Why Is it Important to Eat Vegetables?
We hear all the time that is good for us to eat vegetables and fruits but what exactly happens when we eat vegetables?
Many essential nutrients are lost when cooking vegetables so it’s always advisable to eat them raw. Studies show that more than 70% of the plants nutritional value is lost when applying heat through cooking. Freezing does the same thing and the negative effects of losing their vitamins and minerals are still present but on a lower scale.
A rational nutrition habit involves consumption of foods both from animal and vegetal origin which provides the body with the right amount of lipids, carbohydrates, protides, minerals, vitamins and, last but not least, water.
Vegetables have a lower-content in energy producing substances such as lipids and carbohydrates than the rest of foods, like dairy or other animal products. They are low-calorie foods which otherwise distinguish by a higher content of vitamins and minerals. Thus, the importance of vegetables in the diet is high enough and it must be especially important in earliest ages, which is why parents should insist more that children eat their so much hated spinach or cauliflower as they are great sources of energy, power, and life.
To stress even more over the importance of vegetables in the diet we will focus on the components.
- simple sugars
- starch (a substance reserve in most roots and tubers)
- hemicellulose (substances which are essential for building the vascular tissue, known collectively as dietary fiber)
Nutritional Values of Vegetables
The importance of vegetables in the diet is even more important since they provide almost a third of the necessary fiber if consumed daily (celery, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peppers, and peas.)
Everyone is aware that animal proteins have a much higher nutritional value, having a higher and more balanced content of essential amino acids compared to proteins from plants.
Most vegetables, especially beans, legumes, mushrooms and potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, have a relatively high content of leucine, isoleucine, and valine lysine, but less tryptophan, histidine, and methionine. It is not necessary to deepen these scientific terms that most likely will force us to seek the explanatory medical dictionary. Eating vegetables can help when the body lacks energy and you feel exhausted even though you’ve probably eaten fairly consistent food.
Lack or insufficient vegetables in the daily meal, even for a short period, may produce serious dysfunctions within metabolic processes, namely vitamin deficiency or even specific diseases such as rickets, scurvy or xerophthalmia. Generally, the average daily vitamins and minerals needed by an adult is: 3 mg of vitamin A, 400 units of vitamin D, between 50 and 150 milligrams of vitamin C, 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B1, 2 to 2.5 milligrams of vitamin B2, 2 milligrams of vitamin B6, between 2 and 3 mg of vitamin E, 0.5 mg of vitamin K, 16 to 26 mg of vitamin PP and 50 milligrams of vitamin P.
Fruits and vegetables are the main foods that provide us with the necessary vitamins for a healthy life, namely vitamin A at a rate of 60 to 80%, B group vitamins in a proportion of 20 to 30%, vitamins C and P in 80 to 100%, vitamins E and K, and also vitamin D to a lesser extent. So the importance of vegetables in the diet is high enough indeed and helps us strengthen our health.
I must say however that vegetables with starches should be consumed in smaller quantities and maybe not with the same regularity, and here I refer to potatoes (both white potatoes, and sweet potatoes), corn, peas, and the same applies also to fruit juice. These foods, although healthy, contain more calories and have a lower content of water than vegetables without starch, and fruit juice contains more sugar without being full of those fibers that you should look at any price in our food of choice.
Vitamin B complex
One of the great benefits of consuming those few daily servings of vegetables is that they offer a wide range of nutrients, including B vitamins (folate, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6), antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, quercetin, anthocyanins, and countless other phytonutrients.
B vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin B6 keep your hair strong and healthy, and that they can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss due to aging. Folic acid, in particular, contributes to the production of serotonin, therefore, can help fight depression, improve mood and vitamin B6 supports the production of dopamine, which can reduce PMS symptoms. Riboflavin and niacin are two extra vitamins that support healthy eyesight and prevent cataracts.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, and other antioxidants
Antioxidants such as vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and anthocyanins may also help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataract. Vitamin C may even help prevent bone loss and reduce fracture risk. Vitamin C helps the body produce easier the collagen, a major component of cartilage that supports joint health and flexibility. Collagen helps maintain skin and hair health and beauty. Anthocyanins and quercetin are antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects that are found most often in vegetables. Anthocyanins and quercetin may help lower the rate of memory loss due to aging and protect against arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.
Another essential vitamin found in vegetables is vitamin E, which works similar to vitamin C to maintain healthy skin during the passage of years. So vitamin E has anti-aging benefits, but also provides protection against sunlight, which we already know that is extremely harmful and can cause premature skin aging or even skin cancer. Vitamin E helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataract.
