Five Signs You Need to Eat More Vegetables
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of a study that looked at the dietary habits of American adults. Shockingly (or perhaps not), the results showed that just one in 10 adults meet the federal recommendation for daily consumption of vegetables.
The current guidelines state that adults should eat at least two to three cups of vegetables per day. But in 2015, only 9 percent actually got this amount.
Why is this such a big deal? Well, seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US are from chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Vegetables provide countless essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help prevent these diseases and the major risk factors that lead to their development, such as high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and obesity.
Just by decreasing the amount of processed junk you put in your body and eating more vegetables, your risk of deadly diseases would plummet.
Here’s the problem though. Sometimes, you might think you’re eating plenty of vegetables, but your body is telling you otherwise. Even if you’re positive that you’re getting the “required” two to three cups per day, that may not be enough for your unique body and composition.
Here are five signs your body may be giving you that you should eat more vegetables:
1. Exhaustion or Fatigue
Vegetables provide an abundance of B vitamins, including B9 (folate). Deficiencies in these critical nutrients can cause anemia and fatigue. Foods rich in folate include dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, okra, and Brussels sprouts.
Furthermore, without all the important nutrients it needs to function at its peak, your body has to work extra hard to protect you from germs, viruses, and other environmental assaults. This ultimately can exhaust your system, in turn leaving you feeling worn out.
And of course this can lead to….
2. Interminable Infections
Does it seem like you’re always getting sick, or taking a long time to get better after catching a bug?
Lack of vegetables (and therefore immune-boosting nutrients) leads to the lack of defenses necessary for your body to fight against bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin C, for example, is known to bolster the immune system and shorten recovery time if you actually do get sick. Spinach, kale, and other dark leafy greens, broccoli, and bell peppers are vegetables rich in vitamin C.
Vitamins B6 and E are also known immunity enhancers and can be found in a variety of produce such as kale, cabbage, spinach, carrots and green peas.
Load up on a variety of these foods, especially before and during cold and flu season, to give your body a “fighting chance.”
3. Skin Problems
Consuming too few veggies can lead to a variety of skin issues including fine lines, acne, easy bruising, and a dull/lackluster appearance.
The robust water content in most veggies helps plump up your cells, which fills in spaces between them. This can help smooth out the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin C helps to protect against bruising and speeds up the healing of cuts, scrapes, and other skin injuries.
And studies show that low levels of certain nutrients can increase the risk of acne. In one study of 94 people, researchers discovered that those who suffered from acne had significantly lower amounts of vitamins A and E and zinc (which is mainly found in animal products) than the non-acne control group.
The researchers wrote, “Our study marks the importance of diet in patients with acne. We offer supportive dietary measures with foods rich in vitamin A and E and zinc in the acne prophylaxis and treatment.”
If preventing wrinkles, bruises, and acne wasn’t reason enough to load up on veggies, vitamin A (as beta-carotene) also acts like a natural sunblock, protecting against sunburn and damage. (Vegetables rich in vitamin A are winter squash, kale, collard and turnip greens, and carrots.)
Veggies contain both fiber and water, which your body needs to move waste through your digestive tract and out of your body.
Fiber is indigestible by the human digestive tract. It passes through the small intestine and arrives in the large intestine a bit puréed, but still undigested. Once there, billions of friendly bacteria take over, breaking down the fiber into prebiotics (food for the bacteria themselves) and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
Among other functions, the SCFAs help the bacteria nourish and heal the colon’s delicate lining and keep the gut operating at peak efficiency. Without sufficient fiber, this process doesn’t run as smoothly and contents remain in the gut longer than they should—the dreaded constipation.
Women should be getting 25 grams of fiber per day, and men, 35 grams. However, fewer than five percent of Americans get this amount every day. The best way to increase fiber? Eat more veggies! (In fact, the recommended two to three cups per day should get you very close to this fiber requirement.)
5. Nonstop Hunger
Besides helping to keep you regular, guess what else fiber does? It keeps you feeling full and satiated for longer stretches of time! This helps stop the “munchies” that tempt so many people to reach for unhealthy midday snacks like cookies or chips, which ultimately lead to weight gain.
If you notice that you’re feeling hungry one to two hours after you eat, try adding more vegetables to every meal. And if you do feel a pang of hunger in between meals, grab a handful of carrots, some stalks of celery, or a bunch of cucumber slices. Not only will these fiber-and nutrient-rich veggies fill you up, it’s reassuring to know that it’s nearly impossible to gain weight from eating too many vegetables.
- CDC Press Release. Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html. Last accessed August 13, 2018.
- Ozuguz P et al. Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2014 Jun;33(2):99-102. Last accessed August 14, 2018.