We all know vegetables are good for health, yet most people fail to eat enough. Did you know that in the US, one in four people reports eating vegetables less often than once a day[i]?
A diet that is low in fresh natural food can lead to weight gain and other health problems – read on to find out the many health benefits of vegetables, and how they can help you lose weight.
Natural food is best
Humans are designed to eat a variety of food. Our cave dwelling ancestors included vegetables, nuts and seeds in their diet, as well as meat and fish.
Our modern diets are dramatically different – much of the food we eat is processed, and in recent years the consumption of fruits and vegetables has declined. This switch from natural foods to processed foods has dramatically impacted on our general health. Obesity levels have skyrocketed, Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, cancer and cardiovascular disease are now common causes of premature death.
The good news is that you can dramatically improve your health, and lose weight, by including more fresh vegetables in your diet. Lets find out how.
Vegetables And Your Health
Vegetables play a vitally important role in maintaining a healthy body. They are packed full of essential nutrients:
B Vitamins are important for energy production, they help cells turn food into energy, and improve metabolism.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps the body make use of protein.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) maintains healthy skin, hair, nails and eyes.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) helps to lower cholesterol levels, and also improves digestion.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and B9 (folic acid) are essential for brain and nerve function.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a natural anti-depressant. It’s also a diuretic, and helps the body balance its fluid levels[ii].
Vitamin C supports the immune system, fights infections and is essential for healing. It helps the body make collagen, promoting healthy skin, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments.
Magnesium helps keep muscles healthy and relaxed.
Manganese helps to form healthy bones, tissues and nerves, and maintains good brain function.
Anatioxidants are present in all vegetables. They protect your cells from free radicals from the environment, processed or junk foods, and the various chemicals you come into contact with daily through toiletries, detergents, food additives etc. They also strengthen your immune system, protecting you from infections and cancer.
Vegetables and weight loss
But the vitamins contained in vegetables do more than just improve your health. Certain vitamins and minerals can help your body turn food into energy rather than fat more efficiently. For example, zinc and vitamin B6 help your body to make insulin, which converts glucose from food into energy. Chromium helps insulin to control blood sugar levels, which in turn helps control weight. B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium help turn glucose into energy rather than fat[iii]. Vitamin C also helps your body produce enough L-Carnitine, an amino acid that plays an important role in fat and energy metabolism[iv].
In addition to these essential vitamins and minerals, vegetables contain dietary fiber and water. Fiber slows down the absorption of glucose from food, which means your blood sugar levels are more stable. Fiber also helps digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. This reduces cravings and helps normalize hunger, leading to weight loss.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating a larger amount of vegetables lead to greater short-term weight loss, and better hunger satisfaction[v]. The study also found that participants who increased the proportion of vegetables in their diet noticed an improvement in energy levels.
Adding More Vegetables To Your Diet
So there you have it, increasing your consumption of vegetables will not only help you become healthier, it’ll also help you lose excess weight. The good news is that it’s easy to add vegetables to your diet. Here are a few tips to help you include more vegetables into your day:
Make small changes
it’s more sustainable than trying to change your entire diet at once. Gradually increase your vegetable portions over a few weeks and months, until you are eating 5-8 servings or more of vegetables a day.
Fill Half Your Plate With Vegetables
Instead of carbohydrates like white pasta – this is an easy visual aid to ensure you’re getting enough of these health-giving foods.
These can be made using just vegetables and stock and seasoned with fresh herbs. If you like your soup smooth and creamy, you can blitz it with a wand or a blender before serving and add a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of cream.
Even in the depths of winter, a salad can brighten up your day. Choose from the wide variety of vegetables to create vibrant colorful tasty salads that will boost your energy and satisfy your hunger. Use home made dressings of olive oil, vinegar and herbs instead of shop bought sauces, which often contain hidden sugars.
A mid-afternoon snack of home made hummus, bean or avocado dip with carrot or celery sticks will keep you energized until dinnertime.
If you want the benefit of eating tons of vegetables without having to chew through a mountain of produce, vegetable juicing is the way to go. Vegetable juices are packed full of vitamins and provide an instant energy boost.
Top 3 Vegetables For Health And Weight Loss
This vibrant root vegetable boasts high levels of manganese, as well as folic acid. Beetroot contains compounds called betaines, which reduce your body’s levels of homocysteine. A study at the University of Bergen in Norway found that high levels of homocysteine were linked with higher risk of diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s[vi]. Eating beetroot can help lower your homocysteine levels, and protect you from these potential health problems. Add cooked beetroot to salads or juice raw beetroot for a health boosting drink.
Watercress contains high concentrations of potassium, which has diuretic properties[vii] and can help reduce water retention and boost weight loss. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, and vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that watercress reduces the risk of certain cancers due to its high antioxidant content[viii]. Add it to salads for a peppery kick.
The humble mushroom contains many essential nutrients, especially energy boosting B vitamins. Shitake mushrooms are also high in selenium and copper, which help maintain good mental health. Meitake mushrooms contain a lot of vitamin D, which is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Mushroom omelet anyone?
Improve Your Overall Health With Vegetables
One of the best ways to improve your health and lose weight is to add more vegetables to your diet – aim to eat at least 5-8 portions a day.
The vitamins and minerals they contain will support your body from the inside, helping you to feel more energized. Eating more vegetables will also help you slim down by balancing your blood sugar levels and keeping you fuller for longer. What vegetables will you have for dinner tonight?
[ii] Holford, Patrick; The Optimum Nutrition Bible; GB, Piatkus Books (2009); pages 475-478
[iii] Holford, Patrick; The Optimum Nutrition Bible; GB, Piatkus Books (2009); page 322