Vegetable Benefits for Your Body

We need at least 3 servings of vegetables a day.

This is the very minimum required for good health.

5A DayWe also need at least 2 servings of fruit, making a minimum of 5+ADay[1].

A serving is about a handful and everyone uses their own hand to measure, meaning a serving for an adult is larger than a serving for a child.

Eating the recommended 5+A Day may help reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and certain cancers[2]. These conditions are common in New Zealand. Having more vegetables, up to 5 servings a day, gives greater health benefit.

[1] Ministry of Health (2005) Eating for Healthy Adult New Zealanders. Code 1518 [2] World Cancer Research Fund. American Institute for Cancer Research. 2007. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: World Cancer Research Fund. American Institute for Cancer Research.

Fresh New Zealand grown vegetables for your body

The information below was prepared by the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, 2012. It provides the background information for the poster ‘Fresh New Zealand grown vegetables for your body’ available from the Resources section of this website or download from this link Vegetables for your body.

All nutrients that are a basis for health areas can be tied to nutrient function statements that are acceptable in New Zealand/Australia, and/or approved by the European Food Safety Authority.

The Recommend Dietary Intake (RDI) for relevant nutrients is in square brackets after each vegetable. Figures are for 100g of the vegetable. The New Zealand Food Composition Database values have been used, or where data was not available, the USDA Nutrient Database was used.

Brain: Many nutrients in vegetables are important for brain function. Some preapproved general level claims in Standard 1.2.7 include:

  • Folate: contributes to normal psychological function
  • Niacin: contributes to normal psychological function
  • Thiamin: necessary for normal neurological function; contributes to normal psychological function
  • Vitamin B6: contributes to normal psychological function; contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system
  • Vitamin C: necessary for normal neurological function; contributes to normal psychological function
  • Iron: contributes to normal cognitive function

To qualify for this category vegetables must be a source (>10% RDI) of a minimum of three of these nutrients.

Vegetables good for the brain include:

  • Brussels sprouts [43% RDI folate; 11% RDI B6; 100% RDI vitamin C]
  • Swedes [10% RDI niacin; 11%RDI folate; 43% RDI vitamin C]
  • Peas [22% RDI thiamin; 24%RDI niacin; 39% RDI folate; 33% RDI vitamin C; 12% RDI iron]
  • Red capsicum [23% RDI B6; 12% RDI niacin; 11% RDI folate; 425% RDI vitamin C]
  • Sweet corn [niacin 25%RDI; folate 17% RDI; 23%RDI vitamin C]
  • Globe artichoke [14% RDI niacin; 15% RDI folate; 20% RDI vitamin C]
  • Broccoli [12% RDI niacin; 27% RDI folate; 145% RDI vitamin C]
  • Kumara [13.6% RDI thiamin; 17% RDI niacin; 77.5% RDI vitamin C]
  • Radish [12%RDI folate; 60% RDI vitamin C; 13% RDI iron]
  • Silverbeet [16% RDI B6; 25% RDI folate; 40% RDI vitamin C; 10% RDI iron]
  • Spinach [15% RDI B6; 73% RDI folate; 40% RDI vitamin C]
  • Snow peas [14% RDI thiamin; 10% RDI B6; 150% RDI vitamin C; 17% RDI iron]

Healthy sight: One of the key vitamins important for normal vision is vitamin A. Although vegetables do not contain preformed vitamin A (retinol) they contain selected carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, that can be converted to vitamin A by our bodies. Preapproved general level claims in Standard 1.2.7 include:

  • Vitamin A: necessary for normal vision
  • Riboflavin: contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
  • Zinc: contributes to the maintenance of normal vision

To qualify for this category vegetables must be a good source of vitamin A (>25% RDI).

Vitamin A rich vegetables for vision include:

  • Butternut pumpkin [77% RDI]
  • Carrots [137% RDI]
  • Pumpkin [78% RDI]
  • Kumara, orange [79% RDI]
  • Buttercup squash [57% RDI]
  • Watercress [109% RDI]
  • Spinach [48% RDI + riboflavin]
  • Kale [103% RDI]
  • Puha [181% RDI]
  • Rocket [59% RDI + riboflavin]
  • Chinese cabbage [39% RDI]
  • Silverbeet [71% RDI]

Sustained energy/source of fibre: Many vitamins and minerals are essential for normal energy production. For example preapproved claims include:

  • Pantothenic acid, thiamin: contributes to normal energy production
  • Riboflavin, niacin: contributes to normal energy release from food.
  • Vitamin B6: necessary for normal carbohydrate metabolism
  • Vitamin C: contributes to normal energy metabolism

To qualify for this category vegetables must have significant levels of vitamins and minerals of importance for energy metabolism; be low/moderate GI (low <55) and be a source of fibre (to qualify for a fibre claim vegetables must contain >2g fibre/serve).

Vegetables in this category include:

  • Parsnips [3.7 g/100 g fibre, GI 52]
  • Kumara [1.8 g/100 g fibre, GI 48]
  • Peas [4.2 g/100 g fibre, GI 48]
  • Globe artichoke [4.6 g/100 g fibre]
  • Sweet corn [3.2 g/100 g fibre, GI 53]
  • Carrots [2.7 g/100 g fibre, GI 47]
  • Eggplant [2.3 g/100 g fibre, GI 15]
  • Yams [3.9 g/100 g fibre, GI 35]

Immunity: The immune system protects the body against infection and disease and it is well known that nutritional status can modulate its actions. Many nutrients in vegetables are important for a healthy functioning immune system. Some preapproved general level claims in Standard 1.2.7 include:

  • Vitamin A: contributes to normal immune system function
  • Vitamin C: contributes to the normal immune system function
  • Other important elements include copper, iron selenium, zinc, folate and vitamin B6.

