Quick intro: This is one in a series of Longevity Secrets – List of food to include to increase longevity.
The next food in the longevity diet is vegetables.
There are varieties of vegetables each with different nutritional value, taste and flavor. Among vegetable, fruit, and bean you should give high priority to vegetables.
The healthiest people living in Blue Zone focus on adding fresh vegetables to their meal. They eat more vegetable which is a reason they receive more vitamin, minerals, and fiber from their diet. Also with vitamin and minerals, vegetables are also a great source of phytonutrients (plant compounds) which provide them extraordinary benefits and protection from multiple health problems.
Adding up the vegetable in the diet is one of the first steps towards clean and healthy eating. The more your meal is loaded with vegetables, the more health-boosting and protecting nutrients you will receive.
The reason behind the perfect health of healthiest living people is their high vegetable intake. If you are planning to add up vegetable then you might be excited to learn how and why vegetables can boost complete health.
1. Vegetables Are Abundant in Nutrients
There are varieties of vegetable and each one have their unique nutritional value. They are the best source of antioxidants which is a reason you should add vegetables to your diet.
They are also the best source to get minerals like iron, copper, selenium, and other.
The most appreciated nutrients are fiber which major of people’s diet lack. There are many benefits of including high fiber in the diet.
Most vegetables are the rich source of vitamin, minerals, and fiber yet low in calorie.
A cup of carrot (128 gram) can provide 428% of Vitamin A of daily recommended value. They also contain beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. (1)
A cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli provide 135% of the daily vitamin C needs, 116% of your daily vitamin K needs and a good amount vitamin B6, manganese, potassium and folate.
A cup (67 grams) of raw kale provide 684% of daily vitamin K, 134% of Vitamin C, 206% of vitamin A, and also a good amount of protein vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and other nutrients. (2)
Like these, there are many vegetables those rich in vitamin and minerals. Each vegetables nutritional value varies, so it is important to eat varieties of vegetables to cover the missing nutrients in one vegetable.
Add more serving as well as focus on adding varieties – to balance nutrient and enjoy varieties of flavor in the meal.
Wrap up: With a healthy range of vitamin and minerals, vegetables proves to be the best food to meet the daily need.
2. Highest Source of Fiber
You might have gone through the importance of adding beans in a diet. Among those benefits, its high fiber content is also given importance.
If you want to improve health and cut the risk of many health problems than you should focus on increasing your fiber intake.
It is recommended to eat 25-30 gram of fiber to meet the daily need. Instead of the recommendation major aren’t able to meet even the half their fiber intake.
With the lack of fiber in the diet the level of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol increases, the risk of coronary heart disease increases, along with metabolic syndrome, hypertension, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. (3, 4)
With a cup of bean, fruit and 2-3 serving of vegetables, you can meet your fiber need in low calorie.
Dietary fiber can reduce the risk cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer by:
Slowing the digestion and absorption of macronutrients
Decreasing the contact time of carcinogens within the intestinal lumen by healthy detoxification. (5, 6, 7, 8)
Dietary fiber also supports healthy intestinal flora also known as the gut microbiome. (9)
For a better health, you need both, soluble and insoluble. Eating vegetables you get both types of fiber.
Wrap up: Vegetables are the main source of food in a meal to receive the required fiber intake.
3. High In Antioxidants and Phytonutrients
Oxidative stress, free radical and inflammation are the leading cause of many chronic diseases like cancer, coronary heart disease, and another degenerative disease.
To handle the damages caused due to Oxidative stress, free radical and inflammation, its recommended to increase the intake of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are responsible to neutralize the free radicals and calm the inflammation before they possess any threat to healthy cells. The demand for antioxidants is increasing with increased environmental stress but the need isn’t meet which is increasing the risk of health problem.
To get high antioxidant in the daily diet it is recommended to increase the intake of vegetables. Increasing the intake of vegetables helps to meet the antioxidants.
Fiber can help to remove the toxin from the body which can cause a threat to health.
Antioxidants aren’t just the reason to eat vegetables. Vegetables also contain phytonutrients which are also known as phytochemicals, especially available in plant foods.
