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The Healthiest Veggies You're Probably Not Eating

Most adults eat less than two of the recommended three to five servings of vegetables each day. And the veggies we do eat are some of the wimpiest, nutrition-wise: iceberg lettuce, potatoes, and tomatoes. We found six overlooked, nutrient-packed picks that fight disease, taste delicious, and help you fit into your skinniest jeans.

Beets

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Their naturally sweet flesh contains betacyanin, a powerful antioxidant linked to cancer-protective effects, says Sharon Palmer, RD, author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Beets are also a good source of folate, which, when consumed in adequate amounts, may slash your risk of premenopausal breast cancerby 40 percent, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Try it, you'll like it: Peel beets and coarsely grate over salads. "Do it right before serving so the redness doesn't bleed onto other ingredients," says Dreena Burton, author of Let Them Eat Vegan. Or cube them, toss with olive oil, and roast at 400°F for an hour until tender. Top with slivered almonds for a sweet and crunchy side dish.

Photo: Photo courtesy of Svetlana Foote/Shutterstock

Mushrooms

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Okay, they're actually fungi (not veggies), but we have a good reason for including them anyway: They're one of the few plant foods that contain vitamin D, which keeps your bones strong and may protect you from diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Because mushrooms make D when exposed to sunlight (just like your body does), some growers treat them with UV light to produce 'shrooms that contain almost an entire day's worth of D. At the store, look for ones labeled "high invitamin D" or place regular mushrooms in sunlight for severalhours.

Try it, you'll like it: Chop mushrooms and saute, then mix with ground beef to lighten up burgers, casseroles, and meatloaf. Or keep them whole and saute with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic until brown.

Photo: Shutterstock

Eggplant

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One cup of this versatile veggie provides nearly as much fiber as a slice of whole wheat bread but for a fraction of the calories. Even better, the purple skin contains nasunin, a potent antioxidant that can help prevent heart disease and cancer-causing cellular damage.

Try it, you'll like it: Make eggplant "chips." Slice eggplant into thin rounds, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes until crisp, turning when brown. Eggplant is great on the grill, too -- cut it into thin slices and cook until golden and tender.

Photo: Shutterstock

Cauliflower

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Like its cruciferous cousins broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower is rich in glucosinolates, plant chemicals shown to lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Plus, studies suggest that women who regularly eat cauliflower may have a lower risk forrheumatoid arthritis, says David Grotto, RD, author of The Best Things You Can Eat.

Try it, you'll like it: Craving comfort food? Puree steamed cauliflower in a food processor and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings to create healthy faux mashed potatoes, suggests Grotto. Another inspired idea? Chop cauliflower into small florets, toss with oil and spices, then bake at 400°F until crispy and golden brown.

 

Photo: Shutterstock

Brussels Sprouts

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Forget about the mushy, overboiled ones you ate as a kid. When they're prepared the right way, Brussels sprouts are delicious -- and seriously nutritious. "Sprouts are rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer," says Grotto. Plus, one cup of these tiny cabbages packs as much vitamin C as an orange and, surprisingly, contains 5 grams of protein.

Try it, you'll like it: Stuck in a salad rut? Try slicing raw sprouts with a knife or mandolin and tossing with vinaigrette, nuts, and a little of your favorite cheese. Or cut them in half, toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and pan-roast at 400°F until brown (about 20 minutes).

Photo: Shutterstock

Swiss Chard

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These underappreciated greens are an excellent source ofvitamins A, C, and K -- nutrients lacking in many people's diets -- as well as plant chemicals that fight macular degeneration and cataracts. "Swiss chard also contains a range of antioxidants that help prevent heart disease," says Palmer.

Try it, you'll like it: Palmer likes to saute chopped chard in a skillet with olive oil and lemon juice until the leaves are slightly wilted. Or julienne the leaves (stack and roll them like a cigar, then cut into slices) and stir them into stews, sauces, and soups.

Photo: Shutterstock

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