A growing body of research shows that eating your vegetables might be more important to your health than you thought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that most Americans don’t consume the recommended four to five daily servings of vegetables, which might explain why nutrients such as the dietary fiber and certain vitamins and minerals common to vegetables also are underconsumed. If you’re among those who don’t eat enough vegetables, these ongoing nutritional deficiencies might affect your short- and long-term health.
Weight Gain and Malnutrition
Because vegetables should form a large part of your diet, their absence might be filled by higher-calorie foods that promote weight gain and nutrient imbalances. Eating more animal-based foods and fried snack products, for instance, increases your caloric and fat intake. The narrower range of vitamins and minerals in these foods compared with vegetables could leave you deficient in potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and K. Attendant health problems include high blood pressure and night blindness. Becoming overweight increases your risk for many chronic diseases.
Vegetables are major sources of dietary fiber, a food element considered beneficial to digestive quality. The National Institutes of Health links low fiber intake to digestion problems that include constipation and diverticular diseases. Chronic constipation can cause hemorrhoids and tissue damage. Diverticulitis and diverticulosis can cause pain, infection and colon damage that might require surgical treatment.
Among the research that associates low vegetable intake with heart disease, a 2010 study published in “Circulation” found a correlation between low childhood intake and adult arterial disease. The arterial stiffness recorded is characteristic of atherosclerosis, a potential precursor to heart attacks and strokes.
Additional Chronic Diseases
Nutrient and caloric imbalances might contribute to the development of other health conditions, including obesity, a risk factor for disease in its own right. According to a 2005 study published in “Preventing Chronic Disease” in May 2011, participants who routinely ate less than four half-cup servings of vegetables per day had an increased incidence of Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, in addition to increased cardiovascular risk.
- USDA; Dietary Guidelines for Americans; December 2010
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry: Malnutrition; June 2008
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Constipation; July 2007
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis; July 2008