There are thousands of phytonutrients in vegetables, usually in a small amount.
Earlier studies have been proving these phytonutrients do lots of benefits, while the extending the benefits from eating antioxidant-rich vegetables. It’s not only the antioxidant that provides protection from free radicals and inflammation, but there are also many phytonutrients present in vegetables.
Some of the phytonutrients present in vegetables are:
- Pro-vitamin A carotenoids: alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin
- Xanthophylls: lutein, zeaxanthin
- Glucosinolates, isothiocyanates
- Phenolic compounds –
- Phenolic acids
- Allium sulphur compounds
Other compounds –
- Falcarinol, falcarindiol
These phytonutrients possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property. These phytonutrients are produced by the plant for their own protection from insects or bacteria.
Many studies have been done to prove its potential in providing protection from diseases and promote health. (10)
Every vegetable has its own nutritional value hence making them unique. You can get beta-carotene in carrot, glucosinolates in broccoli and lycopene in tomato.
You get lots of vitamins and mineral pills to meet your daily need but its not possible with phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients can’t be extracted and provided as a pill, you need to depend on natural and whole foods to get them.
There are lots of benefits phytonutrients can provide such as
- Boost anti-inflammatory activity
- Boost the body’s antioxidant defenses
- Modulates gut microflora
- Lowers cholesterol
- Fights bacteria
- Supports the body’s immunity.
You can get lots of antioxidants and phytonutrients when you start adding vegetables in your diet. The more veggies in your every meal, you receive ample amount of fiber which is known for but you get more than that.
Increasing the intake of veggies can provide protection from many types of cancer, inflammation, cuts the risk of heart disease and degenerative diseases.
Wrap up: Vegetables contains a high value of antioxidant but they also contain phytonutrients which double their benefit and increase antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body.
4. It Protects from Heart Diseases
Heart disease is the no 1 killer around the world.
The risk of heart disease is due to the unhealthy lifestyle which comprises an unhealthy diet. The risk of heart disease can be reduced by increasing the intake of vegetable.
Intake of vegetable among the world’s population is quite low which is linked to the increased risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. (11, 12)
Intake of fruit and vegetables has been found to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and the rate of mortality. (13)
The cardioprotective effect of vegetables is due to: (14)
- lowering blood pressure,
- modifying lipid metabolism,
- regulating blood glucose,
- improving endothelial function,
- attenuating myocardial damage,
- modulating related enzyme activities,
- gene expressions and signaling pathways.
a. Lowers the Cholesterol Level & Protection From Damage:
Among many reasons, increased LDL cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of heart disease.
Lower LDL cholesterol level in blood can cut the risk and its possible with intake of soluble fiber. (15)
Soluble fiber lowers the absorption of bile (cholesterol or bile acid) in the intestine by trapping and removing from the body. As there is low bile acid to absorb the level of cholesterol starts to drop.
The drop of cholesterol lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease as there is lowered chance of build-up of cholesterol as plague in arteries.
While with the increased antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activity in blood protects the LDL from oxidation. These damaged LDL cholesterols can form plaque in the arteries which narrows the coronary arteries thus decreasing the blood flow.
Blocked coronary arteries due to plaque buildup are a reason for heart attack. (16)
With lower LDL cholesterol and anti-inflammatory protection, the risk of cardiovascular disease lowers.
Total cholesterol & triglycerides level can be lowered by increasing the intake of fiber, especially soluble fiber. (17)
b. Protect Arteries From Damage
The presence of antioxidants and phytonutrients protects the arteries damage from free radicals and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Free radical and anti-inflammatory compound can damage the arteries leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries and they can also cause damage to LDL cholesterol.
While high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity can protect arteries and LDL cholesterol from damage.
You can get a wide range of antioxidant and phytonutrients from vegetable depending on what you eat. Eat varieties of vegetables in your daily meal to get varieties of antioxidant and phytonutrients.
c. Lowers Blood Pressure
Increased blood pressure is directly related to increased risk of heart attack.
As mentioned earlier, diet has impacted the heart health, among that reason is high sodium intake.
Sodium intake has been increased due to the intake of processed foods.