Vegetables contain beta-carotene, an element found mainly in pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables, that contributes to the growth and repair of body tissues. Beta-carotene is also a feature that helps against sun damage, although the body converts it into vitamin A.
A diet rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, another powerful carotenoid, was associated with a reduced risk of developing inflammatory disorders such as arthritis.
Magnesium, potassium, iron, fiber
Besides vitamins, vegetables contain minerals and other nutrients as well, electrolytes and fiber. Some of the minerals most commonly found in vegetables include magnesium, potassium, and iron. Magnesium and potassium help maintain blood pressure under control and supports healthy bones while magnesium soothes headaches and migraines, PMS symptoms as well as those of depression. The iron content of green leafy vegetables helps maintain a healthy hair, but more importantly, supports the proper functioning of the brain and the muscular system.
Vegetables have fewer calories
You can think of vegetables as some succulent food due to high water content. These foods are rich in water (which also contribute to daily fluid needs for hydration) have a low calorie, considering that provides water volume and that dilutes the calories.
Water, along with vegetables rich fiber content, helps you get a feeling of fullness more quickly and at a minimal calories costs, which means that vegetables are always a good choice for a weight loss diet program. And the water contained in vegetables, like the water you drink, hydrates your cells, helps eliminate toxins from the body, supports the proper functioning of organs and maintain optimal body’s energy level.
The fiber in vegetables also has many benefits, in addition, to maintaining a feeling of fullness and keep hunger under control. The fiber in foods help stabilize blood sugar, and this will help maintain a positive mood and increased energy levels. The fiber in vegetables may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, helping to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Positive health effects of vegetables
Asparagus – this vegetable can be one of the healthiest that you can eat. Asparagus is rich in protein and has few calories, contains high levels of dietary fiber. In addition, asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Asparagus can be easily inserted into your diet as it can be easily and quickly prepared (simply put it on the grill or steam it for a few minutes) to turn it into a healthy side dish. A stalk of asparagus contains only 4 calories and provides large amounts of folic acid, potassium, and fiber.
Artichokes – this is another good source of fiber and essential nutrients but also minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, folic acid, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Artichokes even support liver health and help lower cholesterol and in reducing the symptoms of dyspepsia and other digestive diseases. This vegetable can be fried, baked or boiled. If you enter this vegetable in your diet certainly will make a healthy choice.
Spinach – Spinach is a vegetable that can be easily added to your diet in a variety of ways. If you eat more spinach your body will be healthier because you’re going to bring with it a significant intake of vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, magnesium, iron, and flavonoids but lowering cancer risk. Spinach help prevents cataracts, cardiovascular disease and can be eaten both cooked and raw, in salads.
Radish– radishes are excellent sources of vitamin C, folate, and potassium. By simply slicing and seasoning salads with them, you can enjoy multiple health benefits offered by these vegetables. These include improving kidney function, decreasing the risk of triggering cancer, help with digestive problems and decrease inflammation in the body. In addition, radishes are rich in antioxidants that keep the body young.
Green onion – there are many varieties of onions, but a common one is spring onion. It can be eaten in salads, soups, and composition of certain dishes. With fewer calories, rich in potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, onion is a natural diuretic and helps in treating asthma but also lower cholesterol.
Peas – fresh spring peas can be used either cooked or raw, in salads. This vegetable with sweet and pleasant taste is rich in vitamins A, C and K, and manganese, iron, folic acid. Peas contain also other useful minerals and vitamins the body needs to function optimally. In addition, this vegetable contains fiber needed for proper digestion. Fresh peas can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-4 days.
Avocado – even if we can enjoy avocados throughout the year, it is considered a spring fruit. We know that avocado contains good fats for the body: oleic acid, monounsaturated fats that increase high-density lipoprotein, but avocado is also an excellent source of folic acid (one cup contains 23 % folic acid). In the pulp of avocado, there are present alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein. The high levels of phytonutrients from the avocados can stop oral cancer.
Celery – appearances can be deceiving when it comes to celery. But despite the gnarled look, celery is actually a very healthy vegetable. It contains vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin K, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium and manganese which are important for maintaining a healthy blood. In addition to these nutrients, celery is an excellent source of fiber with which feeling of fullness is maintained long term and will enhance the digestive system’s health.
