Join any weight-loss group on Facebook and you’re bound to eventually see someone claiming that you don’t need to eat vegetables in order to lose weight or be healthy. For people who don’t like vegetables, this may be welcome news. But is it true? Do you really need to eat vegetables to be healthy? Or is there another way?
While it is possible to get many important nutrients from animal products — such as vitamin A and vitamin B12 — the fact remains that a diet lacking in vegetables will be low in many other nutrients that we need to be healthy and for all of our bodily processes to function optimally. We recommend including some sort of plant food in every meal, especially if you want to prevent modern-day diseases and live a long, healthy life. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this, and get a better idea as to why we need to eat vegetables to stay healthy.
Fruits and vegetables provide nourishment on a major scale. They’re not processed or man-made, so you know you aren’t putting questionable ingredients into your body. With any food, the closer it is to its natural form, the healthier it’s going to be. While you may think you can get the same nutrients by taking a multivitamin, studies have shown that supplements don’t always provide the same health benefits as the real thing. In fact, beta-carotene supplementation has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and gastric cancer in some people.
Certain supplements have their place in a healthy diet, but should not be used to take the place of whole foods. Vegetables (and fruits) also contain enzymes and other compounds that simply cannot be reproduced in a lab. Many of these factors are not fully understood, but health experts believe they play a role in health optimization and disease prevention. Let’s take a look at some of the things vegetables can do for your health.
Improve eye health
Did you know that your eyes need vegetables to stay healthy as you age? If you want to preserve your eyesight, eat fruits and vegetables containing lutein and zeaxanthin. Think green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and collards. Broccoli and asparagus are good, too. Then there’s those orange and yellow vegetables, which contain beta carotene. Carrots, bell peppers, and squash should be eaten on a regular basis to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
Improve gut health
The proper functioning of your gastrointestinal system needs plenty of vegetables as well. Why? Because both fruits and veggies have indigestible fiber. This type of fiber passes through your intestines while expanding and absorbing water. This action promotes regularity, which is absolutely necessary for well-being. If you experience constipation or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), chances are, you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and fewer processed foods.
Your gut is also home to beneficial bacteria, which need fiber to survive and carry out their job of keeping your immune system strong. The best way to keep your gut bacteria happy and healthy is to feed them plants.
Help with weight loss
Want to lose weight? Eat vegetables! Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight relies heavily upon the foods you eat. And you need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to prevent weight gain and obesity.
Replace refined carbs like pastas, white breads, chips, and crackers with non-starchy vegetables to see real weight-loss results. Starchy veggies like potatoes, peas, and corn can actually contribute to weight gain. So focus on the berries, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), apples, pears, and grapefruit if you’re looking to shed extra pounds.
Many studies document the beneficial effects of increased fruit and vegetable consumption and link them to diabetes prevention and even diabetes reversal. One study of diabetic Australian aborigines found that participants improved their insulin response when they stopped eating processed foods (including refined sugar and low-quality meats) and returned to their traditional hunter-gatherer diet. According to another study of Finnish men, a higher intake of whole fruits like apples, berries, and grapes reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 35%.
Prevent heart disease
Your cardiovascular system needs you to eat vegetables. The more fruits and vegetables you eat each day, the lower your risk of stroke and heart attack, according to a 2004 study. What’s more, if you suffer from high blood pressure, you can reduce your systolic blood pressure if you eat primarily fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Many vegetables are high in potassium, which helps relax blood vessels and decrease blood pressure.
Ward off cancer
Many studies show a link between cancer and poor diet. The more sugar and processed foods you eat, the greater your cancer risk. On the flip side, if you eat a whole-foods diet, full of organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, beans, and legumes, your cancer risk decreases dramatically. A study led by researchers at Harvard indicates that women who consume lots of fiber via fruits and vegetables during their younger years have a lower risk of breast cancer later in life.
Another study shows that eating vegetables with lycopene (specifically, tomatoes) reduces prostate cancer risk in men. Scientific research makes it clear just how important it is to eat vegetables multiple times a day if you want to lower your risk of cancer.
How to eat more vegetables throughout the day
Many of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables simply because we don’t know simple tips and tricks to make it easier and more accessible. Here’s an example: do you find yourself throwing out fruits or veggies that have gone bad? One way to solve this problem is to keep these foods in plain sight.
Chop up fruits and vegetables and place them in glass containers in the front portion of your fridge, rather than the fruit and veggie storage drawers. Think about meals differently: instead of a large serving of meat and one vegetable, serve a smaller portion of meat with two different vegetables, or one veggie and a salad. Make smoothies for breakfast, and toss in a handful of spinach or kale. Make salads for lunch and stir-fries for dinner, making sure to use up your veggie provisions before they go bad. If you don’t like certain vegetables, try preparing them a different way. Boiled Brussels sprouts are soggy and bland, but roasted Brussel sprouts are crispy and flavorful. Try vegetables you’ve never eaten before — maybe you’ll discover a new favorite!
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom-tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight-loss difficult. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!