The recommended level of sodium is around 1500 to 2300 mg but the intake has surpassed the upper limit. Blood pressure increases with increased sodium intake.
If you want to cut the risk associated with sodium intake or high sodium in the body, increase your potassium intake.
Increased intake of fruits and vegetables has been found to have a protective effect against both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (18)
Increased intake of vegetable increases the intake of potassium which increases the excretion of sodium through urine. Loss of excess sodium balance the sodium and potassium required by the kidney to maintain a healthy blood pressure. (19)
Tip of suggestion: Potassium is good for health but it’s not recommended to overeat. Prefer to eat fruit and vegetables to meet your daily potassium need. While reducing the intake of processed food will be highly recommended for heart and kidney health. Lower sodium means kidney don’t have to work hard to remove from the body.
You might be wondering the benefits of adding vegetables to heart health is limited to above mentioned but still, there are many more.
If you want to stay protected from heart disease or keep your family protected, first plan to make changes in your dietary intake. Without a healthy diet, it will be tough to meet the nutrients required for a healthy heart.
As heart disease is the biggest killer around the world, it is important to stay aware before it damages anyone’s health.
Wrap up: With high fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients and healthy potassium level vegetable prove to provide overall benefits to the heart. They cut the risk from major of factors responsible for heart disease.
5. Protects From Cancer
Cancer is another disease which has a high impact on the world. The rate of cancer is increasing so the death.
If you are looking to stay healthy and stay protected from cancer, then following a healthy diet is the only best solution known.
The people living in Okinawa, Ikaria and other blue zone area focus on eating natural and whole foods. Vegetables are among that natural food on which they are highly dependent.
They eat more of fresh vegetable in their diet and receives maximum nutrients required to stay protected from cancer.
If you want to reduce the risk of cancer, follow what they follow. As you eat the way and what they eat, you will also receive the same nutrients they receive. You will receive the same protection the healthiest people receive and so you also stay protected from health problems.
Let’s look at how vegetables can lower the risk of cancer.
- The risk of cancer increase due to many of factors
- Increased intake of unhealthy nutrients
- Lack of protective nutrient
Increased intake of unhealthy food increase the intake of calorie or say no-nutrient value high calories. If your diet is rich in calorie, the risk of obesity increases thus increasing the risk of cancer.
Studies found that obesity was associated with increased death due to cancer like: esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, stomach (in men), prostate, breast, uterus, cervix, and ovary. (20)
The first reason,
The second reason,
The diet that promotes obesity is sure that it doesn’t contain healthy and balanced nutrient.
Free radicals, oxidative stress and inflammation are the biggest risk factors for cancer. If you are looking to stay protected from cancer, keep all these factors in control.
Free radicals, oxidative stress and inflammation are the part of the way body function. They play an important role but can be damaging if proper care is not taken.
To prevent from damage, you need a healthy amount of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Antioxidant and phytonutrient are potent to neutralize free radical produced during oxidative stress and lower inflammation. (23)
Vegetables contain lots of antioxidants and phytonutrients those can protect from free radicals and inflammation.
The cancer protective effect of vegetable or fruit aren’t due to single nutrients, it is a combination of multiple nutrients. Each whole fruit and vegetables provides multiple nutrients which combine to provide total protection from cancer.
The nutrients combination considered for the benefits are (24)
- allium compounds,
- protease inhibitors,
- inositol hexaphosphate,
- vitamin C,
- folic acid,
- beta-carotene (and other carotenoids),
- vitamin E,
- and dietary fiber.
Raw vegetables are more beneficial in providing protection from cancer along with allium vegetables, carrots, green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and tomatoes. (25)
Soluble fiber is the food for gut bacteria residing in the intestinal tract.
These gut bacteria produce natural antibiotics, some vitamin B, improves immunity, prevent food allergies, protect from cancer and improve nutrient absorption from the food.
Lactobacillus species and Eubacterium aerofaciens (produces lactic acid) is found to lower risk of colon cancer. (26)
There are many more studies which have proven the protective effect of vegetables against cancer, yet to cut short I have listed few.
