You know veggies are good for you. You know you should probably eat more of them.
You know veggies are good for you. You know you should probably eat more of them. Plenty of studies show that a higher vegetable intake is associated with leanness, more energy, better sleep, a more positive mood and a stronger immune system, not to mention a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Yet just 1 in 10 adults eats the recommended two and a half to three cups of vegetables daily.
What happens when you don’t eat enough vegetables? Your body tells you what it needs if you just listen. Following are some signs that your body wants more vegetables.
You bruise easily. Consuming too little vitamin C can cause you to bruise easily. It also can cause increased bleeding around your gums and slower healing times. Vitamin C helps with healing and collagen production. Get vitamin C in red peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli and tomatoes. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient for proper blood clotting and cell growth. Vegetables that are a good source of vitamin K include dark leafy greens, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
You are tired all the time. A folate deficiency can cause fatigue and anemia. This important B vitamin can be found in dark leafy greens; kidney and lima beans; and asparagus. Magnesium also helps with energy production. You can find magnesium in avocadoes, black beans, edamame and, once again, leafy greens. You are constipated. A diet consisting mostly of white grains, cheese, red meat and lots of processed foods is a sure bet for constipation. Most veggies are a good source of fiber, which helps keep you regular. Avocados, broccoli, brussels sprouts and many other vegetables are high in fiber. A general rule is the darker the vegetable, the more fiber it has.
You are always hungry. If you find you are hungry again just an hour or two after eating, you probably aren’t eating enough fiber. Fiber helps fill your belly and slows down digestion time, making your body feel full longer.
You keep getting sick. If you aren’t getting all the nutrients you need, your immune system may not be able to fight off illness. Vegetables provide anti-inflammatory nutrients that help your body fight stress. Vitamins C, B6, E, A and D, as well as iron, selenium and zinc, all play important roles in your immune system functions. Good vegetable sources for these nutrients include spinach, broccoli, potatoes, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes and garlic.
Your skin looks dull, and you have frequent breakouts. Many of us are chronically dehydrated. Vegetables are 87 percent to 92 percent water. The extra water you’ll get from eating more vegetables can plump up your cells, helping smooth lines and wrinkles and improve your complexion. Antioxidants, found in beta carotene, and vitamins C, E, and A help curb damage from free radicals that can harm skin cells and accelerate aging. Eat more carrots, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers to help your skin stay healthy.
You are forgetful. The nutrient lutein enhances learning, memory and cognitive skills. You can find lutein in corn, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins. Various phytochemicals found in all kinds of vegetables can help combat brain fog and confusion.
You are gaining weight. The best thing about vegetables? They are mostly water and have only 10 to 50 calories per serving. That means you can eat a lot of them and be full on very few calories. If you aren’t eating vegetables, you are probably filling up on low-nutrient, high-calorie foods that are making your weight hard to control. Substitute vegetables for some of those carbs. Use zucchini “noodles” in place of pasta or riced cauliflower instead of white rice. Or try a portobello mushroom “bun” for that burger. Doing so will increase your fiber and nutrients as well as decrease your calories.
You have high blood pressure. Foods high in potassium can help lower blood pressure, counteract a high-sodium diet and keep your blood vessels pliable. Vegetables high in potassium include potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, spinach and broccoli.
You are prone to muscle cramps. This may be a sign that you aren’t getting enough potassium in your diet. Potassium was identified in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as a nutrient of concern that needs to be increased. The recommended daily amount is 4,700 milligrams. The average American is getting just a little more than 2,600 milligrams daily.
Work more vegetables into your daily diet, starting with breakfast. Try an omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, onion and any other vegetable that appeals to you. Adding a side salad full of veggies to lunch or dinner is a good choice. Prep raw veggies to have on hand for snacks. All veggies are good veggies; some are just richer in nutrients than others. But remember, they are only good for you if you actually eat them.