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The 10 healthiest vegetables and how to cook with them

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

The healthiest veggies are also some of the easiest to cook

It's hard to admit that your mother was right all along, but multiple studies support the fact that eating vegetables is kind of a big deal when it comes to living a long and healthy life. University of College London researchers discovered in 2014 that eating up to seven servings of vegetables per day could reduce your risk of death at any point by 42 percent.

We can all agree that vegetables are good, but which ones are the "cream of the crop"? Based on their nutrient profiles and potential to fight disease, these are the top 10 veggies you'll want to add to your cart on your next shopping trip:

1. Tomatoes

Though technically a fruit, tomatoes are most often served like a vegetable. Full of lycopene, these beautiful red orbs (and all tomato-based products) are renowned for their cancer-fighting capabilities. Not only are they chock-full of vitamin-y goodness (from vitamins A to K), but they also keep our blood pressure in check and help to reduce the number of free radicals in our bodies.

How to eat them: Heirloom tomato recipes

2. Broccoli

Few foods measure up to the disease-fighting potential of broccoli. This cruciferous veg is packed with antioxidants that help reduce the risk of stomach, lung and rectal cancers. And because broccoli is rich in beta carotene, vitamin C and folate, it is also good at boosting your immunity to colds and flus.

How to eat it: Sesame-ginger frittata with broccoli and shrimp

More: 15 protein-packed foods you probably didn't know could fill you right up

3. Brussels sprouts

These little green veggies are especially important for pregnant woman because they're packed with folic acid, a B vitamin that prevents neural tube defects. Brussels sprouts are also packed with vitamins C and K as well as fiber, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.

How to eat them: Stuffed chicken breasts with a side of Brussels sprouts

4. Carrots

These orange wonders are loaded with eye-, skin- and hair-enriching nutrients. They're also the richest vegetable source of some important antioxidants, like vitamin A. And because they're rich in vitamin C, carrots protect your cardiovascular system from damage.

How to eat them: Carrot-raisin muffins

5. Squash

A good source of anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C and beta carotene, squash, especially summer squash, can help treat dozens of conditions, including asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Squash is also rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber.

How to eat it: Summer squash ravioli

6. Sweet potato

This root vegetable has dozens of anti-cancer nutrients, like vitamin A, C and manganese. They're also a good source of fiber and iron, so not only do they give you energy, but they can also help regulate your digestive system.

How to eat them: Sweet potato soup

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7. Eggplant

High in heart-healthy nutrients, eggplants are rich in antioxidants like nasunin (a unique compound that protects your brain cells from damage). And because eggplants are loaded with fiber and potassium, researchers believe they may reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.

How to eat it: Eggplant Parmesan

8. Bell peppers

Whether you prefer red, orange or yellow, bell peppers are packed with dozens of heart-healthy nutrients like lycopene and folic acid. And recent research suggests digging into a pepper every day may lower your risk of developing lung, colon, bladder and pancreatic cancers.

How to eat them: Pineapple-rice-stuffed peppers

9. Spinach

This chlorophyll-packed type of produce is an excellent source of almost every vitamin and nutrient you need. Scientists believe a diet heavy in spinach may be able to prevent everything from heart disease to colon cancer and arthritis to osteoporosis.

How to eat it: Spinach salad

More: Feel free to ignore anyone who swears by a mono diet

10. Onions

These pungent-smelling veggies are particularly good for people suffering from (or at risk of developing) osteoporosis. That's because onions are loaded with a peptide called GPCS, which scientists believe slows your body's loss of calcium. Onions may also be useful in the fight against heart disease and diabetes because they're loaded with vitamin C and folate.

How to eat them: French onion soup

Originally published March 2009. Updated August 2016.

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