Why Are Vegetables Important to the Human Body? Eat All Your Vegetables.
It’s a directive you’ve likely heard your whole life, “Eat your vegetables!” since Mom served a side of broccoli with your meatloaf or mac-and-cheese.
Now, it’s the medical experts who encourage you to add more veggies to your diet, with the American Cancer Society advising at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day for good health.
The Harvard School of Public Health goes even further, recommending nine servings of vegetables and fruits each day. It’s enough to make you wonder exactly why vegetables are so important to human health.
Vitamins and Antioxidants
One of the main health benefits of vegetables is their high nutrient content. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that contribute to growth and the maintenance of good health. For example, many vegetables are high in potassium, which is important for healthy blood pressure.
Various vitamins, such as C and A, help keep eyes, skin, teeth and gums healthy, fight infection and promote wound healing. Perhaps most importantly, vegetables are rich in a particular group of nutrients called antioxidants, which fight cellular damage and help prevent heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart attack and Alzheimer’s disease.
Another substantial benefit of vegetables is dietary fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient found only in plant foods. As part of a healthy diet, fiber helps scour bad cholesterol out of your arteries, thus lowering your risk of heart disease.
Fiber also keeps your digestive system running smoothly, helps control your blood sugar levels and may help prevent cancer.
Vegetables are also a boon to dieters. Because they are generally low in fat and calories, you can eat a lot of them without gaining weight. If you substitute vegetables for other, higher-calorie foods in your diet, you’ll slash your calorie and fat intake, making weight management easier.
The fiber in vegetables also helps you manage your weight. Fiber makes you feel fuller for a longer period, helping you eat less overall and aiding with weight loss or maintenance.
Some vegetables are healthier than others. The Harvard School of Public Health states that potatoes — which many people consider a vegetable — actually do not count toward your daily recommended servings of vegetables.
Instead, potatoes, and often corn as well, are starchy foods more akin to a grain serving than a vegetable serving.
When choosing vegetables, keep in mind that, in general, brightly colored vegetables are higher in nutrients than less vivid choices. For example, spinach contains many more vitamins and antioxidants than iceberg lettuce.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your diet or vegetables for good health, consult your physician or a registered dietitian for more recommendations.
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack & stroke.
- Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
- Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity & type 2 diabetes
- Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help decrease bone loss.
- Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher calorie foods may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.
- Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. (sauces or seasonings may add fat, calories or cholesterol)
- Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C.
- Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils and kidney beans.
- Dietary fiber from vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fibre-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
- Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or suppliments. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephally during fetal development.
- Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
- Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy.
- Vitamin C aids in iron absorption.