It’s no secret that vegetables — which are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — are a must-have in a healthy diet.

They’re also filling, flavorful, and perfect for a variety of dishes, such as salads, soups, smoothies, and sandwiches.

In fact, when I’m feeling creative, I love giving dishes like pizza and pasta a nutritious twist by piling on the veggies and experimenting with new or interesting ingredients from the produce section.

Although all vegetables are healthy, several stand out for their supply of nutrients and powerful health benefits.

Here are 14 of the most nutrient-dense veggies available.

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1. Spinach

This leafy green tops the chart as one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables.

That’s because 1 cup (30 grams) of raw spinach provides 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A plus 120% of the DV for vitamin K — all for just 7 calories (1).

Spinach also boasts antioxidants, which may help reduce your risk of disease. One study found that dark leafy greens like spinach are high in beta carotene and lutein, two antioxidants that are associated with a decreased risk of cancer (2).

Another study suggested that spinach may benefit heart health by helping reduce blood pressure (3).

Summary

Spinach provides several antioxidants and is especially rich in vitamin K. It may benefit heart health and reduce disease risk.

2. Carrots

Carrots are packed with vitamin A, delivering 119% of the DV in just 1 cup (128 grams) (4).

They also contain beta carotene, an antioxidant that provides their vibrant orange color and may help prevent cancer. Your body converts this compound into vitamin A (5).

In fact, one study in more than 57,000 people associated eating at least 2–4 carrots per week with a 17% lower risk of colorectal cancer in the long run (6).

A review of 18 studies found that carrots may also reduce lung cancer risk (7).

Finally, these popular root veggies are high in many other key nutrients, including potassium and vitamins C and K (4).

Summary

Carrots are especially high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Their high antioxidant content may be linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, including lung and colorectal cancer.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in a sulfur-containing plant compound called glucosinolate, as well as its byproduct sulforaphane (8).

Researchers in animal and test-tube studies have extensively explored sulforaphane’s ability to protect against cancer (9).

This cruciferous veggie may help prevent other types of chronic disease as well.

One small study found that broccoli sprouts decreased levels of several markers of inflammation, which have been linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease (10).

Just 1 cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli provides 77% of the DV for vitamin K, 90% of the DV for vitamin C, and a good amount of folate, manganese, and potassium (11).

Summary

Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a compound that may protect against cancer. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals.

4. Garlic

Garlic has been used as a medicinal plant for millennia (12).

Its main active compound is allicin, which has been shown to aid blood sugar and heart health (13).

In a 3-month study in 90 people, those who took 1,600 mg of garlic powder per day had significant reductions in belly fat and decreases in blood pressure and triglyceride levels compared with the placebo group (14).

Garlic powder supplementation also led to improvements in insulin resistance, a condition that may contribute to type 2 diabetes (14).

Another review of 33 studies found that garlic lowered cholesterol levels and improved blood sugar control, which may support those with heart disease or type 2 diabetes (15).

Plus, although further research is needed, test-tube and animal studies suggest that allicin has powerful cancer-fighting properties (16).

Summary

Studies show that garlic may help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Some studies suggest that garlic may help decrease blood sugar levels and help prevent cancer, but more research is needed.

5. Brussels sprouts

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Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, and they contain the same beneficial plant compounds.

Brussels sprouts also boast kaempferol, an antioxidant that may be particularly effective in preventing cell damage (17).

Kaempferol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties, which may protect against disease (18).

This veggie is likewise a great source of fiber, an important nutrient that supports bowel regularity, heart health, and blood sugar control (19, 20).

Additionally, Brussels sprouts are very nutrient-dense. Each serving is packed with folate, magnesium, and potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, and K (19).

Summary

Brussels sprouts contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may protect against oxidative damage to your cells and help prevent chronic disease. They’re rich in fiber and many other essential nutrients.

6. Kale

Like other leafy greens, kale is renowned for its nutrient density and antioxidant content.

Only 1 cup (21 grams) of raw kale is loaded with potassium, calcium, copper, and vitamins A, B, C, and K (21).

In one small study, eating kale alongside a high carb meal was more effective at preventing blood sugar spikes than eating a high carb meal alone (22).

Another study showed that drinking kale juice may decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels (23).

Summary

Kale is high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as antioxidants. Studies show that kale may support healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

7. Green peas

Peas are a starchy vegetable, which means they have more carbs and calories than non-starchy veggies and may affect blood sugar levels when eaten in large amounts.

Nevertheless, green peas are incredibly nutritious. Just 1 cup (160 grams) contains 9 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, and vitamins A, C, and K, as well as riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folate (24).

Because they’re high in fiber, peas support digestive health by enhancing the beneficial bacteria in your gut and promoting regular bowel movements (25).

Moreover, peas are rich in saponins, a group of plant compounds known for their anticancer effects. While further studies are needed, some research suggests saponins may reduce tumor growth and cause cancer cell death (26, 27).

Summary

Green peas are high in fiber, which supports digestive health. They also contain plant compounds called saponins, which may have anticancer effects.

8. Swiss chard

Swiss chard is low in calories but high in many essential vitamins and minerals.

