Protective Effects of Brightly Colored Vegetables
Almost every diet that has ever been invented has one thing in common: they almost universally advise you to eat more vegetables.
For good reason – vegetables are great for digestion, they’re filling, and they’re generally lower in calorie content than other foods. So, you can feel like you’re eating a lot of food without creeping into fat storage mode.
Vegetables, especially brightly colored vegetables, have superpowers: polyphenols.
Polyphenols are the plant compounds that give them their color, and are particularly beneficial to your body. They protect your cells and counteract the day-to-day damage that can lead to chronic disease. Here are some of the more compelling reasons to eat your veggies.
Vegetables protect your cells from cancer.
Research shows that brightly colored vegetables may protect your cells from cancer. A recent review and meta-analysis found that women consuming the most fiber are 8% less likely to develop breast cancer. Vegetable consumption seemed to lower the risk of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer, and people who tend to eat the lowest amounts of fruits and vegetables carry the highest risk of colorectal cancer. Dietary fiber from grains did not lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Eating your plants is one way to get more of their benefits, but they also confer their benefits as tea. EGCG, the primary polyphenol in green tea, prevents breast cancer and cervical cancer cells from replicating in vivo (inside the body) and in vitro (in cell cultures). Matcha is a delicious way to get concentrated green tea without the caffeine jitters.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it’s good practice to make sure you’re getting a variety of vegetables into your meals daily.
Eat your veggies to preserve your brain power.
There are hundreds of expensive supplements on the shelves that claim to improve focus and improve your overall mental ability. What if you could skip those and eat colorful plants instead?
A recent study shows that intakes of flavonoids, the compound that gives berries and red wine their bright color, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. High consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, especially polyphenols, was shown to protect elderly study participants against cognitive decline. Research shows that even low consumption of EGCG, the main antioxidant in green tea, was enough to protect brain cells against oxidative stress.
Eating a lot of certain polyphenols, including flavonoids and phenolic acids (both found in leafy green and brightly colored vegetables), has been shown to help protect verbal memory – one of the more fragile areas affected by brain aging.
Especially if you know someone who has suffered from age-related mental decline, you’ll understand how important it is to protect your brain cells starting now.
Vegetables safeguard your heart.
Vegetable consumption is a multi-angle approach to protecting your heart. With a low fat content, high fiber content, and built-in antioxidants, eating plenty of plants is one of the best (and most delicious) things you can start doing right now to keep your heart strong.
A high polyphenol diet reduced the risk of mortality among high-risk cardiovascular disease patients. Polyphenols, specifically, inhibit platelet aggregation in the bloodstream, which is the clumping together of platelets that can lead to a blockage.
Certain vegetable fats pack a punch, too. People have come to accept olive oil as a “good fat” – the type of fat that doesn’t clog your arteries. That’s only a piece of the puzzle. Olive oil also contains phenolic compounds that prevent the kind of oxidation that leads to heart- and artery-damaging inflammation. Avocado oil also has an impressive antioxidant profile, and eating healthy fats alongside your vegetables helps your body absorb certain nutrients like vitamin A, D, E, and K.
Ways to get more vegetables into your day.
- Add vegetables to your smoothie. More neutral-tasting vegetables for smoothies include cauliflower, carrots, and cucumber.
- Make and freeze a hearty vegetable soup for a convenient lunch or to round out a larger meal.
- Swap out pasta for spiralized zucchini.
- Chop veggie sticks ahead of time so that they’re ready when you want a snack.
- Look for recipes that work vegetable ingredients into baked goods like muffins and breads.
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