sulfur promotes elimination of toxins from the blood, lymph, and body. Garlic has been shown to help lower fat levels and platelet aggregation, which can lower blood-clotting potential.

Garlic is actually a bulb made up of cloves, each of which is the seed for a future plant. In the low amounts usually used, it is not of high nutritional value. It is used raw in salads or in dressings or cooked with meats, fish, or poultry or with other vegetables. The hot or spicy nature of garlic gives it a stimulating action.

Onions. The effect of onions is similar to, though more subtle, than those of garlic. There are many varieties of these root bulbs. The standard yellow cooking onion is most common in our culture, though red onions, white onions, green onions, and chives are used frequently also. Onions can be eaten raw in salads or in dips, used as flavorings, or cooked in soups or in just about any kind of food dish. Liver and onions is a fairly popular (and unpopular) high-nutrient entree. Onion is a universal food and, like garlic, has a characteristic odor from the active sulfur bonds that release its purifying properties. Onions? antiseptic effects also come from its natural oils.

Onions are not high in nutrients, though they have a wide mix. They have some plant protein, calcium, iron, folic acid, and vitamins C, E, and A and are also a source of selenium and zinc, which they can pick up from the soil. Green onions are higher in vitamins A and C and iron and are used most often fresh as chives in salads or with potatoes and sour cream.

Potatoes. Probably the most universal and highly consumed vegetable, potatoes are actually a tuber, like Jerusalem artichokes or taro root, meaning that they grow underground off the root after the plant has grown and flowered. I try to find organic, nongreen potatoes especially, as they can concentrate chemicals and produce their own toxicity when they turn color or are exposed to sunlight. The green color is actually chlorophyll, but it suggests that excessive solanine has been produced in the potato. Solanine can produce symptoms such as headache, nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue in large amounts. Potatoes that have sprouted should also be avoided.

Potatoes are very rich in nutrients, are low in sodium, fairly low in calories (one potato has between 100 and 150 calories), and negligible in fats. Potatoes are approximately two-thirds starch carbohydrate and about 10 percent protein. They contain a reasonable portion of vitamin C and B vitamins, especially folic acid, thiamine, niacin, and pantothenic acid, and are very high in potassium, with moderate amounts of magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.

Potatoes are very versatile in the kitchen as well. They can be baked, steamed, boiled, fried, cooked in soups or vegetable dishes, and more. They get costar billing in the standard poorly balanced meat-and-potatoes diet, but they are the least of any dietary problem, unless the diet is high in french fries or the potatoes are slathered in butter, sour cream, or highly chemical bacon bits. The basic potato, though, is really that?a basic nutritious food from the earth. Boiled potatoes can calm the intestines and reduce bloating. Externally, raw potato can draw out skin boils as well as reduce inflammation. Sliced raw potatoes on sunburns or other mild burns may help their healing.

Parsnips, Rutabagas, and Turnips. These three root vegetables are among our stranger and less consumed foods, unless they are passed on in a cultural diet.

They are mainly starchy vegetables, without a high amount of any one nutrient but a good mixture. They have some B vitamins, A, and C and are high in potassium, with a blend of other minerals. They are almost exclusively eaten cooked?steamed, baked, or in soups. Turnip greens are rich in vitamins A and C and folic acid.

Radishes. Those spicy, crunchy little red roots that grow very fast are really low calorie. They are nearly all water, with some vitamin C, folic acid, and most of the trace minerals, including iron, zinc, silicon, and selenium. The chlorine content may actually help in digestion. The spicier radishes can help clear the sinuses and any mucus in the upper airways. Wild radish flowers are also edible and can help spice up a salad. Radish sprouts make a good blend with the common alfalfa sprouts and are nice for those who like a little bite in their salads.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams. These two potato-related tubers are considered the celebration potatoes in our culture. Usually baked or steamed, they are a real taste treat. Sweet potato pie and candied yams are special holiDay favorites. Sweet potatoes are very high in beta-carotene and fairly good in the B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, and iron. Yams are very rich in potassium, folic acid, and magnesium but lower in vitamin A and some of the other nutrients.


Vegetable Flowers

Artichokes Brussels Sprouts
Broccoli Cauliflower


This group is different from both the flowers and the ?flowering vegetables,? such as tomatoes and squashes, that grow to replace the flower of the plant. Vegetable flowers are actually the early part of the potential flower of the plant, picked and eaten before they progress into a ?real? flower.

These vegetables tend to be low in calories and high in carbohydrates but also have some protein and good fiber content. They are all good in vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium, and broccoli is very rich in vitamin A. Artichokes are actually the flower of a thistle plant that is very beautiful when left to fully flower, while cauliflower and broccoli are members of the highly nutritious cruciferous family, thought to help reduce the incidence of cancer.

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About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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