Everybody knows vegetables are good for your health, but it may be surprising just how powerful some of them really are: vegetables that are high in antioxidants are believed to be helpful in preventing cancer and heart disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants protect cells from damage by rogue molecules, or free radicals, thus reducing the risk of cancers associated with cell damage. While most vegetables contain some antioxidants, there are a few that really stand out.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant from the carotenoid family. Lycopene is believed to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, pancreas and colorectal cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, another antioxidant. A report released by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University said vitamin C may enhance the effectiveness of other antioxidants such as vitamin A. Cooked tomatoes actually provide more antioxidants than raw ones, because the heating process releases more lycopene. Thus, tomato sauce, paste and juice are especially healthy choices. (While tomatoes are technically a fruit, most people consider them a vegetable.)
Leafy Greens: Kale, Spinach and Collard greens
Certain leafy greens, specifically collard greens, kale and spinach, are powerhouses in the antioxidant department. Not only do they contain lutein, an antioxidant important for the health of your eyes, they're also high in beta-carotene, another antioxidant that benefits eye health. Beta-carotene is converted to retinol and then converted to retinoic acid, which is used for growth and cell division.
Sweet potatoes are another good source of beta-carotene. In addition to that eye-enhancing antioxidant, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, providing almost twice the recommended daily supply. Vitamin A is also important for good vision; in fact, the lack of vitamin A is a major cause of blindness of people in developing nations. Sweet potatoes also contain almost half the daily requirement for vitamin C.
Broccoli is a great source of vitamin E. It also contains the antioxidant indole-3-carbinol, which is associated with controlling the amount of estrogen in the body. Excess estrogen can lead to breast cancer. Broccoli is also a source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants believed to help decrease the risk of prostate and other cancers.