A top item on every new year’s resolution list is a cleaner and healthier diet. Some may want to lose weight while some want to save money by eating at home more. Regardless of the reason, a healthier diet does not have to be achieved through expensive or restrictive diets. People are able to live a healthier lifestyle by simply emphasizing a single food group to their diet: vegetables. Research studies have indicated the many health benefits of vegetables on the human body.
Below, we list the top five reasons to add more vegetables to your diet based on the findings of recent studies.
1. Improved memory
A recent study done in the USA sought to assess whether the many health benefits of eating vegetables included memory. Using questionnaires that focused on eating habits, medical history, and lifestyle, the study focused on men aged average 51. The questionnaire was retaken every other year until the end of the study, with two overall subjective cognitive function questionnaires completed.
The results indicated that those who had a higher intake of vegetables, fruit, and fruit juice had better memory skills. More specifically, those who ate a lot of leafy green vegetables, vegetables high in carotenoids, and berry fruits had a lower risk of memory loss. This evidence shows the prospective opportunities that eating vegetables may have for populations with memory deficits.
2. Lowered risk of depression
Fruits and vegetables are packed with benefits such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and flavonoids. A meta-analysis of previous studies completed until October 2017 showed that these compounds have a positive impact against depression. The results showed a startling 5% decrease in the risk of development for every 100g increase in consumption of fruit or vegetables. Researchers attributed this protection against depression to the combined intake of fruits and vegetables rich in beneficial compounds. Vitamin B6, for example, is shown to be involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for mood balance.
3. Improved sleep habits
A recent study found that sleep deficiency could be due to a lack of fruits and vegetables in an individual’s diet. The study, published in BMJ Open, tracked the sleep patterns and fruit-and-vegetable intake of approximately 1600 adults aged 19-65. The researchers were astonished to find that compared to people who got the ideal seven to eight hours of sleep per night, long sleepers consumed 28g less fruit and vegetables per day while short sleepers consumed 24g less fruit and vegetables per day.
Sleep is a vital process that our body needs to properly function every day, and the findings highlight the importance and benefits of eating vegetables for healthy sleep habits. The study noted potential limitations such as self-reporting of duration of sleep could lead to over-reporting. The type of study that was conducted could also only identify associations between sleep and eating vegetables and fruits, not cause-and-effect relationships.
4. Prevention of colon cancer
As stated above, there are many health benefits of vegetables through the compounds found in them. Researchers have now found two different chemicals produced by vegetables that aid in cancer and tumour prevention.
Scientists from the Francis Crick Institute examined indole-3-carbinol, a compound that builds up after digesting cruciferous vegetables. Indole-3-carbinol activates a protein called aryl hydroarbon receptor (AhR), which is an important pre-cursor step for intestinal stem cells to become functional intestinal epithelial cells. A reduction in AhR can potentially trigger uncontrolled proliferation of intestinal stem cells, which can lead to tumour growth.
The scientists explored this compound by feeding a group of mice a diet artificially rich in indole-3-carbinol, and a control group with normal food. They found that those fed with indole-3-carbinol developed fewer tumours and had a significantly reduced risk of developing future tumours. Any tumours that were developed were not aggressive.
Furthermore, the scientists showed that AhR is crucial in a signalling pathway that is linked to the development of colon cancer. By activating AhR, “cellular brakes” occur that prevent uncontrollable proliferation. Expanding on the health benefits of vegetables, specifically in the cruciferous family, a high level of glucosinolates have been tied to cancer protective effects. Glucosinolates are converted by plant enzymes into isothiocyanates. These, are the substances that inhibit cancer promotion, kill cancer cells, and prevent tumour growth.
5. Reduced risk of breast cancer
A study done in China and published in the British Journal of Nutrition determined the relationship between the intake of glucosinolates and isothiocynates from cruciferous vegetables and the risk of breast cancer. After recruiting women diagnosed with breast cancer and comparing them to a control group of women without cancer, the researchers collected information using a food frequency questionnaire to determine the number of vegetables consumed.
They found that women with breast cancer tend to have a lower intake of total cruciferous vegetables. However, additional research is needed to safely confirm the positive effects of eating vegetables and cancer prevention, but the current results from these studies are promising.
Ultimately, vegetables are a nutrient-packed food group with numerous health benefits. An act as simple as adding a few more carrots or broccoli to every meal can positively impact your health. Research studies have proven the many health benefits of vegetables that include more than just weight loss.
Written by Stephanie C. Tsang
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