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There's a battle going on right hereÃ¢â‚¬”between big-name contenders from broccoli to turnips. The goal: to determine which vegetable is No. 1 in nutrition, and which should take first place when you're eating your food. Of course, all veggies are winners when it comes to warding off excess weight and preventing disease; but with all the peeling and chopping you have to do to get them to the table, they're not the easiest foods around (no wonder most women fail to score five servings a day). So it's important to pick the right stuff and eat vegetables that pack the most vitamins and minerals. That's what this tourney is all about. After the champions emerge, head to the WH Recipe Pages for the fastest, best-tasting ways to serve them up. To see some of this paparazzi-worthy produce in action, check out WH's "Best Fitness Foods for Women."
Veggie Vs. Veggie The Game is on!
To form our four starting divisions, we sorted vegetables by color (red, green, yellow/orange, and white). Then we chose the top 16 based on their levels of vitamin C, the water-soluble antioxidant whose list of health benefits is longer than Shaq's inseam. (To name just a few: C boosts immunity, protects skin from sun damage, aids in healing wounds, and helps the body absorb iron.) Next, we pitted veggies against each other within their divisions to find out which ranked highest in the four nutrients women need most. For the all essential vitamins women need, see WH's "The Best Vitamins for Women."
Round One Folate
Red Bell Pepper vs. Red Cabbage - 42 mcg vs. 13 mcg
Tomato vs. Turnip - 27 mcg vs. 20 mcg
Brussels Sprouts vs. Green Bell Pepper - 54 mcg vs. 16 mcg
Broccoli vs. Kale - 55 mcg vs. 19 mcg
Butternut Squash vs. Yellow Bell Pepper - 38 mcg vs. 24 mcg
Acorn Squash vs. Yellow Beans - 24 mcg vs. 41 mcg
Cauliflower vs. Jicama - 57 mcg vs. 16 mcg
Potato vs. Rutabaga - 24 mcg vs. 29 mcg
You've heard of folic acid thanks to its success in making healthy babies. In 1998 the U.S. government mandated that folic acid be added to grains, and by 2003 birth defects had dropped by a third. But the perks of getting the RDA (400 micrograms) of this mighty B vitamin don't stop there. Folate lowers CRP and homocysteine, two blood compounds that trigger artery inflammation, says Kathy McManus, R.D., director of the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Studies find that a higher CRP rate raises sudden heart attack risk, and other data link high homocysteine levels with stroke and vascular disease. Another large-scale study found that women who got the most folate had the lowest incidence of breast cancer.
Red Bell Pepper vs. Tomato - 11 mg vs. 20 mg
Brussels Sprouts vs. Broccoli - 20 mg vs. 18 mg
Butternut Squash vs. Yellow Beans - 48 mg vs. 28 mg
Cauliflower vs. Rutabaga - 15 mg vs. 32 mg
Because this mineral is found primarily in good-for-you foods like veggies (not Doritos), three out of four people in the U.S. don't get the 320 milligrams they need every day, says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., the author of Age-Proof Your Body. Which is a shame, since a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that low magnesium levels elevate blood sugar levels. (When blood sugar hits a Rocky Mountain high, your pancreas pumps out more insulin, which makes your body store the sugar as fat, usually right around your middle. Then your blood sugar inevitably comes crashing down--along with your mood.) Magnesium also helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, steadies heart rhythms, and supports your immune system.
Tomato vs. Brussels Sprouts - 0.49 mg vs. 1.23 mg
Butternut Squash vs. Rutabaga - 0.98 mg vs. 0.73 mg