The #1 Surprising Reason You Should Eat More Veggies, Dietitian Says — Don’t Eat This That

Vegetables are ironically America’s least eaten, but most recommended healthy food group. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, along with MyPlate guidelines, recommend that adults following a 2,000-calorie diet consume a minimum of 2½ cups of vegetables per day. Unfortunately, as many as 90 percent of us fall short of this recommendation. One serving is equivalent to two cups of raw leafy greens or just one cup of all other fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables.

Nutritionists suspect that two main reasons vegetables are under-consumed are due to taste and convenience. When considering all products, vegetables tend to have a bitter taste compared to the sweetness of fruits. Vegetables are also usually not eaten on their own, but instead enjoyed after cooking or prepping, increasing the amount of time from the refrigerator, pantry, or freezer to the plate. In addition, vegetables are less common in the restaurant environment: they are rarely found on fast food menus and are not a top priority for casual dining. This creates a small, but meaningful barrier to achieving optimal vegetable intake.

So why make it a point to overcome these little obstacles to eat more vegetables? Research shows that several vegetables provide advanced protection against chronic diseases, so it is critical for you to have these in your diet. This disease-protective effect is enhanced when we choose a variety of vegetables every day with a diverse assortment of colors and types. This has been repeatedly demonstrated through a mix of systematic reviews, meta-analyses, observational studies and interventional studies.

Read on for some major chronic diseases that can be prevented, delayed, or controlled by adequate vegetable intake, and for more information on how to eat healthily, don’t miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Science says.

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Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, according to 2019 data. A 2018 meta-analysis of 69 prospective studies in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher dietary intakes and/or blood concentrations of vitamin C, carotenoids, and alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) were associated with reduced cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause death. These nutrients and compounds are normally more abundant with adequate vegetable intake. Vegetables are also typically good sources of potassium, which is linked to better blood pressure control.

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Respected cancer organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) are advocating for increased vegetable consumption. The AICR has developed a “New American Plate” concept that encourages a plant-based dietary approach, including two-thirds of every meal as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. The ACS credits vegetables for likely reducing cancer risk thanks to its vitamin, mineral and fiber content, along with vegetables’ high water and low-calorie contribution, aiding weight management efforts.

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1.4 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in 2019 and 1.5 million people are predicted to be diagnosed with diabetes by 2022. Understanding which eating habits can help stop this momentum is critical. A 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation included a review of 23 articles and found higher intakes of green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, or their fiber were associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. One promising nutritional message for people with diabetes is to eat a constant amount of carbohydrates, consume generous amounts of fiber, include fruits and vegetables in the diet regularly, and avoid excess added sugars.

RELATED: 5 Best Leafy Greens You Should Be Eating Every Day, Dietitians Say

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Another meta-analysis, this time featured in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology In 2019, 18 prospective cohort studies identified and found a healthy diet, including diets that encouraged high vegetable consumption, was associated with a lower incidence of chronic kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation urges higher intakes of plant foods such as vegetables to help prevent and slow the progression of chronic kidney disease.

RELATED: The #1 Best Diet to Protect Your Kidneys, New Study Says:

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a Nationally Recognized Registered Dietitian. read more

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