Initial measures to prevent cancer proves to be the best strategy rather than looking for treatment. You can take a few steps to cut the risk and stay protected from the most deadly disease.
When adding more vegetable can load your meal with cancer protecting nutrients, how you can miss them. Most people complain about the healthy meal taste, so they don’t prefer to follow.
If you learn to add veggies in perfect combination, you will find that veggies are much tastier and flavourful.
Wrap up: Vegetables contains a whole range of cancer protecting nutrients, like antioxidant, phytonutrients and fiber. With a wide range of nutrient working on providing protection from the factors leading cancer, they prove a beneficial add-on to the diet.
6. Protect From Diabetes
Diabetes is on the way to being the most common disease among elders and even in children.
The reason behind the rise of diabetes is processed food, imbalanced nutrient intake and an inactive lifestyle.
Processed foods are dense in calories more than required yet lack protecting nutrients.
Among the most important nutrient required to prevent Type 2 Diabetes is fiber.
Fiber is among the most important nutrients required for health instead body can’t digest them. Unable to diet a nutrient has proved beneficial in protecting from many health problems.
Consuming food without fiber is responsible for the quick breakdown of food and can also lead to overeating.
Quick break down of a meal can increase the blood sugar quickly while overeating due to lack of fiber can increase calorie intake than required.
As there is more sugar available in the bloodstream, liver release insulin proportional to sugar level. Insulin stores the excess sugar as fat, those not required for that moment.
Due to insulin resistance body needs more insulin to do the same task.
With continuous overload to produce excess insulin the pancreas burnout thus aren’t able to produce enough insulin.
When each meal continuous enough fiber,
- You eat less or the required
- Food breakdown slow thus there is a slow release of calorie thus there is no need for storage
- Increased satiety prevents unwanted craving thus reducing the intake of unwanted calories.
Increased intake of fiber can be effective to lower insulin resistance, thus lowering the need for insulin and cut the burden on the pancreas. (29)
Including leafy green and other fiber-rich veggies with each meal can lower the Glycemic load of the meal. If you are eating high glycemic index food than a serving of veggies will help to lower the Glycemic Load.
With low Glycemic load, the meal doesn’t have any major impact on blood sugar thus preventing the initial cause of diabetes.
If you add veggies in your meal you will stay protected from Type 2 Diabetes.
Fiber rich diet can protect from complication due to Type 2 Diabetes. (30)
Wrap up: With high fiber intake through vegetables, the risk of Type 2 Diabetes lowers. While it can have a positive impact on insulin resistance, a beneficial effect that cuts the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
7. Improves Digestion
A healthy digestive system starts with a healthy intake of fiber.
Veggies contain fiber, both soluble and insoluble.
Fiber rich food is often low in calorie, good for health, prevent diabetes and other health issues. Along with those benefits, they have a positive impact on the digestive system.
People with high fiber diet have a much lower rate of constipation than who eat less. (31)
Fiber provides bulk thus improves bowel movement.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber is important for overall digestion and detoxification. With better detoxification, the body easily gets rid of waste without much hassle.
Without enough fiber in the diet, the risk of constipation increases and it can lead to other problems like hemorrhoids and diverticula (outpouchings) in the colon.
Wrap up: With an ample supply of both soluble and insoluble fiber, the functionality of the digestive system improves.
8. Weight Loss and Weight management
The rate of obesity is rising and so the health problem.
To stay healthy it is recommended to lose excess weight to cut the risk of health problems. If you are planning to lose weight and desperately looking for the solution, then the intake of veggies can be the best solution.
Veggies aren’t just good for weight loss, they are even potential to prevent them gain back.
If you are looking for a permanent solution for weight loss then you should consider healthy food rich in veggies, beans and also fruit.
Losing weight is a tough process and you have to go through many challenges, but if you aren’t able to maintain that weight then all your efforts are ruined.
When you start to make changes in your diet and bulk up with veggies you start to lose weight and when you continue that routine then you won’t gain unhealthy weight easily.
Fiber is beneficial for weight loss and weight management goal due to;
- Slow Digestion
- Higher Satiety
The common reason for increased weight gain among people is the intake of processed food. Processed food is prepared by separating nutrients in food, especially fiber.
