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6 Reasons to Eat Your Vegetables

By Jude Buglewicz
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If you're like most Americans, you're probably eating only three servings of fruits and vegetables a day, if that. Big mistake. Research shows that the more veggies you consume daily, the better off you'll be, in terms of overall health and body weight. Aim for five to nine or even 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Here are six reasons why.

Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Helps you lose weight. Since fruits and vegetables have a lot of fiber, the more of them you eat, the fuller you feel. The beauty is that they're low in calories, so you wind up satisfying your appetite without exceeding your daily calorie allotment. Recent studies show that increasing your fiber intake by as little as 14 grams a day can result in weight loss of just over 4 pounds in 4 months. It's the fiber in the fruits and veggies that does it, which is why it's better to eat the whole carrot or apple than to drink carrot or apple juice. (See Steve Edwards' "The Whole Fruit and Nothing but the Fruit" in Related Articles below.)

  2. Vegetables 2Fights cancer. In a comprehensive review of the best research on fruits, vegetables, and cancer by an agency for the World Health Organization, the authors concluded that eating more vegetables "probably lowers the risk of cancers of the esophagus and colon-rectum" and "possibly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, stomach, larynx, lung, ovary, and kidney." Cooking certain veggies increases the body's ability to absorb cancer-fighting antioxidants—especially carotenoids (found in carrots). In fact, your body can absorb up to five times more carotenoids from cooked and mashed carrots than it can from raw carrots, according to a study led by Dr. Sue Southon of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich.

  3. Vegetables 1Promotes heart health. A 14-year-long Harvard study of nurses and other health professionals found that the more fruits and vegetables a person ate daily, the lower that person's chances were of developing heart-related health problems like heart attack and stroke. People who ate more than eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 30 percent less likely to have cardiovascular problems. For every extra fruit or vegetable serving a person ate each day, that person's heart disease risk dropped by 4 percent.

  4. Vegetables 3Lowers cholesterol. According to a study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people who ate more than four servings of fruits and vegetables a day had much lower levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol than those who ate fewer servings.

  5. Reduces bowel problems. The fiber in fruits and vegetables relieves constipation and helps prevent diverticulosis and colon disease.

  6. BroccoliImproves vision. Eating your vegetables may help prevent vision problems associated with aging. The antioxidants in veggies (particularly dark-green leafy ones) fight damage from free radicals that harm the eyes and can lead to the development of cataracts (clouding of the eye's lens) and macular degeneration (damage to the center of the retina).

Sources: Howarth, NC, Saltzman, E, Roberts SB. "Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Energy density of foods affects energy intake across multiple levels of fat content in lean and obese women." Am J Clin Nutr 2001:73:1010-1018. Vainio H, Bianchini F. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention: Fruit and Vegetables. Vol. 8 Lyon, France, 2003. Southon, S. Knockout broccoli fights cancer. New Scientist 5 April 2003: 25. Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, et al. "Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease." J Natl Cancer Inst 2004; 96:1577-84. Djousse L, Arnett DK, Coon H, Province MA, Moore LL, Ellison RC. "Fruit and vegetable consumption and LDL cholesterol: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study." Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:213-7.

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