One cup (36 grams) contains just 7 calories but nearly 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein, and lots of manganese, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K (28).

Swiss chard is also loaded with health-promoting antioxidants and plant compounds, including betalains and flavonoids (29).

This veggie may even help prevent damage caused by type 2 diabetes, though human studies are needed.

In an older study in rats, Swiss chard extract reduced oxidative stress caused by high blood sugar levels in the lungs. In another older rat study, chard extract helped improve blood sugar levels and reduce oxidative stress (30, 31).

Summary

Swiss chard is packed with vitamins and minerals. Some animal studies even indicate that it may lessen symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

9. Beets

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Beets are a vibrant, versatile root vegetable that pack fiber, folate, and manganese into each serving with very few calories (32).

They’re also rich in nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide — a compound that can help dilate blood vessels (33).

According to a review of 11 studies, the nitrates in beet juice may help lower blood pressure levels. In turn, this may lower your risk of heart disease (34).

What’s more, beets and their juice have been linked to improved endurance and athletic performance (35, 36).

Summary

Beets are rich in several nutrients and contain nitrates, which may improve blood sugar levels and athletic performance.

10. Asparagus

Asparagus is rich in several vitamins and minerals and is an excellent addition to any diet. Just 1/2 cup (90 grams) of cooked asparagus provides 33% of the DV for folate, as well as plenty of selenium, vitamin K, thiamine, and riboflavin (37).

Getting enough folate from foods such as asparagus may protect against disease and prevent developmental irregularities of the neural tube during pregnancy (38, 39).

One animal study also suggests that asparagus extract protects against liver and kidney damage by reducing oxidative stress (40).

Summary

Asparagus is especially high in folate, which may help prevent neural tube irregularities during pregnancy. One animal study also showed that this veggie may reduce oxidative stress and prevent liver and kidney damage.

11. Red cabbage

Red cabbage is another cruciferous vegetable brimming with antioxidants and beneficial properties. Just 1 cup (89 grams) raw contains 2 grams of fiber and 56% of the DV for vitamin C (41).

Red cabbage is also rich in anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds that contribute to its distinct color and numerous benefits (42).

In one animal study, red cabbage extract reversed oxidative stress in rats with high cholesterol levels (43).

Similarly, in another study in mice fed a high fat diet, red cabbage microgreens significantly lowered levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreased weight gain (44).

Summary

Red cabbage is high in fiber, vitamin C, and anthocyanins. Some animal studies suggest that it may help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, decrease weight gain, and reduce oxidative stress.

12. Sweet potatoes

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Sweet potatoes stand out for their vibrant orange color, sweetness, and impressive health benefits.

One medium sweet potato contains about 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and a good amount of potassium, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C (45).

This root veggie is also high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. In fact, one sweet potato packs 132% of the DV for this vitamin (45).

Furthermore, beta carotene intake is linked to a decreased risk of certain cancers, including lung cancer (46).

According to a review of 23 studies, sweet potatoes may be particularly effective for regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels (47).

Summary

Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, which may decrease your risk of lung cancer. They may also help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

13. Collard greens

A mere 1 cup (130 grams) of cooked collard greens boasts about 6 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 25% of the DV for calcium (48).

In fact, collard greens are one of the best plant sources of calcium, a mineral that plays a key role in muscle function, nerve transmission, hormone production, and bone health (49).

Collard greens are also high in antioxidants and may reduce your risk of certain diseases.

Interestingly, some research links an increased intake of specific vegetables, including collard greens, to a lower risk of glaucoma, an eye condition that can lead to blindness (50).

Another review associated a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables such as collard greens with an 8% and 19% lower risk of colorectal and stomach cancers, respectively (51).

Summary

Collard greens are high in calcium, which plays a role in many aspects of health. Eathing this leafy green and other nutrient-dense veggies frequently is associated with a reduced risk of glaucoma and certain types of cancer.

14. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is known for both its versatility and its stellar nutrient profile. Just 1 cup (155 grams) cooked packs 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and a variety of other important nutrients, including folate and vitamins C and K (52).

Like other cruciferous veggies, cauliflower is a great source of compounds such as glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, both of which possess potent cancer-fighting properties (53).

Cauliflower is also often used as a low carb, low calorie alternative to ingredients like rice, potatoes, and flour.

It may even promote weight loss. A 4-year study in more than 133,000 people associated each daily serving of cauliflower with 1.4 pounds (0.6 kg) of weight loss (54).

Summary

Cauliflower is rich in several anticancer compounds and serves as a great low carb, low calorie alternative to rice, potatoes, and flour.

The bottom line

Not only are most vegetables brimming with antioxidants and an array of essential vitamins and minerals, but many also offer health-promoting properties.

Although the veggies listed above are great nutrient-dense options to add to your diet, many others are loaded with nutrients as well.

For the best health outcomes, try to consume a variety of vegetables to take advantage of their unique health benefits. Be sure to include them as part of a balanced diet.

Just one thing

Try this today: Smoothies, wraps, and sandwiches are all easy ways to squeeze more vegetables into your daily diet. Aim to include at least 1–2 servings of veggies with each meal to ensure you’re meeting your needs.