Ask the RCW Dietitian: White Vegetables

Are white vegetables like cauliflower less nutritious than more colorful ones like broccoli?

“Eat the rainbow” is a common suggestion from nutrition professionals to the public. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Skittles – it’s a prompt to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, which then provide a variety of nutrients.

But what about white vegetables? There’s no white in the rainbow, so is there any reason to include them in our diet?

Actually, there are lots of reasons.

The foods that come to mind when white or colorless vegetables are discussed include cauliflower, onion, garlic, mushrooms, parsnips, and potatoes. Yes, potatoes are often classified as a “grain” nutritionally, but they’re another example of a nutrient-dense, colorless plant food.

Vitamin C is usually connected with foods like berries, citrus, and peppers, and rightfully so. But don’t forget to add cauliflower to that list! A one-cup serving of cauliflower has over 75% of our daily vitamin C needs, plus it’s rich in folate, vitamins K and B6, potassium, and fiber.

Onions are also great sources of vitamin C and fiber. Anthoxanthins are the pigments that give foods like onions and cauliflower their whitish hue, and these are beneficial as antioxidants preventing cellular damage throughout the body.

Since we usually don’t eat large portions of garlic, we don’t obtain a large amount of vitamins or minerals from it. That being said, there’s evidence from the National Cancer Institute that it may have meaningful anti-cancer properties.

Mushrooms aren’t even technically plants, but they are usually put under the vegetable category when it comes to food. There are lots of varieties of edible mushrooms, but generally they are higher in protein than most vegetables as well as rich in potassium, vitamin D, and several B vitamins.

Pale-colored root vegetables like parsnips and potatoes may be higher in carbohydrates (and therefore calories) than most of their colorful counterparts, but they also provide large doses of potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, phosphorus, and manganese.

Just because a vegetable is colorless doesn’t mean it isn’t nutritious. Add white to your food rainbow next time you’re filling up on vegetables in the produce section.

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