Nutrition professionals always seem to have differences of opinion, but there is one piece of nutrition advice that we universally agree upon: Everyone should eat more vegetables. The foundation of any healthy eating plan begins with veggies because they’re nutrient-rich, calorie-poor, and reams of research prove that eating a diet rich in diets rich in vegetables helps to stave off chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Here are five incredible effects of eating vegetables every day. Then, for even more healthy tips, read up on the #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day.
A diet rich in vegetables can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Reams of research show how a plant-forward diet helps improve your overall heart health. For instance, one of the largest population-based studies reported that individuals who enjoy leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens, had a significantly lower risk of heart disease.
What’s more, research from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study shows that nutrients present in vegetables, like potassium and magnesium help to significantly lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The DASH diet calls for 4 to 5 servings of vegetables a day. A serving is 1 cup of raw veggies or 1/2 cup cooked or 100% juice.
Veggies literally feed your face. Vegetables are loaded with nutrients that help maintain healthy skin and reduce skin damage caused by UV light. Some of the key skin-saving nutrients in vegetables include beta-carotene, vitamin C, and other antioxidant phytonutrients. Veggies are some of the best sources of these beneficial nutrients.
A large observational study involving women aged 40 to 74 years old found that eating foods rich in vitamin C and lower intakes of fat and sugar was associated with fewer wrinkles and a younger appearance, compared to those who had higher intakes of fat and carbohydrates and lower vitamin C intake. Eating several servings every day of vegetables can help temper chronic inflammation that helps slow down the aging process that accelerates the appearance of wrinkles and loss of collagen.
Maintaining healthy vision also involves protecting your peepers from the harmful effects of UV rays. The nutrients in veggies that support eye health include vitamins A, C, carotenoids, and other phytonutrients that help maintain vision. Numerous studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin, the carotenoids that are present in many colorful veggies and leafy greens, help reduce the risk for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
These nutrients filter UV-rays that are known to increase the risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS) revealed that zinc, copper, vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of age-related declines in eye health by 25%. Cataracts and AMD are leading causes of visual impairment and blindness in the United States. The risk dramatically increases after age 65.
Vegetables are one of the most fibrous food groups and the fiber in veggies helps improve your gut’s microbiome. Your microbiome—or trillions of bacteria in your GI tract—plays a role in maintaining your immune system.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a high-fiber diet with plenty of veggies can support a healthy microbiome. Dietary fiber is broken down and fermented in the colon. This fermentation creates beneficial short-chain fatty acids are produced.
While all vegetables are beneficial, some of the best for the GI tract include onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, and seaweed. These foods are especially rich in prebiotic fibers that help fuel the healthy bacteria in your Gi tract to help them multiply and thrive.
While dairy foods are commonly promoted as the best bets for your bones, vegetables also provide bone-building nutrients plus they serve as a natural buffer to the more acidic environment in our body that essentially causes calcium to be excreted by the body rather than maintaining bone strength. An acidic bloodstream is a result of a diet rich in animal-based foods like meat and poultry rather than a plant-first eating pattern.
Leafy greens like kale, Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, and turnip greens all provide calcium, but they also pack in potassium, folic acid, vitamin K and magnesium which help the body get the calcium into your bones. Several studies have reported an inverse association between vegetable consumption and risk for fractures. In a literature review of five published studies, the authors concluded that a higher intake of vegetables is associated with a reduced risk for hip fractures.
Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD
Julie Upton is an award-winning registered dietitian and communications specialist who has written thousands of articles for national media outlets, including The New York Times, US News & World Report, and USA Today. Read more