The Benefits of Vegetables

The many benefits of vegetables result in increased health and prevention of illness. Eating vegetables is one of the best, easiest, and most appetizing ways to improve your health.

Vegetables are high in nutrition and fiber, low in calories. Some vegetables are filling, others light; some are high in protein. A diet high in vegetables helps prevent common chronic diseases and can even reverse them. Vegetables increase antioxidant activity in the body, help detoxify the body, and frequently have unique medicinal value.

Taste and Nutrition Benefits of Vegetables

Fresh Vegetables

Vegetables are low-calorie and high-nutrient--a beneficial combination, and the opposite of junk food! Virtually every weight-loss diet allows, encourages, and even promotes vegetables. Low-calorie, high-nutrient food was the food of our distant ancestors, the diet that our bodies were designed for. Junk food is (very) high in calories and (very) low in nutrients.

Vegetables are high in fiber. Fiber prevents colon cancer and many other diseases. Dr. Denis Burkitt, MD, who studied traditional people in Africa, found the traditional African diet had several times the amount of fiber than Western diets. Africans who ate traditional diets had virtually no gut disease; no appendicitis, diverticulosis, or cancer. Adding extra vegetables to an American diet can help many kinds of gut problems, especially constipation, and is associated with the prevention of cancer.

Starchy vegetables satisfy hunger: potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips, winter squash. Starchy vegetables are complex carbohydrates. They can make a whole meal, fill up a big appetite, substitute for junk food, and even help quench a sugar addiction. Healthy fats such as butter, flax seed oil, or coconut oil make starchy vegetables even more satisfying and make the nutrients available to the body.

Other vegetables are refreshing and cooling, ideal for light summer meals: cucumbers, celery, salads, avocados, tomatoes, wheatgrass juice.

Some vegetables are high in protein. These include beans, lentils, and sea vegetables (seaweed and algae).

Health Benefits of Vegetables

Many studies show that a diet of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and fish prevents common chronic diseases. One review study identified these preventable diseases as including coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.

A diet based on fruit and vegetables can even reverse common chronic diseases in the studies discussed in the review. In a more recent study, a three-month change in diet, with other lifestyle changes, for men with early prostate cancer, controlled the expression of some 500 genes related to cancer: cancer-promoting genes turned off, cancer-fighting genes turned on. Other studies have measured improvement in heart disease and diabetes.

Eating fruit and vegetables improves enzyme and antioxidant activity in the body. A major study on this is known as the 6-a-day Study from the campaign by the Danish government to promote six servings of fruit and vegetables per day. The study showed that eating fruit and vegetables is superior to taking the isolated vitamins and minerals contained in the same amount of fruit and vegetables.

Vegetables help detoxify the body. Paul Pitchford writes in Healing With Whole Foods that the "toxin neutralizers" of Chinese medicine include Swiss chard, radishes, and turnips (all cruciferous vegetables) and the following legumes: tofu, mung beans, aduki beans, black soybeans. Many studies have been done about Brassica vegetables and their ability to increase and improve the detoxification of carcinogens and other toxins.

Vegetables can be medicinal. Just a few examples: Some vegetables, like garlic and onion, are antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal. Cabbage juice is used to heal stomach ulcers. Onions have an antihistamine property that can suppress allergic reactions. Many books are available about the healing uses of vegetables.

Why Vegetables?

Vegetables can be enjoyed both for their own sake and as a component of a healthy lifestyle. Can healthy vegetables as part of a lifestyle change add up to disease remission? Yes!

But studies show that benefits of vegetables also result from just a few small servings a day. Go ahead and take advantage of all that healthy vegetables can offer you!

More Information

Journal of Applied Physiology: Effects of exercise and diet on chronic disease
"This review will provide evidence that when daily physical activity of 1 h is performed in combination with a natural food diet, high in fiber-containing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and naturally low in fat, containing abundant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, the vast majority of chronic disease may be prevented."

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The 6-a-day Study: effects of fruit and vegetables on markers of oxidative stress and antioxidative defense in healthy nonsmokers

Jon Barron: Lifestyle Changes Alter Cancer Genes

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention