Vegetables are low in calories, but rich in dietary fibre and contain almost all the vitamins and minerals the body needs. Even though many people still think that vegetables are just a few lettuce leaves and some tomatoes, nature provides us with a wide variety of vegetables that can be used and prepared in countless different ways.
In addition to the fact that we can eat them raw in various salads, many vegetables can be quickly steamed or baked, or of course, they can be eaten in the form of juices, smoothies or soups. Raw vegetable germs (broccoli, radishes, etc.) can also be grown at home. In turn, fermented or pickled vegetables are other healthy options that can significantly improve your daily diet. The fermentation process is one of the best ways to turn vegetables into real superfoods. Fermentation produces beneficial microbes that are extremely important for maintaining good health, as they help balance the intestinal flora, thereby boosting the body’s overall immunity.
At the same time, nutritionists claim that fermented foods are some of the best detoxifying agents because they help eliminate harmful elements and even heavy metals from the body.
Because most vegetables are not very high in calories, ideally they should be the bulk of all the foods we eat daily. Unfortunately, very few people know the benefits of raw vegetables, so nowadays, quite a few vegetables are consumed. As Time Magazine reported, fresh vegetable consumption has plummeted in the past five years: “About half of the total U.S. population consumes less than half a cup of fresh vegetables a day. And 87 per cent of the population does not reach the minimum recommended goal of 2-3 cups of vegetables a day “.
Seven reasons to eat more raw vegetables
Suppose you belong to the category of people who limit their consumption of fresh vegetables to the detriment of cooked or processed foods. In that case, you will undoubtedly lose great health benefits, including the following:
1. Healthy and glowing skin
Since vegetables have a high content of water and phytochemicals, their regular consumption helps maintain the youth and elasticity of the skin. A study conducted at the University of St. Andrews concluded that people who ate three extra servings of vegetables for six weeks were considered to look much younger than those who had eaten very few vegetables. What was the cause of this noticeable improvement? Experts say that the carotenoid pigments that give vegetables their red and orange colours improve the appearance of the skin, making it brighter and more elastic. Many of the vegetables are also appreciated for their anti-ageing benefits, helping the skin maintain firmness and effectively fighting wrinkles.
2. Bodyweight control
Because they are low in carbohydrates, but very rich in dietary fibre, vegetables can help us – mostly if we eat them daily – to lose excess weight and thus control body weight. A simple habit, such as eliminating carbohydrates and increasing the consumption of dietary fibre in fresh vegetables and fruits, can help us achieve results that rival those of more complicated diets. Numerous researches have indicated that dietary fibre has specific properties that control appetite, which gives us a fleeting feeling of satiety, thus avoiding less healthy snacks. Also, dietary fibre helps improve metabolic markers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels;
3. Improving intestinal health
Constipation is one of the most common intestinal problems and currently appears to affect about 1 in 5 people. This condition is annoying and can cause inflammation and painful muscle contractions. Dietary fibre and water from raw vegetables can be a real help in preventing this situation, as it leads to optimal intestinal health, in general, by feeding beneficial intestinal bacteria.
4. Better athletic performance
Proper and balanced nutrition is essential for good athletic performance. Vegetables, in particular, seem to increase the body’s resistance and help its recovery, the most recommended options, in this case, being beetroot, celery and fresh tomato juice.
Recently, a medical study showed that only 200 ml of beetroot juice consumed daily for six days increased the yield of athletes by about 16%. It has also been found that pure tomato juice consumed after a workout can reduce the stress induced by exercise by up to 84%.
5. Increasing energy levels and well-being
Vegetables help increase energy levels, mostly if you eliminate carbohydrates and processed foods from your diet. In this regard, fresh vegetable juice is incredibly useful and acts quickly. Recent medical research has shown that increased consumption of vegetables helps us feel better and calmer mentally. In addition, the consumption of fresh and raw fruits and vegetables has also been associated with greater creativity and curiosity – traits that are, in turn, associated with happiness.
6. Reducing the risk of chronic diseases
Regular consumption of fresh vegetables helps reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, brain disorders and certain types of cancer. A recent study showed that eating an extra serving of green leafy vegetables daily reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 14%. Much of this benefit is due to the high fibre content of vegetables. Dietary fibre from vegetables breaks down into short-chain fatty acids, which help maintain the health of intestinal bacteria and have been shown to reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.
7. Stimulating immune function
The researchers found that a gene called T-bet, which is essential for the production of vital immune cells in the gut, is activated by green leafy vegetables. These immunological cells, also called innate lymphoid cells (ILC), are found in the tissues of the digestive tract and are thought to be essential for ILC:
- Maintaining the balance between tolerance, immunity and inflammation in the body.
- Production of interleukin-22 (IL-22), a hormone that can protect the body from the action of pathogenic bacteria.
- Maintaining intestinal balance by stimulating the development of the growth of beneficial bacteria and healing small wounds or abrasions in the intestine.
- Healing cancerous lesions and preventing the development of intestinal cancer.
- Prevention of food allergies, inflammatory diseases and obesity.
Fresh vegetables, preferably organic and locally grown, are ideal for maximizing nutrition, which limits exposure to various chemicals. Always avoid withered, battered or stained vegetables because they have already lost much of their nutritional value. Of course, as I mentioned before, homemade juice from various raw vegetables is a great way to increase your consumption of vegetables. When we consume a freshly prepared vegetable juice, it is as if we receive an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, because they enter the bloodstream directly without being broken down.