Eating vegetables isn’t only important for reducing your risk of breast cancer. This is one health habit that can lower your risk of multiple types of cancer as well as your risk of numerous chronic diseases. One study found:14
- Those who ate five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits per day had a 36 percent lower risk of dying from any cause
- Three to five servings was associated with a 29 percent lower risk
- One to three servings was associated with a 14 percent lower risk
But perhaps most strikingly of all, people who ate seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day had a 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who ate less than one portion. They also enjoyed a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cancer. Vegetables had a larger protective effect than fruits.
So while consuming small amounts of whole fruit is fine (and even beneficial) if you’re healthy, your focus should be on vegetables. When broken down by vegetables only, each additional daily portion of fresh veggies lowered participants’ risk of death by 16 percent compared to 4 percent for fresh fruit.
The fact of the matter is vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else. Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells and maintain DNA. Vegetables are also one of the best forms of dietary fiber. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:
|Lower risks of stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease||Lower risks of certain types of cancer, eye diseases, and digestive problems||Reduced risk of kidney stones and bone loss|
|Higher scores on cognitive tests||Higher antioxidant levels||Lower biomarkers for oxidative stress|
Which Vegetables Are Best?
It’s hard to go wrong when eating vegetables, especially if you choose those that appeal to you. However, if you want to take your health up a notch, opt for vegetables that are locally grown, organic, and in season. This will ensure you’re getting the freshest vegetables without added toxins, like pesticides.
Growing your own vegetables is one of the best ways to get inexpensive fresh produce. Replace your lawn or shrubs with a vegetable garden — just be careful about your local zoning laws – or use containers. If a garden is not feasible, join a local food coop or frequent farmers’ markets (many of these now accept food stamps, too).
Generally speaking, you can eat as many green leafy vegetables as you want while high-sugar vegetables (like beets and carrots) should be eaten in moderation. My recommended list of vegetables provides a guide to the most nutritious vegetables, and those to limit due to their high carbohydrate content.
If you want more details about the specific nutrients and health benefits of different veggies, we’ve compiled an extensive review of the health benefits of vegetables in our Mercola Food Facts Library. However, as a general guide, the following list of vegetables details some of the best and worst vegetables for your health.
|Highly Recommended Vegetables|
|Avocado (actually a fruit)||Fennel|
|Beet greens||Green and red cabbage|
|Brussels sprouts||Lettuce: romaine, red leaf, or green leaf|
|Chinese cabbage||Peppers: red, green, yellow, and hot|
|Use sparingly due to high carbohydrate levels|
|Vegetables to Avoid|