Eating more fruits and vegetables is a sure way to boost your health and watch your calories. The vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber in fruits and vegetables, most of which are naturally low in calories and fat, improve your cardiovascular health, gastrointestinal health and vision.
Eating fruits and vegetables decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and kale) are especially effective at improving cardiovascular health. Eating more fruits and vegetables may also decrease your blood pressure, which in turn reduces your chances of heart disease and stroke.
The dietary fiber in fruits and vegetables improves gastrointestinal health by preventing or relieving constipation. It also may help prevent diverticulosis and diverticulitis, which occur when small pouches in the colon become irritated or infected.
Finally, eating fruits and vegetables protects your vision by improving night vision and preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Scientists have found less evidence for a link between eating fruits and vegetables and a decreased risk of cancer than some early studies claimed. However, it is possible that some fruits and vegetables protect against some types of cancer. For example, leafy green vegetables may protect against mouth, esophagus and stomach cancer.
Most people should aim for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. If you eat a 2,000 calorie diet, you should aim for nine servings, or 4.5 cups. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is better than relying on one or two. For best results, choose fruits and vegetables in a range of colors and try to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal. Potatoes don't count as a vegetable, either; they're mostly starch. Finally, don't count on a multivitamin to substitute for fruits and vegetables; eating whole foods is better for your health.