Without enough fiber in a food, you will eat more of that food without realizing as your meal lack satiety nutrient, fiber.
With lack of fiber, a meal is digested quickly which is responsible for the storage of excess calorie (not required for that moment) as fat.
As the food are digested quickly there is a need to eat frequently than compared to high fiber diet.
With high fiber, food digest slowly thus there is no need for storage of sugar (calories). While slow digestion of food will supply energy for a long period.
You don’t need to adopt any unhealthy practices or cut calorie intake to achieve your weight loss goal.
You can achieve your weight loss and weight management goal by eating healthy food.
Wrap up: High fiber diet prevents overeating, slow digestion, prevent energy crash, improves satiety – all support healthy weight loss and weight management.
9. Supports Healthy Guts
Higher consumption of fiber can provide protection from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other health problem. (32)
Human gut microbiota was forgotten but during technological advancement and growing evidence, they are quite potent. (35)
- Responsible to produce metabolites (a substance formed in or necessary for metabolism)
- Provides immune boost
- They have a great impact on host health and lowers the risk of disease.
- It has been linked that it provides protection against irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, allergy, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer
Non-digestible carbohydrate (fiber) is the primary energy source for the gut microbes. Fiber especially soluble fiber is considered best for gut health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24336217/
Vegetables are a great source of fiber and prove best for our health and gut health.
If you are looking to improve health, there are many benefits mentioned earlier. A healthy microbe which has a positive effect on health and there is no doubt that eating fiber dense vegetables is a great deal.
Research on gut health and host health is still limited. Till now we know less about them but looking over the people depending on high fiber diet and health, its no doubt they do more than found.
To get the benefit you don’t need to know everything about the gut microbiota. You should start feeding it with the right food and let them handle the rest.
Wrap up: Dietary fiber is the energy source for the gut microbiota which promotes healthy microbiome. With a healthy microbiome, the risk of many health problems lowers like bowel disease, colon cancer, and metabolic syndrome. They have a great impact on immunity thus have much more benefit than listed.
10. They Are Alkaline
And the last benefit in the list but not the least.
Foods can be divided into acid-forming or alkaline-forming.
Acid-forming food are
- certain dairy products
- processed foods
- fresh meats and processed meats, such as corned beef and turkey
- sodas and other sweetened beverages
- high-protein foods and supplements
Alkaline-Forming foods are
Due to the high intake of acid-forming food, there is an increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. Reducing the loaded of acid has found to benefits patient with Chronic Kidney Disease. (49)
A high protein diet or other acid-producing food is the part of today’s modern diet. They are responsible to increase the acid load which is neutralized by kidney through the mineral buffer such as calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate. (50)
High acid-forming can increase the loss of calcium from bone which can degrade the bone health while it can also lead to kidney disease. (51)
To cut the risk you need food that balances the acid and alkaline level.
Vegetables are among that food that can help to buffer the acid without adding any load on kidney or damaging the bone matrix.
It is always recommended to eat multiple food types in every meal and sure its one of the reason. Maintaining a healthy balance in acid-forming and alkaline-forming food can reduce the risk of many health concerns.
Wrap up: Vegetable are alkaline-forming food thus they can balance the pH level in the body. With a healthy balance in the acid, the risk of health issue lowers.
So what’s your view on vegetables.
Do you still think that vegetable intake isn’t important?
If you planning to add them to your diet, then start slowly. Start with few serving and keep on increasing till you reach 3 to 4 serving of vegetable. You can add a small serving of vegetable in each meal.
The benefits mentioned should change your mind, if not then, look over the diet of healthiest people living in the Blue Zone. The people with higher longevity and their diet should have a stronger connection, it should be enough to make a better choice for your health and your families health.
Tips To Add More Vegetable
- Add broccoli to scrambled eggs
- Add veggies to the sandwich
- Smoothies (Kale, spinach, carrot)
- Load your pasta with mushroom and spinach
- Veggies salad
There are many more ways to add veggies to your diet. Try a different combination and find out what you like.
Follow each link to learn more about each in details and learn strategies to add to the diet.
Longevity Food – Vegetables (you are here)