We’ve heard it our whole lives, “Eat your vegetables!” But why? Why are vegetables so important?
It turns out that vegetables are nutrient powerhouses packed all kinds of amazing substances that protect you from chronic diseases.
Chronic inflammation and free radicals, caused by oxidation, are at the root of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even aging.
Both free radical formation and inflammation are normal metabolic responses in the human body. The problem is, due to many lifestyle choices, there’s too much of both, which leads to cell damage which causes disease.
Free radicals are overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules. They are by-products of normal metabolism, but also come from toxins in the air, cigarette smoke, medications, radiation, hydrogenated fats, polyunsaturated fats, UV light, and stress. As free radicals travel through the body, they can damage any cell, anywhere. That damage can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, aging and age-related disease.
Inflammation is caused by an immune system that is turned “on” all the time because of exposure to toxic and inflammatory substances in food, water, and air, as well as allergy-triggering substances, poor general health, use of medicines, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and hidden or chronic infections. Chronic inflammation is at the root of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer and rapid aging.
And guess what gets rid of free radicals and unwanted inflammation? Phytonutrients and antioxidants including flavonoids, carotenoids, glucosinolates, and omega-3 fatty acids …that are found in vegetables!!!
In order to get adequate phytonutrients and ward off unwanted free radicals and inflammation, you need to eat at least 2 cups of vegetables each day. The more you eat, and the more variety you eat, the more nutrients you’ll consume, which will provide more disease fighting power. If you can eat 3-4 cups a day, you’ll be even healthier. For more information on vegetable servings, go to http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.
Plants contain thousands of phytonutrients, and they work together. It’s important to eat whole foods instead of taking individual supplements.
It looks like Mom was right. We really do need to eat our vegetables.