Don't think of vegetables merely as rabbit food — these plants are real powerhouses when it comes to nutrients. If you're someone who is constantly saying, "I don't eat fruits or vegetables," you should take note of the many benefits these foods have to offer.
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Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables
See, your parents were on to something when they made you finish your broccoli at dinner or take an apple in your lunch to school. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients your body needs to function at its best. If you're not consuming them, you're increasing your risk of deficiencies and diseases.
A diet without fruits and vegetables is nearly always going to be unhealthy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture emphasizes that people who eat fruits and vegetables are less likely to have chronic diseases, and a diet without fruits and vegetables could potentially lead to cancer, heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, many American diets lack an appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals. If you have a diet without fruits and vegetables, you might very well be one of those people. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can lead to deficiencies, which will have varying symptoms, some of which might even be life threatening.
Healthy Alternatives to Vegetables
So, the big question is whether there are any healthy alternatives to vegetables. If you really planned your diet carefully, you might be able to get the nutrients you need without eating fruits and vegetables — but most experts wouldn't recommend it. You're going to have a hard time finding fool-proof healthy alternatives to vegetables.
That's not to say that fruits and vegetables are the only healthy food out there — far from it. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends a variety of foods from different food groups for a well-stocked kitchen: low-fat yogurt, fish, nuts, peanut butter, beans and hummus are among some of its suggestions.
Some nutrients are even found more abundantly in non-plant sources. If you're deficient in calcium, for example, which is necessary for building strong bones and teeth, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that you can get more of it from dairy products like yogurt, cheese and milk rather than from vegetables.
But fruits and vegetables are great low-calorie sources of other nutrients that people tend to be deficient in.
Take potassium: It's the most frequently missing nutrient in the American diet, the American Academy of Family Physicians notes, but it's essential for maintaining proper blood pressure. It's found abundantly in fruits and vegetables like bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, tomatoes and potatoes.
If you're eating a diet without fruits and vegetables, you could get your potassium from yogurt, milk or fish, but it's important to remember that these foods lack fiber. They also have more calories and fat than fruits and vegetables.
If you're someone who constantly says, "I don't eat fruits or vegetables," it's time to rethink your strategy. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends finding new and creative ways to add fruits and vegetables to your daily menu.
In some cases, you can even try sneaking vegetables into your food in ways you won't notice them: Add mushrooms to meatloaf, sprinkle shredded carrots into pasta sauce and include butternut squash in your macaroni and cheese.
It's also important to be creative and versatile, as the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics observes. Just because you don't like vegetables prepared one way doesn't mean you won't like them another way. People who say, "I don't eat fruits or vegetables," might find that they actually mean, "I haven't found my favorite way of eating them just yet."
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Vitamins and Minerals: How to Get What You Need”
- USDA Choose My Plate: “What Is It Important to Eat Vegetables?”
- American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Tip to Help Kids Enjoy Fruits and Veggies”
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Nutrition Made Simple"