Swapping popular fruit and vegetables for their less common counterparts can greatly improve the healthiness of diets. Even if you already maintain a healthy diet, there are some simple switches that you can employ to greatly boost the average intake of phytonutrients–the substances in fruit and vegetables that help to protect the body from conditions such as heart disease and cancer. According to findings presented at the 2010 Experimental Biology conference in California, the data highlights the importance of “not only the quantity but also the significant impact the quality and variety of the fruits and vegetables you eat can have on your health.”
The idea is that by swapping some of your staples, you increase the variety of crucial nutrients required for maximum health and longevity. Since variety is so important, I’d suggest not going for a 100 percent replacement–but as you can according to availability, locality and season. Here are the five “powerhouse” alternative foods the researchers suggest you get into your mix:
1. Sweet potatoes for carrots
One cup of cooked sweet potatoes provides 1,922 micrograms Retinol Activity Equivalents (mcg RAE) of beta carotene, double that of carrots, and 16 times that of broccoli. Sweet potatoes have four times the US Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for beta-carotene when eaten with the skin on. Sweet potatoes are a welspring of vitamin E, and they are virtually fat-free, which makes them a superior Vitamin E source. (Most Vitamin E rich foods, such as vegetable oils, nuts and avocados, contain a hefty dose of fat.) Sweet potatoes provide many other essential nutrients including Vitamin B6, potassium and iron. They are virtually fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium. One cup (200 grams) of cooked sweet potatoes has 180 calories.