We have all heard about the recommended amount of healthy fruits and vegetables that we are supposed to consume each day, but do we actually consume that? On average, it’s suggested that we have 5 to 9 servings from this food group daily. But, is the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables actually beneficial to weight loss? How much do we actually need, and what does a serving of fruits and vegetables actually look like? Are there other benefits to changing our diet?
Simply put, fruits and vegetables are foods that are low in energy density, which means that they don’t have as many calories per gram compared to other foods like cookies, bacon, breads, jams, and cheeses [This means that eating more fruits and vegetables in place of those other food options reduces your calorie intake while still making you feel full. That is a great step toward weight loss.
It may surprise you to know that only 1 cup of leafy greens, or half a cup of other chopped vegetables, counts as a serving [ Meanwhile, one medium apple (or pear, orange, etc.) or a half-cup of chopped fruit counts as a serving. A large salad topped with a couple of produce ingredients can easily count as 4 or more servings of fruit and vegetables alone, and that’s only one meal! If you top your cereal with a fruit of your choice, have some fresh salsa or hummus for a snack, or even enjoy a healthy smoothie on the run, you will easily meet or exceed the recommended daily goal.
Fruit and veggies displace fat in the diet, and, by enjoying them as a part of your meal and snack options, they will ultimately keep you from overeating each day, which is a bonus! They are delicious and can be eaten in a variety of ways too. From side salads to grilled veggies (which can even be done in advance if you have a hectic schedule coming up), pre-chopped snacks or handheld items (like baby carrots or whole fruit), and the convenience of frozen produce that you can use in casseroles and smoothies, there are options for everyone and every budget .
Phytochemicals are natural plant compounds found in our foods, and they help our bodies to be healthy and resilient . More than 200 studies have shown that the phytochemicals found in produce may help combat disease in the body. This includes possibly stopping the development of carcinogens, slowing cancer cells’ growth rate, and lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death [
Fortunately, the foods that phytochemicals are found in are common fruits and vegetables that we have in our meals anyway, so it’s not difficult to get your servings in on a regular basis! Some common examples include berries, citrus fruit, orange vegetables, tomatoes, red grapes, onions, garlic, and even whole grains . These fruits and vegetables are not hard to find, and grocery stores have a variety of conveniently packed options to fit your lifestyle. Whether you like them canned, fresh, or frozen there is always an option for you!
Benefits of Eating Fruits and Vegetables
High in Fiber
Both fruits and vegetables contain a lot of fiber, which will keep your digestive system happy, and it will keep you feeling full for longer periods of time! Not only will you feel satisfied after having a fiber-rich meal or snack, but you also won’t have those hunger pangs and cravings sneak in a short time later. As an added bonus, fiber has also been linked to lowered cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation, in addition to improved immune function .
Low in Calories
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories. This means they are perfect to help fill you up, and you won’t ruin your diet consuming them!
Reduces Your Risk for Disease
We’ve already mentioned several benefits against disease that are associated with eating fruits and vegetables. Consuming them on a daily basis won’t automatically rule out disease, but it can definitely cut down your chances of falling ill. A recent study by a team of researchers from Norway, the U.S., and Britain concluded that not only did 5 servings of fruit and vegetables reduce the risk of disease, but that 10 daily servings gave the greatest benefit .
Loaded With Vitamins and Minerals
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential to better health and higher energy levels in the long run. Research has suggested that produce such as apples, citrus, salads, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale) will give the highest protection against heart disease and stroke . However, produce with higher levels of fiber will assist more when managing cholesterol levels, inflammation, and immune function issues. Cruciferous vegetables, green vegetables and yellow-orange vegetables (peppers, sweet potatoes, and carrots) are those most likely to help prevent cancer.
When it comes down to it, there are absolutely no negatives to eating more fruits and vegetables. While it is important not to overdo it on fruit due to its natural sugar, you can’t really overdo it with veggies. Both will give you wonderful benefits with their natural vitamins and minerals, which are vital to healthy living, and both are low in calories. There are endless options for handheld fruits and vegetables that can be packed as quick snacks, and also plenty of options for cut, steamed, and prepared fruits and vegetables to accompany meals. This will not only help boost your body’s overall wellness and protection against disease, but it will also support your ongoing weight loss.
If you have children, it can be tricky to get them to eat their vegetables without a fight. It is easy to sneak veggies into casseroles, sauces, smoothies, and meatloaf dishes without them even suspecting! Try it out, and they too will reap the benefits without even knowing it!