A fellow mom recently asked me whether cucumbers and celery really count as green vegetables. She had heard they don't offer much nutritional value because they are mostly water, so she figured she shouldn't worry about encouraging her children to eat them.
The truth is, all vegetables provide health benefits — just in different concentrations.
Here are 10 common myths about vegetables, followed by facts about why they deserve a place on your child's plate.
1. Cabbage: Cheap meal fillerCabbage may be inexpensive, but it is not ineffective. Cabbage is high in fiber for healthy digestion and satiety, vitamin C for the immune system and the absorption of iron, vitamin K for healthy blood and circulation, and cancer-fighting compounds.
2. Carrots: Too much sugarCarrots contain high amounts of vitamin A for eyesight and immunity, vitamin C for that strong immune system, and fiber. As for its natural sugar, the fiber in a carrot slows down the absorption, so there is a much smaller effect on one's blood sugar.
3. Corn: High-fructose syrupHigh-fructose corn syrup has certainly damaged corn's reputation, but the vegetable and the sweetener have little in common. Corn is a high-carbohydrate vegetable, so it shouldn't be the only one your child eats. But it provides thiamine that helps convert carbohydrates into energy, heart-healthy folate and antioxidants to help fight disease.
4. Cucumbers: Mostly waterYes, cucumbers are 95 percent water, helping our bodies stay hydrated, but they also provide antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene that help us fight cellular damage, B vitamins that support nerve health, potassium for heart health, and fiber.
5. Celery: Ditto
Celery provides vitamin K for blood health, folate for red blood cell production, vitamin A, fiber and yes, lots of water. Celery has been shown to lower blood pressure and the risk of cancer.
6. Garlic: Flavor, no nutrition
This vegetable has been shown to lower blood pressure, protect the heart, fight cancer and regulate blood sugar levels and is antibacterial and antiviral, which means it is helpful during cold and flu season.
7. Onions: Ditto
Onions are high in quercetin, an antioxidant known for being a natural antihistamine. Onions have also been shown to support heart health, and they provide vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate and fiber.
8. Iceberg lettuce: No flavor or nutrition
Iceberg lettuce can provide a significant portion of the daily requirement of vitamin K to keep our blood and bones strong and vitamin A for our eyesight and immunity. Yes, darker varieties of lettuces and greens provide more nutrition per serving, but if iceberg will get your kid to eat salad, embrace it.
9. Parsley: Just a garnish
Ounce per ounce, parsley has 33 times the amount of vitamin C, 16 times the amount of vitamin K, six times the amount of iron and four times the amount of calcium as lettuce. Oh, and don't forget the folate, fiber and water.
10. Potatoes: Fattening
Potatoes have a bad reputation as a nutritionless white carb, when in fact they provide twice as much potassium as a banana, vitamin B6 for nerves and mood, vitamin C and fiber. Potatoes have a high glycemic index, which means they can affect blood sugar. A person with blood sugar issues, diabetes or weight problems might want to limit their potato intake, but the rest of us should enjoy them in moderation.
Casey Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company, and co-author of "Super Food Cards," a collection of healthful recipes and advice.