Vegetables and fruits provide more nutritious content than just easily-identifiable vitamins and minerals.
As with any living thing, they are much more than their component parts, interacting with other foods and our bodies’ constituents and performing actions that are undeniably spectacular.
They just do what comes naturally and every different variety affects us in different ways.
We Don’t Eat Enough Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.
The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2010 that the vast majority of people in the United States don’t consume the recommended amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits.
A balanced diet is crucial to health and fruits and vegetables should comprise most of our daily diet because of their active contributions. Not only rich in vitamins and minerals, there are enzymes, amino acids, fiber, protein, fatty acids, and other chemical factors that only produce can provide.
A twenty-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that weight gain in adults:
“…was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt”
“…4-year weight change was most strongly associated with the intake of potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats, and processed meats…”
Like a broken record (or scratched CD), we already know that fresh foods are best for us and provide necessary nutrition. But just as you can’t dissect a living thing to any one piece that translates to its overall effect, research continues as scientists find more ways in which the food we eat affects our health. One such study in the United Kingdom (UK) found that (cruciferous) vegetables have a significant influence on the health of our digestive system.
The Things We Can’t See are Important.
Microorganisms are everywhere. As they relate to our bodies, some live on the outside and some on the inside. In the context of our intestines:
“…many of these [microorganisms] aid in nutrient processing, immunity, tissue development, and provision of metabolic compounds. Although many microorganisms are beneficial, the tissues need protection against assault from these and others. A first line of defense is the physical obstruction provided by a single- or multi-cell layer, the epithelial barrier. In the skin this is a tight, although not impregnable, seal. In contrast, the epithelial cells of the intestine form leaky barriers required for supporting the exchange of nutrients and fluids.”
Many people suffer from “leaky gut” syndrome–a condition in which those loosely-connected barriers become too loose and undigested food (and harmful bacteria) makes it into the bloodstream.
In the UK study, a group of mice was fed a diet devoid of vegetables. After only three weeks, the mice lost up to eighty percent of a type of white blood cell called intraepithelial lymphocytes (iEL). iEL are an important part of the barrier that keep out the bad and allow the good in the intestinal walls; with a decrease in volume comes an increased immune response and risk of disease.
What You Eat can Make Everything Work Right–or Wrong.
When the control mice were fed a diet that included cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.), the receptor in the intestine that contributes to the formation of iEL increased. Effects were seen in the colon as well. The enzyme responsible is indole-3-carbinol, which is generated when you ingest this type of vegetable; this enzyme has been shown in many studies to prevent the development of cancer. And you can’t get it from a pill–or a potato chip.