To qualify for this category vegetables must be a source of vitamin A (>10% RDI)  and a source of vitamin C (>10% RDI).

Vegetables to support immune function include:

  • Watercress [110% RDI vitamin A; 188% RDI vitamin C]
  • Silverbeet [71% RDI vitamin A; 61% RDI vitamin C]
  • Spinach [66% RDI vitamin A; 85% RDI vitamin C]
  • Rocket [59% RDI vitamin A; 12% RDI vitamin C]
  • Red capsicum [33% RDI vitamin A; 425% RDI vitamin C]
  • Broccoli [15% RDI vitamin A; 143% RDI vitamin C]
  • Tomatoes [12% RDI vitamin A; 59% RDI vitamin C]

Healthy insides: Fibre is particularly important for digestive health. The preapproved general level claim for fibre in Standard 1.2.7 is:

  • Fibre: contributes to regular laxation

Although not a specific claim, fluids work with fibre to help keep bowel movements regular and easy to pass.

To qualify for this category vegetables must be a source of fibre (>2 g per 100 g) or have a water content >90%.

Vegetables to support digestive health include:

  • Spinach  [6 g/100 g]
  • Puha [5.2 g/100 g]
  • Chicory leaves [4 g/100 g]
  • Cabbage [3.6 g/100 g]
  • Kohlrabi [3.6 g/100 g]
  • Brussels sprouts [3.5 g/100 g]
  • Broccoli [3.4 g/100 g]
  • Butter beans [3.4  g/100 g]
  • Silverbeet [3.3 g/100 g]
  • Watercress [3.3 g/100 g]
  • Florence fennel [3.1 g/100 g]
  • Turnips [3.1 g/100 g]
  • Carrots [3.1 g/100 g]

Vital hydration: Standard 1.2.7 contains the following preapproved claim:

  • Potassium: necessary for normal water and electrolyte balance

To qualify for this category vegetables must have a moisture content 90% or greater and a potassium content 280mg/100 g or greater (a potassium content of 200 mg/serve is required to enable a claim). 

Vegetables to support hydration include:

  • Puha
  • Florence fennel
  • Courgette
  • Silverbeet
  • Celeriac
  • Endive
  • Broccoflower
  • Rocket
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cabbage, red
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce, Cos and hydroponic varieties
  • Leeks

Healthy skin: Many nutrients in vegetables are important for healthy skin. Some preapproved general level claims in Standard 1.2.7 include:

  • Vitamin A and niacin: necessary for normal skin and mucous membrane structure and function
  • Vitamin C: contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of skin
  • Zinc: contributes to normal skin structure and wound healing
  • Biotin and riboflavin: contributes to maintenance of normal skin and mucous membranes

To qualify for this category vegetables must be a source of a minimum of at least two of the vitamins and minerals with preapproved claims in relation to skin health (i.e. >10%RDI)

Vegetables for healthy skin include:

  • Pumpkin [78% RDI vitamin A; 25% RDI vitamin C]
  • Red capsicum [33%RDI vitamin A; 425% RDI vitamin C; 12% RDI niacin]
  • Watercress [109% RDI vitamin A; 188% RDI vitamin C]
  • Rocket [59% RDI vitamin A; 38% RDI vitamin C; 11% RDI niacin]
  • Silverbeet [71% RDI vitamin A; 40% RDI vitamin C]
  • Spinach [66% RDI vitamin A; 85% RDI vitamin C; 17% RDI vitamin E]
  • Asparagus [13% RDI vitamin C; 13% RDI riboflavin]
  • Buttercup squash [56% RDI vitamin A; 10% RDI riboflavin; 13% RDI niacin]
  • Taro [30% RDI vitamin C; 31% RDI vitamin E; 26% RDI zinc]
  • Snowpeas [15% RDI vitamin A; 150% RDI vitamin C; 18% RDI biotin]
  • Kale [103%RDI vitamin A; 300% RDI vitamin C]

Healthy bones and joints: Intake of calcium and Vitamin D are particularly important for bones. However, there is a body of evidence that other vitamins and minerals play an important role. Some preapproved general level claims in Standard 1.2.7 include:

  • Vitamin C: contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal structure of cartilage and bones
  • Vitamin K: contributes to normal bone structure

To qualify for this category vegetables must be a source/good source of vitamin C (>10% or 25% RDI) and a good source of vitamin K (>25% ESADDI).

Vegetables to support bones and joints include:

  • Kale [1000% ESADDI vitamin K; 300% RDI vitamin C]
  • Spinach  [600% ESADDI vitamin K; 85% RDI vitamin C]
  • Turnip greens [460% ESADDI vitamin K; 100% RDI vitamin C]
  • Brussels sprouts [175% ESADDI vitamin K; 243% RDI vitamin C]
  • Broccoli [176% ESADDI vitamin K; 143% RDI vitamin C]
  • Spring onions [258% ESADDI vitamin K; 63% RDI vitamin C]
  • Rocket [125% ESADDI vitamin K; 13% RDI vitamin C]
  • Lettuce [30-130% ESADDI vitamin K; 25% RDI vitamin C]
  • Asparagus [100% ESADDI vitamin K; 13% RDI vitamin C]
  • Cabbage [61% ESADDI vitamin K; 53% RDI vitamin C]
  • Leeks [47% ESADDI vitamin K; 38% RDI vitamin C]