Eating more fresh vegetables is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health. A vegetable-rich diet can help protect you from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and can even help slow down your body's aging process. A recent study found that people who consume seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day have a 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat less than one portion-and vegetables have the greatest impact. But vegetables can also benefit you in some surprising ways. Did you know that certain vegetables can help reduce bloating, and others can give your skin a more youthful glow? They can even improve how you handle stress-and adapting to stress is critically important to your mental and physical health.
Veggies for that youthful glow: Vegetables hydrate your skin, which can help reduce wrinkles. Not only are some vegetables 85 to 95 percent water, but they also contain a plethora of phytonutrients that help guard against aging by preventing cell damage from stress, ultraviolet light, and environmental toxins.7 Vitamin C, abundant in tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, and others, aids in collagen formation. Brightly colored red and orange vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and winter squash, give you beta-carotene and help protect your skin from sun damage. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which acts as a natural sunscreen. A Scottish study involving college students suggests that fruit and vegetable consumption may even increase your attractiveness! Researchers found that the pigments (carotenoids) in many fruits and vegetables impart a warm glow "sufficient to convey perceptible improvements in the apparent healthiness and attractiveness of facial skin." Vegetables make you appear more healthy and beautiful!
Vegetables build healthy bones: Fresh vegetables are like rock stars when it comes to bone health. They offer highly bioavailable forms of calcium, magnesium, silica, and a host of other minerals that work synergistically to build strong, healthy bones. One of the fat-soluble vitamins playing a critical role in bone health is vitamin K2, as its primary function is to move calcium into the proper areas (teeth and bones). Vitamin K2 also helps direct calcium away from areas where it can cause problems, such as your arteries and soft tissues. One of the best sources of vitamin K2 is fermented vegetables made with a special starter culture designed to optimize this nutrient. Fennel is also very good for your bones-the seeds in particular. Research has shown that eating the seeds of the fennel plant has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density, as well as bone mineral content. Researchers found that fennel seeds show potential in preventing bone loss in postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Tips for selecting the best vegetables: If you want your vegetables to have the highest nutritional density, take a look at my list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables. Generally speaking, the greener the vegetable, the more nutritious it will be. I strongly advise you to avoid wilted vegetables, because they lose much of their nutritional value. It is wise to eat a variety of dark green leafy vegetables, plus other vividly colored veggies (purple, red, yellow, and orange) to make sure you receive a broad range of those powerful plant nutrients. Eating foods that are in season, especially in your local area, will help ensure they are fresh and at peak nutritional value, as well as typically being less expensive.
The writer is a nutritionist