You really can’t eat too many vegetables! They are a great source of fiber and are loaded with nutrients. 70% of Americans consume only 1-2 servings of vegetables daily, far below the 5 servings recommended for optimal health. Most people associate vegetables with weight loss, because they’re filling and low in calories. While eating more vegetables can aid in weight loss and help maintain a healthy weight, they have so many other important benefits. Other health benefits of adding more vegetables to your diet include:
- Less inflammation. Vegetables are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals that reduce free radicals (unstable molecules that trigger inflammation and disease in the body).
- Lower blood pressure. 50% of Americans have high blood pressure, due largely in part to a heavily processed diet. Vegetables are good sources of potassium, which helps balance sodium levels and reduce blood pressure naturally.
- Lower blood sugar. Vegetables are naturally low in simple sugars and high in fiber- this combination helps minimize blood sugar spikes after meals. They are also high in vitamins and minerals that help balance blood sugar naturally.
- Reduced risk of chronic disease. Whether it’s autoimmune, cancer, diabetes, or another chronic illness, a diet high in vegetables decreases your risk! Vegetables contain properties that fight inflammation and cellular mutations, two of the main triggers for disease.
- Better digestive health. Vegetables are high in fiber, which helps regulate bowel movements and feeds healthy bacteria in your gut. Fiber also supports diversity in your gut flora (e.g. it increases the number and variety of different microbes), which has a positive effect on digestive function and absorption of nutrients from food.
- Improved immune function. Vegetables contain vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and other nutrients that keep your immune system strong and healthy. Their positive effects on gut health also support your immune system, since 70% of the immune system lives in the gut!
Aim for 5 cups of vegetables per day, ideally a mix of raw and cooked. This seems like a lot at first, but keep in mind that a serving of veggies is only the size of your fist. Here are easy ways you can hit at least 5 servings daily:
- Have a green smoothie for a meal/snack replacement. Buy pre washed organic baby spinach, kale, or power greens, then stick the whole container in the freezer. Greens blend better when frozen, plus they keep longer. Add 2 cups of greens, 1 cup organic frozen fruit, protein powder, organic milk of choice, ice (optional), and blend.
- Include a large salad daily. This is an easy way to pack several servings of veggies into a single meal. Try the mason jar method so you can make them ahead of time without them getting soggy: https://wholefully.com/salad-in-a-jar-101/. This simply involves layering heavier ingredients on the bottom (meat, eggs, cucumbers, avocado, and other “toppings”) and lighter ingredients (lettuce or greens) on the top.
- Add kale, chard, beets greens, or other leafy greens to soups, stews, stir fries, or omelets.
- Add thinly sliced/diced, mild veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, or spinach to marinara sauces and cook thoroughly. You can blend these in at the end using an immersion blender or food processor if you prefer your marinara smooth.
- Try cauliflower “rice” (use it in any recipe calling for traditional rice) or zucchini noodles as bases for meals and replacements for rice/pasta.
- Include homemade vegetable juices daily, or a few times per week. Focus mainly on non starchy vegetables (greens, cucumber, celery, herbs) and small amounts of starchy vegetables (carrots, beets, or anything sweet) to minimize the impact on blood sugar.