Beets – is a vegetable that contains many phytonutrients with antioxidant properties and magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid, phosphorus, vitamin A, C, and PP. This will help to detoxify the body of toxins, but it also has an anti-inflammatory role. Beetroot acts to lower blood pressure, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and fights against iron deficiency anemia.
Tomatoes – are some of the most consumed vegetables. They contain potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E and also calcium and lycopene. People who consistently eat fewer tomatoes will not develop cardiovascular disease, depression, osteoporosis and they can prevent some types of degenerative diseases and cancers.
Green beans – green beans contain important amounts of vitamin A and C, which together contribute to maintaining a healthy immune system. In addition, beta-carotene is also found in green beans, useful in eliminating free radicals.
Basil – favored for its strong aroma and pleasant taste, basil can be added to salads, pasta, but also in the tomato sauce. It is rich in vitamin A as well as flavonoids that help protect cell structures in the body and also the chromosomes of radiation. It has been scientifically proven that people who consume more basil have lower levels of cholesterol, in their case there is less probability of having a heart attack. Also known is the role of basil in relaxing the muscles, blood vessels and improve the circulation.
How to eat more vegetables?
Leafy green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods as we found out. They are rich in nutrients and have a significant concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, folic acid and flavonoids. Chemicals in green vegetable composition act on unstable molecules (free radicals), preventing them from damaging cells of the body. Green vegetables are alkaline and rich in fiber, which is extremely beneficial for the cardiovascular health and digestive system health.
It is important to consume these vegetables in appreciable quantities, to benefit of all their qualities. Fortunately, there are various ways to incorporate healthy green vegetables in your diet – even if you don’t like salads.
Ways to include vegetable in your diet
Leaves of beets. Make a salad of beets. Bake beets until it becomes soft, then cut it into cubes. When the beet is getting ready, wash the leaves of beets with other greens and cut them. Make green onions sautéed mixture, then add the chopped beets and cooked for a little bit. Let it cool and add a little wine vinegar.
Beets omelet. Make an omelet with feta cheese and chard. Separate the roots, wash them and cut them. Finely chop the beets and cook sliced onions. After the beet is tender add the chopped leaves. Whisk some eggs, add them to the mixture of greens, beets and onions and cook, and when the eggs are almost done, add crumbled feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Greens. Use greens instead of rice paper to make rolls. Steam the greens until their texture allows you to roll them, then dry them by dabbing with a dry cloth and fill them with cooked vegetables, rice, noodles or whatever you like. Then serve them with a fat-free dressing of choice.
Cabbage. Make a Caesar salad of cabbage. Remove the cabbage leaves one by one and cuts them into thin strips. Add lemon juice and vinegar, spicy sauce or Caesar sauce. Sprinkle over cabbage leaves roasted nuts, Parmesan cheese or croutons.
Napa Cabbage. Stewed in butter with chopped mushrooms, tofu, and potatoes. Then whisk the mixture with thin strips of Napa cabbage, sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice to taste.
Steam salmon salad. Choose a few older leaves of lettuce and cook them in boiling water briefly, then remove them from the hot water and wash them under running cold water. Once softened, wrap the salmon meat with salad leaf and cook it by steaming until the salmon is tender. You can serve with rice or boiled potatoes.
Endives. Use a simple chicken soup, clear. Heat the soup and add any cooked small pasta, chopped chicory, dill, and optional, not very fatty sausages. Simmer until all ingredients are cooked. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
Leaf mustard and cereal. Caramelize onions in butter, add chopped mustard leaves and let it simmer a few minutes. Gradually add enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables or herbs. Put salt and pepper, cover pot and cook until the mixture is homogenous. Cover with groats mixture and sprinkle everything with tabasco sauce.
Dandelion leaves. An easy appetizer. Take a few slices of toast and rub them with garlic, salt, and pepper. Chopped dandelion leaves stewed in olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Spread cheese on toast and then sprinkle cooked greens. Finally, you can add, if you prefer, a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
There are a huge number of recipes you can find online or you can even experiment on your own with your favorite vegetables and find new and interesting ways to consume them daily.
In the end, we hope you have now a clear image on why it is important to eat vegetables and what role and benefits they have. Keep in mind that herbs and vegetables, along with fruits, are one of the main sources of vitamins and minerals and contribute to the daily intake of carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Moreover, they contain substances that help prevent certain cancers, cardiovascular disease or vision loss occurred with age and have many other benefits for your health. Vegetables are low in fat and cholesterol free and have a high content of water.