There was probably a time in life when most green foods—Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, to name a few—repulsed you. You definitely weren’t alone. Many children are hesitant to pile green vegetables onto their plates. One possible explanation could be that green foods, such as Brussels sprouts, tend to be bitter, a sensation that your survival instinct tells you to avoid. Plus, children have a lot of sensitive taste buds. But as you grew up, you held on to fewer taste buds, slightly dulling the sense. Another possibility: You knew that naturally green foods (not to be confused with green Kool-Aid) were associated with the aim of eating healthier, and research suggests that children may be less likely to enjoy foods linked with goals.
No matter the reason for that early aversion, we now know that green foods should be an important component of our diets. Yet only 33 percent of us meet the recommendation for fruit consumption, and fewer than 30 percent of adults eat the recommended servings of vegetables. Although the amount of fruit and veggies you need varies, depending on age, gender, and how physically active you are, a general rule of thumb to aim for is about two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. One good place to start: with these seven delicious and nutrient-packed green foods.
1. Avocados: As if you needed one more reason to love avocados. This tasty fruit packs 690 mg of potassium (a medium sized banana only has 420), making it the perfect after-workout snack to help fight muscle cramps. The healthy fats found in them may help decrease inflammation and improve cholesterol levels. Not sure how to incorporate avocado into your meals beyond salad? Check out these 10 easy avocado recipes.
2. Apples: An apple a day really might help keep the doctor away. The crisp fruit may help fight obesity, lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of stroke, and stave off certain types of cancer. Of course, not all apples are green. The good news? These health benefits apply to red and yellow ones, too.
3. Kale: Kale is (and has been) having a moment, but there’s a reason behind this leafy green’s 15 minutes of fame. For starters, kale is good for your bones, offering 24 mg of calcium per cup. It’s also rich in vitamin A, which keeps your skin healthy and may protect against some forms of cancer. Kale is a good source of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and could amp up your immune system to help your body fight off bugs. You can also get lots of vitamin K from kale, a nutrient essential for blood clotting.
4. Spinach: Even though kale may be the trendy green, classic spinach offers its share of health benefits, too. Like kale, it’s filled with vitamins C and A, and it even offers slightly more fiber than kale. Fun fact: Boiling or steaming spinach may actually help make it even healthier by drawing out more antioxidants for your body.
5. Nopales: Looking for a new source of fiber? Look no further than this south-of-the-border green. Nopales is a cactus plant, rich in vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. It could also help lower your blood sugar, according to research published the journal Diabetes Care.
6. Brussels sprouts: There’s a reason your mother always encouraged you to eat your Brussels sprouts. These little veggies offer plenty of vitamins A and C. You can also get more than four grams of fiber per cup from them. Still not sure you’re a fan of their flavor? Try these spicy glazed Brussels sprouts to add a bit of kick.
7. Pistachios: Although not a fruit or a vegetable, pistachios also offer some serious health benefits. Just a quarter cup of this nut packs more than 6 grams of protein, well over 10 percent of the daily recommended amount. They also offer a healthy dose of filling fiber.