Eat your fruit and vegetables! Here are 7 reasons why!!
We have all been told to eat our veggies and it sounds like a punishment of some kind, something we have to force ourselves to do. Sure they may not taste like chocolate or chips but fruit and vegetables are crucial to our health. Let’s have a closer look at why we care so much about fruit and vegetables. Here are the top 10 health reasons to consume loads of fruit and vegetables each and every day.
- Improve Bowel Regularity
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaint in North America. Chronic constipation is officially defined as less than 3 bowel movements per week, however less than one per day is considered by most Naturopaths to be a problem and sign of gastrointestinal dysfunction. There are some who would argue that we should be having a bowel movement soon after each meal, 3 times per day. If you look at animals, dogs for example, will have several bowel movements throughout the day, tied to when they eat.
Constipation can cause significant abdominal discomfort as a result of associated gas and bloating. Passage of the stool is often difficult and straining can lead to complications like hemorrhoids, anal fissures and rectal prolapse. Reliance on laxatives long term can interfere with the body’s innate mechanisms that promote regular bowel movements.
Increased fibre consumption is an important part of naturopathic treatments for constipation. Fruits and vegetables are part of an overall approach to increasing fibre consumption. Both insoluble and soluble fibre is required for regular bowel movements.
- Insoluble fibre. This type of fibre increases stool bulk and helps move material through your colon more quickly. Cauliflower, green beans and potatoes are good sources of insoluble fibre.
- Soluble fibre. This type of fibre allows more water to remain in your stool which makes waste softer and larger. As a result stool passes more easily through the intestine. Apples and carrots are a good example of high soluble fibre fruit and vegetable options.
- Improve Good Gut Flora
Human gut bacteria (microbiota) has become the subject of extensive research over the past several years. What we know about these important microbes is growing rapidly. Our guts actually are home to over 100 trillion microbial cells, comprised of over 1000 bacteria species. We are learning that these microbes affect our digestion, physiology, nutrition, metabolism and immune systems and even mental health. We have a mix of “good” and “bad” gut flora in the small intestine. It is important that these bacteria are in balance, that the bad does not outnumber the good, otherwise something called dybiosis develops which can then contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms, and long term potentially contribute to the development of other systemic and inflammatory conditions.
Because they are high in fibre, fruits and vegetable consumption has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, especially one called Bifidobacteria. For example, apples have been shown to increase the number of good gut bacteria. 1 Fruit and vegetables have also been shown to inhibit the growth of certain disease causing bacteria like clostridum. 2
- Reduce Risk of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and renal diseases. There are a number of studies showing that increased fruit and vegetable consumption decreases the risk of developing hypertension (aka. High blood pressure. One short term study consisted of a 6 month interventional trial saw systolic blood pressure drop by 4mmHG. A much larger study examined the associations of individual fruit and vegetable intake with the risk of developing hypertension in three large prospective cohort studies consisting of 187,453 participants with more than 20 years of follow-up. This study found that consuming more than 6 servings fruit and vegetables per day was associated with a lower risk of developing hypertension.
One of the reasons for this may be the higher potassium content of fruit and vegetables. Potassium balances out the fluid retaining effects of salt. High fluid retention is associated with increased blood pressure. Potassium supports your kidneys in balancing fluid levels. So eating more potassium-rich fruit and vegetables supports this important balance. Some of the higher potassium fruit and vegetables include bananas, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, cooked spinach, bok choy, beets and parsnips.
- Regulate Blood Sugar, Prevent Diabetes
When we think of why certain foods are good for us we tend to think about the nutrients that are absorbed and how the body is nourished. The benefit of fibre is actually in how it reduces absorption and digestion. So fibre reduces the absorption of carbohydrates which is a good thing because as a result blood glucose and insulin levels are reduced. Fibre reduces those glucose peaks that occur with carbohydrate ingestion (bread, pasta, sugar, etc). Virtually all plant foods contain fibre, nature’s antidote to carbohydrate consumption. So increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption helps with regulating your blood sugar.
Typical Western diets rely heavily on processed foods which are foods that have been stripped of fibre. Fibre is removed to make food “taste better”. As a result carbohydrate consumption is less regulated leading to high blood sugar and consequent insulin levels, the result of which is diabetes. Daily fibre intake should be 25-35g per day. Track your food daily to see if you are reaching this goal.
- Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
A large, long term study just came out in 2018 that suggested women who at more than 5.5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who consume 2.5 servings or less per day. The study was in the International Journal of Cancer and followed women for 24 years. They found that cruciferous and yellow/orange vegetables were most beneficial in reducing breast cancer risk.
Furthermore, the American Institute for Cancer Research reviewed the global evidence and found that non-starchy vegetables and foods containing carotenoids might lower the risk of some breast cancers. Carotenoids are found in dark leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale. Starchy vegetables are those that grow below the ground like potatoes and carrots.
- Weight Management
Fruit and vegetables are a large part of every weight loss plan because they have a number of benefits. They help you feel full after a meal so that you eat less at each meal and they help you feel full for longer so that you snack less. They also help with preventing dips in energy levels between meals. As well, non-starchy vegetables in particular, are very low in calories so you can eat quite a lot, feel full but not worry about going over your daily calorie allotment.
Apples in particular are great for improving weight loss. There was a study done in 2008 that looked at whether adding fruit or oats would be more helpful for weight loss. They gave participants the either apples/pears or oatmeal cookies – all with the same number of calories and grams of fibre. Interestingly, they found that those who had apples and pears lost approximately 2 pounds more than those consuming oats. Weight did not change at all in the oat group.
- Reduce Colon Cancer Risk
Diet plays an important role in the development of colon cancer. Increased fruit and vegetable consumption overall has been shown to lower a person’s risk of colon cancer. A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that different types of fruit and vegetables protected different parts of the colon from cancer risk.
For example, they found that brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower) were associated with lower rates of proximal colon cancers. They also found that yellow vegetables and apples significantly decreased distal colon cancer risk. Conversely, the researchers found that increased consumption of fruit juice increased the risk of rectal cancer.
Consider seeing a Naturopath for an overall health assessment and health coaching!
Naturopaths will do a thorough assessment of your health status and put together an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs. They use a variety of dietary and lifesetyle modifications along with recommendations for supplementation with a variety of effective vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, herbal extracts and more.
To find out more about how a Naturopath treats a variety of health concerns and optimizes overall health, book a FREE 15 min Meet the Naturopath consultation with Dr. Tara Andresen today at one her NDcare clinics in Toronto.