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By: The Villages | Dec 27, 2023

Vegetable Consumption – The Nutritional Value of Eating the Entire vegetable including the leaves and stems.

When it comes to nutrition, we often focus on finding fruits and vegetables that are vibrant and diverse in color.  There are, however, incredibly valuable nutrients found in the often-overlooked part of the vegetable – the leaves, stems, and peels.  Embracing the idea for whole plant consumption increases the nutritional intake, offers additional flavor profiles, and decreases food waste.  In this article, we will look at the value of roots and stems in root vegetables, fruit peels, and flowering vegetables.

Take root vegetables for starters.  Beets, Carrots, Turnips, Sweet Potatoes and Radish all contain a root, a stem and leaves that are edible and have unique value.  Let’s look at a specific root vegetable – the beet.  It is common to eat the tap root or bulb of the beet plant, but did you know that the stem and the leaves are also valuable?  The beet root offers an earthy or sweet flavor profile and are high in antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and vitamins.  The stems are the arteries between the beetroot and leaves, and they contain a pigment called betalain which is a powerful source of antioxidants, reducing inflammation.  The stems can be sauteed, added to soups or smoothies.  Beet greens are very nutritious and high in Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Vitamin C, K and A.  The greens are similar in flavor and texture to chard and can be consumed raw in salads and smoothie, or sauteed for a side dish. 

Nothing beats removing the orange peel and biting into the delicious, juicy, fruit.  But, don’t throw that valuable peel away!   While we all know that an orange contains Vitamin C and fiber, it is lesser known that just 1 tablespoon of the peel contains 3x more Vitamin C and 4x more fiber than the fruit.  Orange peel also contains folate, riboflavin, thiamine and B6, and it is rich in plant compounds called polyphenols.  Apples offer a similar story – a raw apple with skin contains up to 332% more vitamin K, 142% more vitamin A, 115% more vitamin C, 20% more calcium and up to 19% more potassium than just eating a peeled apple. (1) Think bananas are exempt from this rule – think again!

Raw or cooked, broccoli crowns or florets are the preferred part of the plant to consumer.  However, the stem is extremely versatile.  Broccoli stems can be shredded and added to rice, spiralized for noodles, added to broth or even sliced up and roasted into French fries! Broccoli as well as cauliflower are considered flowering stalks that are harvested just before flowering and their stems offer the same nutritional value as the florets.   Next time you are preparing your vegetables, remember that each part has a value.  This not only eliminates waste but certainly stretches your dollar and provides additional nutritional support.   Find fresh, local fruits and vegetables at The Villages Grown Market at Sawgrass Grove, the Brownwood Farmers Market and the all-new Mercado at Spanish Springs each Saturday morning.  Shopping experiences at The Villages Grown Market at Sawgrass Grove with a registered dietician are available in partnership with The Villages Health  – sign up at:

Rebecca Miller