Illustration: Ciara Phelan
For years we've been told to "eat the rainbow," on the theory that the more colorful our fruits and vegetables, the more nutrient-rich they are. While that advice still holds, research reveals that certain pale foods—like cauliflower and celery root—have a lot to offer, too, from helping ward off heart disease to boosting bone health. And because many of these veggies are in peak season during cooler months, now is a great time to lighten up.
Whether you boil it or eat it raw, this root vegetable offers more than twice the iron of a boiled potato, and at least 35 percent more fiber per cup. It also contains more than 70 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K, a nutrient that's been linked to healthy bone density. In fact, one study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consumed the most vitamin K were 30 percent less likely to suffer hip fractures.
This pungent vegetable has long been known to help prevent the buildup of plaque on artery walls, reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease. But the mighty clove has another impressive perk: its ability to block tumor growth. A study of more than 40,000 women found that those who consumed at least one clove of garlic per week for four years were roughly 35 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those who never ate it.
One cup of this cruciferous vegetable packs 68 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C, an antioxidant that may reduce your risk for heart disease. The white florets also contain the nutrient choline, which the brain converts into a chemical that researchers believe may help slow age-related memory loss.
A cup of cooked parsnips satisfies nearly 30 percent of your daily vitamin C needs and delivers more than 20 percent of your suggested intake of manganese, a mineral that some research suggests could act as a natural antidote to PMS, lessening irritability and pain. Cooked parsnips also contain nearly 6 grams of fiber per cup (more than 22 percent of your recommended daily intake), helping you stay fuller longer.
This root vegetable is a great team player when matched with broccoli. Each contain the enzyme myrosinase, which helps trigger both foods' cancer-fighting properties, but when broccoli's cooked, the heat can destroy the enzyme. That's where horseradish comes in: Research in the British Journal of Nutrition
suggests that combining cooked broccoli with uncooked foods that offer myrosinase, like horseradish (1/2 teaspoon per cup of broccoli will do), can help boost the vegetables' anticancer abilities. And when you eat foods like broccoli and horseradish together, the upper digestive tract may absorb the pair's enzymes faster, further enhancing their impact.
Next: 4 tips for buying the healthiest vegetables