Fresh and green: Why a healthy diet is impossible without vegetables

Modern dietetics considers a healthy diet as a balanced diet. That is, one in which our body receives all the necessary nutrients, while not exceeding the recommended daily caloric intake. This helps not only to stay healthy and maintain a high level of energy, but also significantly reduces the risk of serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular pathologies. It is not superfluous to add that this is also the first step to losing weight.

Vegetables play a huge role in a balanced diet. First of all, of course, as a source of vitamins, since most of the latter are not synthesized in the human body and can only be obtained externally.

For example, the well-known vitamin C, which participates in redox processes, cellular respiration and protein metabolism. Its deficiency lowers the body's resistance to colds and infectious diseases, disrupts metabolic processes. The Scientific Research Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences estimates that today 70-90% of our population is deficient in vitamin C. Meanwhile, the richest sources of this vitamin are white cabbage, bell peppers and tomatoes, which are traditional products for the Russian cuisine.

According to the same studies, up to 40% of people in Russia are deficient in another effective antioxidant – beta-carotene. It supports the health of vision, skin, mucous membranes, the entire immune system, and helps reduce the risk of cancer. Sources of beta-carotene are widely available - carrot, pumpkin, parsley, bunch onion.

Vitamins A, E and K play an equally important role. Folic acid and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus are also of great importance for the human body. And all of these components are contained in vegetables. But there is also fiber, which is responsible for the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, the normalization of fat metabolism, the elimination of cholesterol from the body.

Is there any doubt about the importance of eating vegetables? Perhaps the more relevant question here is the quantity and regularity of their consumption.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables daily. For clarity, nutritionists advise dividing the plate into two parts, one of which should be occupied by vegetables. Which ones exactly? If we rely on reliable scientific data, then no advantages have been established for certain combinations. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to be guided by your own preferences and choices.

It is important to remember that vegetables of similar color usually contain similar protective compounds. That is, in order to get a full range of healthy elements, you need to try to make a "rainbow" of colors in your menu: red tomatoes, orange carrots, green lettuce, yellow peppers, purple eggplant.   

The good news is that sometimes vegetables that have undergone a certain preparation not only do not lose their value, but also become healthier. For example, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant lycopene, which enters the body in much larger quantities after heat treatment than without it. The same can be said of cabbage, which forms in the process of fermentation useful probiotics necessary for the stable functioning of the immune, digestive and endocrine systems.

Important note: you do not need to change your eating habits overnight, it is fraught with breakdowns. It is much more effective to add vegetables to your diet gradually.

For example, for breakfast, cook scrambled eggs not with sausage, but with stewed tomatoes, and put a slice of cucumber and any leafy greens on the sandwich along with the cheese.

For lunch, cook vegetable soups more often, mixing any vegetables. And it is desirable to reduce the amount of potatoes used as a side dish, replacing them, for example, with colored vegetables.

And for dinner, it is important to take the right amount of fiber to ensure stable intestinal function. However, the choice should be made from the lightest foods, such as cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Speaking of the aforementioned potatoes. In the United States, Great Britain, and Germany there is a national program of healthy eating "5 A Day". Its basic meaning: a person should consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And this program excludes potatoes from the recommended list because of their high starch content.

Lastly, one more useful fact: the top ten healthiest vegetables are the commonly eaten carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, beets, and garlic. And it is very rare for them to be unavailable at the nearest store.  . 

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