Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables – With the modern prevalence of cheap fast food and the standard American diet, it is no surprise that most Americans do not achieve the recommended daily intake of 2 to 3 cups of fruit and vegetables.
However, nutrition-conscious Americans are not immune to it either. The increasing popularity of restrictive diets such as the Ketogenic Diet and the Carnivore Diet may also be a contributing factor to the decline in fruit and vegetable consumption.
Although most forms of the Ketogenic Diet allow some low-sugar vegetables and fruits, such as berries, it is common to focus on the Keto section which emphasizes “sausage, bacon, eggs, and butter” without remembering to include nutrient-dense plant foods.
The Carnivore Diet is even more extreme, eliminating fruit and vegetable intake. This can be worrisome, especially in the long term, because most of the vitamins that plant foods provide are water-soluble. This means they have to be continually replenished through food because the body cannot store them. Following a Carnivore Diet, in the long term, can lead to decreased intake of essential nutrients and deficiency of water-soluble vitamins.
Among the restrictive diets that worsen the quality of life, fast food, and the inherent deficiencies of the Standard American Diet, many may miss the incredible health benefits that fruits and vegetables offer. This profound health-promoting quality lies in its high antioxidant, fibre, and water-soluble vitamin content.
The Role of Antioxidants in Health
If you’ve spent any time googling healthy foods, you’re sure to have stumbled upon the benefits of antioxidants. Antioxidants are needed to maintain our health and are the main reason why fruits and vegetables are so beneficial.
What are the Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables for Health?
Antioxidants Protect From Free Radical Damage
Metabolic processes, such as energy production, together with other factors, such as environmental pollution, resulting in the production of free radicals. It is a highly reactive molecule that can damage cells and cause oxidative stress in the body – which plays a role in the development of many diseases, including heart disease.
Our bodies have natural protective mechanisms to neutralize these damaging free radical molecules, including the production of glutathione, our body’s main antioxidant. When glutathione is depleted, as a result of an increased free radical load, the body relies on dietary antioxidants from food as a secondary defence. Many studies are showing antioxidant therapy to be a promising treatment for oxidative stress in the body.
Source of fruit and plant antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables such as berries, dark grapes, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, and carrots are great sources of antioxidants. Purple fruits like blueberries and dark grapes contain an antioxidant called resveratrol which has been shown to have therapeutic potential for heart disease.
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Beta-carotene is an orange carotenoid with antioxidant properties and has also been shown to protect against heart disease. Orange and yellow plant foods are good sources of the antioxidant carotenoid beta-carotene, or pro-vitamin A, along with leafy greens.
Additionally, minerals like zinc and selenium have antioxidant capacities that can be found in vegan sources. Other important minerals found in fruits and vegetables are blood pressure-lowering potassium, magnesium, and calcium.