Who among us doesn’t have a childhood memory of sitting at the dinner table with a plateful of broccoli or spinach in front of us and being admonished: eat your vegetables! Even if they didn’t understand precisely why, our parents knew that eating vegetables was important for growth and development. Of course eating vegetables is still just as important for adults, though we might not be as vigilant about eating them without a stern prompting from mom. The good news is that it’s never been easier to incorporate veggies into your daily diet without forcing yourself to eat something you hate.
Why Eat Vegetables?
The human body needs many different kinds of nutrients in order to function and maintain cells, tissues, and organ systems. We can synthesize some of these nutrients, but most of them must come from the food we eat. Because we’re omnivores, this can come from many different sources, but a healthy diet needs to include fair amounts of protein, whole grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Vegetables are uniquely important because there are a number of vitamins and other necessary compounds that are only found in plant-based foods.
The term vegetable is broad and can refer to any edible parts of plants, including the leaves, fruits (ironically), seeds, or roots. In addition to supporting the general functioning of the body’s cells, the compounds found in vegetables are also linked to a reduced risk for many chronic illnesses as well as overall health and wellbeing. Below are some examples of the health benefits of eating vegetables:
- Digestive health: Virtually all vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, the edible but indigestible part of plants that has many benefits. One of the most valuable benefits of fiber is that it helps maintain regular bowel motility and prevents digestive problems like constipation. Fiber content also essentially increases the volume of food while maintaining a lower caloric value; this can increase feelings of satiety and make it easier to avoid the kind of overeating that leads to obesity.
- Heart health: Many vegetables also contain antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin A; these compounds protect our cells from oxidative stress and the potential damage from free radicals. The benefits of this protection can be seen in many different ways in the body, but a major example is the reduction of arterial plaque that otherwise leads to heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
- Lower blood pressure: Vegetables high in potassium are beneficial in part because they help reduce the amount of sodium in our blood. Less sodium means lower blood pressure, and lower blood pressure means better circulation and can also improve heart health.
- Blood sugar: Eating a lot of food that is high in sugar or other simple carbohydrates can increase blood sugar and decrease the effects of insulin; this eventually can lead to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and a number of obesity-related conditions. Replacing sugary foods with vegetables can lower blood sugar levels, reduce cravings for carbohydrates, and lower the risk for diabetes and related diseases.
- Lower risk of cancer: Different vegetables have different antioxidants that are all helpful for reducing the kind of cellular damage that is thought to be a risk factor for various types of cancer.
How Many Vegetables Should I Be Eating?
Most people would probably agree that eating more vegetables is generally better, but how much is enough? According to the USDA’s dietary recommendations, you should aim to make vegetables (and fruits) a significant portion of your daily diet. The ideal amount will vary from person to person depending on factors like age and height and weight, but most adults should be eating around two to four cups of vegetables every day. This can come in the form of raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, vegetable juice, or as a powder that can be mixed into other foods.
How to Get More Veggies into Your Diet
In the last few years—driven in part by the unique pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic—there has been a marked increase in the interest in healthy foods and snacks and nutritional ingredients. And although it is undoubtedly good to include raw and cooked veggies into one’s diet, the truth is that many of us still have the same aversion to a lump of vegetables on the plate that we had as kids. Fortunately, though, there are now more ways than ever to sneak them in and get the nutritional content while also eating what we like; below are some tips for how to do this:
- Smoothies: Blended smoothies are one of the surprisingly easiest ways to get vegetables into your diet. Powdered versions of leafy green vegetables like kale are a popular additive these days, but you can also add pumpkin, tomato, or anything else you enjoy.
- Dips: Instead of cheese dip with your chips, consider adding peppers or onions to a creamy component like Greek yogurt. You can also use the same kind of dip with a vegetable tray and really amp up your veggie content.
- Pasta: Pasta is traditionally made with semolina flour, but now other types that are made from ingredients like cauliflower and mung bean are widely available. Most people can’t even taste the difference.
- Bread: In a similar way as pasta, you can now find breads that are made with different kinds of flour made from vegetables. So you can enjoy your sandwich or a piece of toast and also get a portion of your daily recommended intake.
- Burgers: Burgers are one of the most popular foods in America, but eating a lot of red meat is linked with a number of health problems. Instead, consider switching to veggie burgers.
- Packaged foods: Not everyone has time to cook an elaborate healthy meal, but grocery stores now carry many different packaged food items that are made from vegetables or use a significant amount of healthy vegetable ingredients.
Vegetable Ingredients from Silva
The bottom line is that healthier food options are in high demand these days, and vegetables are a major component of what makes them healthy. At Silva, we are passionate about providing high quality dried vegetable ingredients that can make almost any food product a more healthy option. Over the years, we have developed a rigorous production process that can help you deliver the best possible product for your customers. If you’d like to learn more about what we offer and what it’s like to partner with Silva, please contact us today.