I came across some research on nutrient densities of fruits and vegetables. This study checked 41 different fruits and vegetables for specific nutrients and ranked them (the table is at the bottom of the abstract). Some of our favorites, like watercress and Napa cabbage, were at the top. However, I found it interesting that some of the vegetables we consider most important were towards the bottom of the list. For example, sweet potatoes are a staple of people in Okinawa, a Blue Zone celebrated for their longevity and overall health. In northern regions, you’re going to have an issue if you do not enjoy cabbage or leeks. I want to stress that nutrients alone do not necessarily indicate the total value and importance of foods.
In macrobiotics, we consider the food as a whole. There are three categories for vegetables. A leafy green is any vegetable that grows up from the soil, and this includes things like leeks and scallions. The second category is root vegetables, which grow mostly beneath the soil such as carrots and daikon radishes. The other category is round vegetables, plants which grow just above or below the soil surface. Squash, turnips, and broccoli are round vegetables.
Different vegetables nourish us physically, mentally, and emotionally in unique ways. Leafy greens in particular are refreshing. They promote openness, freshness, and creativity. Round vegetables are harmonizing, balancing, and consoling. Winter squashes are healthy comfort foods. Root vegetables promote physical and mental vitality, and have the ability to create penetrating thoughts and ideas. When choosing foods, try to consider the food as a whole. Choose a variety of foods from the different categories to receive the range of the physical, emotional, and mental nutrition they provide.