Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, and variety is as important as quantity. No single vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Eat plenty every day.
A diet rich in vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check. Eating non-starchy vegetables like green leafy vegetables may even promote weight loss. Their low glycemic loads prevent blood sugar spikes that can increase hunger.
At least nine different families of vegetables exist, each with potentially hundreds of different plant compounds that are beneficial to health. Eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs. This not only ensures a greater diversity of beneficial plant chemicals but also creates eye-appealing meals.
Tips to eat more vegetables each day
Explore the produce aisle and choose something new.
Variety and color are key to a healthy diet. On most days, try to get at least one serving from each of the following categories: dark green leafy vegetables; yellow or orange vegetables; red vegetables; and legumes (beans) and peas.
Skip the potatoes.
Choose other vegetables that are packed with different nutrients and more slowly digested carbohydrates.
Make it a meal.
Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads, soups, and stir-fries are just a few ideas for increasing the number of tasty vegetables in your meals.
Vegetables and disease
There is compelling evidence that a diet rich in vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A meta-analysis of cohort studies following 469,551 participants found that a higher intake of vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, with an average reduction in risk of 4% for each additional serving per day of vegetables.
Although all vegetables likely contributed to this benefit, green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens, were most strongly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale also made important contributions.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study examined the effect on blood pressure of a diet that was rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and that restricted the amount of saturated and total fat. The researchers found that people with high blood pressure who followed this diet reduced their systolic blood pressure (the upper number of a blood pressure reading) by about 11 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by almost 6 mm Hg—as much as medications can achieve.
Numerous early studies revealed what appeared to be a strong link between eating vegetables and protection against cancer.
A study followed a Nurses’ Health Study of 90,476 premenopausal women for 22 years and found that those who ate the most fruit during adolescence (about 3 servings a day) compared with those who ate the lowest intakes (0.5 servings a day) had a 25% lower risk of developing breast cancer.
A report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that non-starchy vegetables—such as lettuce and other leafy greens, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, as well as garlic, onions, and the like—and fruits “probably” protect against several types of cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, and stomach. Fruit probably also protects against lung cancer.
Data from the Nurses’ Health Studies and the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study show that women and men who increased their intakes of vegetables over a 24-year period were more likely to have lost weight than those who ate the same amount or those who decreased their intake. Soy, and cauliflower were associated with weight loss while starchier vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas were linked with weight gain. However, keep in mind that adding more produce into the diet won’t necessarily help with weight loss unless it replaces another food, such as refined carbohydrates of white bread and crackers.
Eating vegetables can also keep your eyes healthy, and may help prevent two common aging-related eye diseases—cataracts and macular degeneration—which afflict millions of Americans over age 65.