When you were young, did you parents have
to force you to eat your vegetables by saying that you couldn’t have dessert until you
finished them? Or were you one of the very few kids who actually enjoyed eating vegetables?
Either way, as we grew up, we started to learn that fruits & veggies contain an abundance
of essential nutrients that help our bodies grow and keep healthy. For those of you who
aren’t a fan of the taste certain vegetables, you might have wondered – would it really
be that bad if I didn’t eat my veggies? What’s the worst that could happen? Well,
let’s take a look. Since fruits and vegetables are a huge part
of our daily dietary needs, the absence of it would lead to many changes in your body.
Most snacks lining store shelves are high in calories and fat content, and although
meat & meat alternatives as well as other food groups offer valuable nutrients, many
key vitamins are unique to vegetables and fruits. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins
University showed that only 11 percent of adults ate the USDA-recommended three servings
of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. You’ve probably heard of scurvy, a
disease caused by vitamin C deficiency that affected sailors on long sea voyages in the
past. Although it is uncommon today, scurvy is still possible without sufficient vitamin
C, with symptoms like bleeding gums, tooth loss, anemia, and even death! According to
Laura Moore, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Health Science Center,
other deficiencies also have detrimental side effects. These include the deterioration of
your gastrointestinal tract from a lack of folate, depression and cognitive decline from
vitamin B6 deficiency, night blindness from lack of vitamin A, general weakness and fatigue
from magnesium deficiency, hemorrhaging from a lack of vitamin K and also, an irregular
heartbeat from potassium deficiency. Vegetables are a major source of dietary fiber,
a food element considered crucial to digestion. The National Institute of Health links low
fiber intake to digestion problems that include constipation and diverticular diseases, which
in the long term can cause pain, hemorrhoids, infection, as well as tissue damage that may
require surgical treatment. Fruits and veggies are also packed with antioxidants
such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotenoids which reduce cancer risk by protecting healthy
cells from free radicals. Free radicals can come from the environment or form naturally
in the body. They float around and can destroy or mutate our DNA and cell membranes. According
to the American Institute for Cancer Research no one food can protect you against
cancer—but a diet filled with plant-based foods can help lower your cancer risk. Carotenoids—which
are pigments including beta-carotene, can be found in spinach and other dark leafy greens,
deep orange fruits, sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots—and they may protect against
this cellular damage and have been associated with lower rates of cancer. The synergy of
different compounds working together in a well-balanced diet offers the best protection.
A study from Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) found that a plant-rich diet reduced
blood pressure just as much as medications did for people with high blood pressure. Nutrients
such as potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as decreased sodium intake successfully
helps to lower blood pressure. A large Harvard-based study showed that compared to those who ate
less than 1.5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, people who ate eight or more a day
were 30 percent less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke.
Modern research is just now start to look into the connection between what we eat and
our mental health. A large study out of Spain recently revealed that people with a diet
high in fruits and vegetables experienced lower rates of developing depression. It’s
not yet known exactly why fruits and veggies may have this protective effect, but deficiencies
in nutrients such as pantothenic acid and vitamin B6 could possibly increase the risk
of depression in those who don’t consume enough of them.
Experts suggest eating 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day, which amounts to about
1 cup of raw leafy vegetable, ½ a cup of frozen, canned, or fresh veggies and fruits,
or ½ a cup of pure fruit or vegetable juice. It actually doesn’t sound like a lot, but
in fact, many of us struggle to do it. Although supplements can help fill in some gaps, they
can’t replicate all the benefits of eating the actual food. In order to increase your
intake, you can try smoothies, juicing, pureed soups, salads, or even loading lots of veggies
in sauces and stews. A good tip is to try and make your meals as colourful as possible!
Let us know your favourite way to enjoy yummy fruits and vegetables! Thank yo u for watching! Please give us a thumbs
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