3 Ways Vegetables Can Change Your Life (And The Science To Prove It)
Updated: Apr 10, 2018
There are tens of thousands of dietary theories in the world, and if you put just two people in a room together and ask them what the ideal diet is, they will likely disagree. But there's one thing that they will likely agree with - that vegetables are good for you. Why are vegetables the universal gold standard of a healthy lifestyle? And what does the science say?
To me, the biggest goals of being healthy are:
Live a long life
Have more energy (so I can do more, and live more of life!)
So is there a correlation between vegetable consumption and longevity of life, happiness, and energy? YEP!!!
FACT #1: THOSE WHO EAT MULTIPLE SERVINGS OF VEGETABLES (AND FRUIT) A DAY ARE MORE LIKELY TO LIVE LONGER THAN THOSE WHO DO NOT.
One of the most fascinating studies IMHO is this 2013 study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers examined the "dose-response relation between fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality" and found that those who had five servings of fruits and vegetables a day lived three years longer on average compared to those who had none. In fact, they lived a month longer than those who ate four servings a day, three months longer than those who ate three servings a day; seven (7) months longer than those who ate two servings a day, and almost 1.5 years longer than those who ate 1 serving a day; and nearly 3 years longer than those who ate no fruits/veg.
Perhaps it's because certain vegetables (like leafy greens) can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Or maybe it's because they can decrease the chances of developing heart disease, can decrease blood pressure, and prevent cancer. Essentially, they are the one-stop shop to decreasing the chances of just any bad thing happening (okay, they can't prevent car accidents... but sometimes it seems like it).
Side note: I'm starting to think there's a reason that every time I research how to help literally any ailment that I have, the advice comes back to eat more fruit/veg, exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. It's all connected.
FACT #2: EATING VEGGIES AND FRUIT INCREASES YOUR ENERGY, WHICH IN TURN, CAN HELP YOU ACCOMPLISH MORE IN YOUR DAY.
Ever wonder why you're always sleepy and lethargic around 3pm every day? Hint: It's what you're eating for lunch. And if your energy levels are low throughout the day, it might be what you're eating for breakfast and dinner too.
When you eat a burger and fries for lunch, sugar from your lunch is quickly available because you've just eaten "high-glycemic" foods. You feel sooo happy at first, as the sugar goes straight into your blood. Then - insulin pumps into your blood, spiking that sugar way down - causing you to feel lethargic, sleepy, exhausted, and generally terrible.
Vegetables on the other hand don't spike your blood sugar - so you don't have an increase in insulin but instead a gradual release of glucose, which means that your energy levels stay high throughout the day.
Here's what it looks like in your bloodstream.
^ Doesn't that look just like how sugar-produced mood swings feel??
From my personal experience, higher energy all day long means that I can do more and accomplish more in my day, which directly leads to Fact #3...
FACT #3: VEGETABLE AND FRUIT CONSUMPTION MAY ACTUALLY INCREASE OVERALL HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING (Wait, what? No way. What?)
According to this study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers tracked weekly fruit and vegetable intake and overall life satisfaction for two years. They accounted for variables like income, education, personal circumstances, and other instances that could affect life satisfaction. The results? Increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. In fact, those who went from eating almost no vegetable and fruit to 8+ servings/day had a happiness change equal to going from being unemployed to becoming employed.
The study doesn't get into why, and the analytical side of me wonders - was this causation or correlation? Or perhaps happy people are more likely to treat their bodies better.
From my own personal experience, my satisfaction and happiness dramatically increased when I got my diet and nutrition in check.
I no longer have that 1-3pm slump where all you want to do is get into sweatpants and take a nap (typically from that lunchtime burger and fries that created a huge spike in insulin)
I no longer have unexplainable mood swings that come out of nowhere (that can come from blood sugar spikes and drops)
I no longer look in the mirror and wish I were someone else
I no longer change clothes three times in the morning because everything is too tight and nothing fits except my yoga pants
I no longer experience regret, self-loathing, and negative self-talk every day for my eating choices (for example: "Why did I eat three donuts? Just because they were free and lying around the office doesn't mean I should go and eat them all... and now I feel terrible. Seriously Steph, why can't you just say no? It shouldn't be this hard...")
Now, not only do I have much higher energy levels, more self confidence, and a more consistent mood, I've also got something to look forward to and work toward. Instead of constantly anticipating the next dose of sugar or carb, my brain has been retrained to a new, more fulfilling passion in life: constantly improving my health.