Though the most of us know that eating vegetables is healthy, we may not know why a diet rich in vegetable nutrition is so critical to long term health. Overwhelming evidence shows that there are significant benefits to getting five or more daily servings of vegetables. In terms of nutrition, variety is as important as quantity, as different vegetables provide slightly different nutrients and benefits. The USDA places vegetables in five different categories. These include dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, and starchy vegetables, with the remaining falling into the “other” category. To maximize your intake of nutrients, choose from each of the five subgroups of vegetables regularly. While a minimum of five servings may sound high, it equates to about 3 cups of vegetables daily.
There are so many excellent reasons to maximize nutritional intake with vegetables, yet the average American eats two servings or less of vegetables daily. Low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, vegetables should be the cornerstone of our daily nutrient intake and constitute the bulk of the diet by volume. Epidemiological studies have closely linked either health or chronic illness to diet. Skimping on vegetables means missing out on easily obtainable health benefits, as research has shown that those with diets that contain abundant amounts of veggies are 20% less likely to develop serious health conditions, and are more likely to enjoy long term healthy cellular aging.
Phytonutrients are plant-derived chemical compounds that have protective properties, which directly contribute to health promotion and disease prevention. In fact, there are almost as many healthy components in vegetables as there are varieties to choose from. A diet rich in vegetables can support healthy blood pressure, reduce heart disease and stroke risk, prevent some types of cancer, lower the risk of eye and digestive issues, and positively affect blood sugar. Plus, there are other benefits that may surprise you:
- For healthier and more youthful looking skin, phytonutrients help to prevent unwanted signs of aging and help to keep skin supple. Antioxidants guard against premature aging by preventing cell damage caused by stress, sun exposure, and environmental toxins. The high-water content helps to hydrate the skin and reduce fine lines. Vitamin C aids in collagen formation and beta carotene gives the skin a healthy glow.
- The fiber content keeps the digestive system on track and reduces belly bloat caused by a typical high sodium diet. Rich in potassium and water, veggies help to eliminate excess sodium, counteracting bloat and restoring normal fluid balance. If you are not used to eating a lot of vegetables, increase consumption gradually to give your digestive system time to acclimate to a higher amount of fiber.
- Dark leafy greens provide highly bioavailable forms of nutrients such as vitamin D and K, magnesium, calcium and potassium, which work synergistically to keep bones strong and healthy. Two cups of dark leafy greens count as one cup of vegetables, so you can really fill up on these low calorie, good for you greens.
- If you are looking to reduce stress, consume more vegetables. Magnesium helps to balance cortisol, the stress hormone. Together potassium and magnesium help to keep blood pressure down and relax blood vessels. Stress depletes the body of magnesium and vitamin C, which can be restored with veggies. Omega-3 fats and B vitamins help to fight anxiety and depression. Vitamin K can help to reduce inflammation.
- Plant sterols and stanols, naturally fatty substances found in plant foods, help to gradually reduce LDL cholesterol by competing with cholesterol for absorption in the small intestine.
- Research has shown that phytosterols help to control and regulate aspects of the immune system by selectively enhancing the activity of beneficial immune cells, while inhibiting the response of those that cause inflammation. As sterols are bound to plant fiber, which makes absorption difficult, supplementation is the simplest way to get therapeutic amounts of these beneficial compounds.
What about those who don’t enjoy vegetables? If you are struggling to get enough vegetables into your diet, try adding vegetables to foods you already like, or add them to smoothies, salads, sandwiches, soups, stews or pizza toppings. Powdered vegetable formulas provide a quick and easy way to get the full amount of daily veggies. Increasing your intake will enhance your antioxidant capacity and support immune system health. While fruits are also very important to overall health, we likely didn’t need encouragement from Mom to eat our apples and oranges. To maintain good health and support overall healthy aging, strive to get at least two and one half cups of vegetables and two cups, or approximately two pieces, of fruit daily.
To help you on your quest to consume more phytonutrients, Professional Supplement Center offers the following products:
Power Greens Espresso by NuMedica: This great tasting, energizing, easy to mix phytonutrient powdered formula provides certified organic, whole food plant extracts. Power Greens is a high ORAC value blend of natural vitamins, minerals, ionic trace minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and symbiotic microflora to support maximum energy, metabolism, digestion, immunity, repair, recovery, revitalization and recovery. Natural coffee espresso and vanilla flavors. Gluten free, vegetarian formulation. Berry, Chocolate and Mint also available.
ON SALE Field of Greens by Vibrant Health: This 100% certified organic raw food powdered supplement provides a unique blend of green foods that are gently processed and freeze dried to maintain maximum nutritional value. This broad-based, nutrient dense concentrated plant product helps to detoxify, regenerate and energize. Gluten free.
Delicious Greens 8000 Berry Flavor by Greens World, Inc.: If you’re looking for a great tasting way to get your fill of vegetables each day, Delicious Greens is made with certified organic vegetables and fruits, enzymes, probiotics, natural fibers, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more. Natural sweetness with no added sugar, this blend provides overall nutritional and immune supportive benefits. Lactose, filler and preservative free, vegan formulation.
Greens First® Kids Berry by Greens First: Packed with a variety of organic superfoods, fruits, vegetables and flax seeds, as well as digestive enzymes and pre- and probiotics, this delicious, energizing formula provides a quick, easy nourishing way to give kids the nutrition they need to start the day. This 100% organic, Non-GMO, gluten, wheat, soy and dairy free, vegan formulation mixes easily with juice or water or can be mixed and frozen to make a healthy, refreshing treat. Organic strawberry/blueberry flavor. Also available in Chocolate and Original flavors.
Green Superfood Capsule by Amazing Grass: For those who want all the benefits of green superfoods in an easy to swallow capsule, this product provides a powerful blend of nutritious greens, phytonutrient packed fruits, veggies and cereal grasses, digestive enzymes, and probiotics in support of energy production, detoxification and immune health. Gluten free, Non-GMO vegan formulation.
Daily Greens by Progressive Labs: This daily greens blend provides green superfoods, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, seeds, tea extracts, digestive enzymes, adaptogens, and medicinal mushrooms in support of energy production, immune, digestive and overall health, and a healthy inflammatory response.
How Many Fruits & Veggies Should You Eat a Day? http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/many-fruits-veggies-should-eat-day-3324.html
Plant sterols and stanols (phytosterols). https://heartuk.org.uk/cholesterol-and-diet/healthy-eating/plant-sterols-and-stanols
Vegetables and Fruits. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/
Healthy Vegetable Nutrition. http://www.almanac.com/content/vegetable-nutrition-facts
Here are 10 pictures of Your Daily Recommended Servings of Fruits and Vegetables. http://www.thekitchn.com/10-photos-that-show-you-your-daily-recommended-servings-of-fruits-vegetables-207261