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National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month – The Benefits Of Vegetables

Did you know June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month? With the official start of summer just around the corner, we will soon have even more delicious fruits and vegetables to enjoy. As you know, fresh fruits and vegetables boast healthful benefits, but here are a few reasons why you might want to increase your vegetable intake:

  • Do you eat enough vegetables? – Nine out of ten Americans don’t consume an adequate amount of vegetables. At least 2.5 cups a day is good, however, you may want to aim higher and try to cover half your plate with vegetables (and/or fruits). Apply this to all meals and don’t forget that veggies make great snacks, too!
  • Veggies help slash calories – A majority of vegetables are mostly water and average a measly 10-50 calories per serving. Just try to avoid dousing them in dressing, sauce, butter, or oils. A great way to get more veggies is to swap white rice with cauliflower rice or trade pasta for zucchini spirals.
  • Can veggies protect your heart and brain? – Research shows that veggies are efficient in protecting your blood vessels. A recent meta-analysis of up to 20 studies on up to a million people showed that individuals who consumed about 3 cups of vegetables daily had roughly a 30% lower risk of heart disease and stroke in comparison to those who did not.
  • Veggies may lower the risk of breast cancer – Studies lead us to believe that vegetables may help prevent some cancers but not others. For example, a pooled analysis of 20 studies of nearly a million women found that vegetables were not linked to the most common breast tumors (estrogen-positive). In addition, it was noted that the women who ate the most vegetables (at least 14oz/day) had a 15% lower risk of estrogen-negative breast cancer than those who ate only 5 ounces. Because estrogen-negative tumors have lower survival rates, prevention is very important.
  • Veggies may protect your eyes – Many vegetables, namely leafy greens, are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are the only carotenoids in the lens and retina. They absorb damaging light and protect against oxidation. More research is necessary, however, a study of about 100,000 individuals conducted over 25 years showed that those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40% lower risk of advanced macular degeneration than those who consumed the least. A similar study reported an 18% lower risk of cataracts in women who ate the most lutein.
  • Veggies add additional potassium – In case you don’t get enough potassium (4700mg/day), vegetables can help you meet the requirement. Potassium helps to lower blood pressure and may also make blood vessels less stiff. This may explain why individuals who eat more vegetables have a lower risk of stroke.
  • Leafy greens may help lower your risk of diabetes – More studies are necessary, but magnesium may help with the control of blood sugar. This could be why some studies have shown that people who eat more leafy greens have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Veggies may help to preserve your bones – It may be a bit too early to tell how or if veggies help to keep bones strong, but pooled data on approximately 142,000 Europeans and U.S. residents aged 60 or older who ate no more than one serving of vegetables a day had a 12% higher risk of hip fracture than those who averaged about 2-3 servings.
  • Veggies are delicious – Plain and simple. You can prepare them in various ways, it’s just a matter of finding your preference and increasing your intake.
  • All veggies are good veggies – While some veggies are richer in nutrients than others, they all boast their own individual nutritional benefits. Here are the top veggie sources of these eight different nutrients:
  • Folate: frisee, asparagus, romaine lettuce, spinach, turnip greens
  • Fiber: artichoke, peas, avocado, lima beans, jicama
  • Vitamin C: red bell pepper, broccoli, green bell pepper, green chili pepper, Brussels sprouts
  • Beta-carotene: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, mustard greens, spinach
  • Lutein: spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, radicchio
  • Magnesium: spinach, Swiss chard, lima beans, artichoke, peas
  • Vitamin K: mustard greens, spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens
  • Potassium: sweet potato, lima beans, Swiss chard, spinach, Portobello mushrooms

What are your favorite vegetables and/or veggie recipes? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest!

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