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What do vegetables do for your body?

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Digestive healthImmune systemBlood pressureCancerCardiovascular diseaseEye healthDiabetesPortionsSummary
Vegetables have many benefits, from lowering your chance of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease to helping manage blood pressure and sugar levels. 
Medically reviewed by Amy Richter, RD
Written by Suan Pineda
Updated on January 4, 2024

A balanced diet with enough vegetables is a key lifestyle measure for promoting good overall health. It can also help manage existing health conditions, like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Eating vegetables like dark leafy greens, onions, and carrots can be a great way to increase vitamin and mineral consumption and ensure your immune system remains healthy.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article uses the terms “women” and “men” when discussing people assigned female or male at birth to reflect language that appears in source materials. 

While gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body, you may need to consider how your personal circumstances will affect diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.

1. Promoting digestive health

Eating root vegetables and dark leafy greens can improve your gut microbiome as they contain many nutrients, such as vitamin K, folate, and magnesium.

Vegetables that are rich in insoluble fiber, like kale, broccoli, and green beans, can also help relieve and prevent constipation

A 2023 study found that eating vegetables and fruits contributes to the diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut, which is key to digestive and overall health. The study highlighted the importance of eating vegetables and fruits during infancy because it helps develop a strong immune system. 

2. Supporting the immune system

Wooden figure laying in a hammock supported by 2 broccolis to depict what benefits vegetables can have on our bodies
Yaroslav Danylchenko/Stocksy United

The many nutrients found in vegetables help nourish the whole body, including the immune system. As mentioned above, vegetables and fruits nourish the gut microbiome, which plays a key role in our immune health. 

Vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, and broccoli are packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate, which can help support the immune system.

3. Lowering your blood pressure

Certain vegetables can help prevent and manage your blood pressure levels. 

A 2023 review of studies found that a high intake of vegetables and fruits was linked to a lowered chance of hypertension.

Nutrients found in vegetables, such as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, are thought to contribute to lower blood pressure. Examples include:

  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • soybeans
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • spinach

If you have a diagnosis of hypertension, you may also need medication to manage your symptoms. Common examples that a doctor may prescribe include acebutolol (Sectral) and amlodipine (Norvasc).

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4. Lowering the risk of certain cancers

Vegetables have also been shown to lower the chance of certain cancers. 

A 2021 study found that the consumption of vegetables and fruits lowered the risk of breast cancer among those who are postmenopausal. 

According to a 2015 study, vegetables high in flavonoids, glucosinolates, and other nutrients can help reduce the chance of stomach cancer and digestive tract cancers.

These vegetables include:

  • onions
  • leeks
  • chives
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • cabbages
  • cauliflowers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • turnip greens

5. Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease

The consumption of vegetables has been linked to a lower chance of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2017 review of studies. This may be due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidation properties of certain vegetables, such as:

  • celery
  • onions
  • broccoli
  • lettuce
  • asparagus
  • potatoes

6. Improving your eye health

Vegetables that contain nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin can help keep your eyes healthy and protect against ocular conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.

Some of these vegetables include:

  • bell peppers
  • carrots
  • avocados
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • kale

7. Lowering the risk of diabetes

Eating vegetables like dark leafy greens can reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as help manage sugar levels in those who already have the condition.

A 2022 study found that consuming more vegetables lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Here are some vegetables to consider including in your diet.:

  • broccoli
  • okra
  • pumpkin
  • kale
  • avocados

How many vegetables should I be eating? 

The quantity of vegetables to eat a day depends on several factors, such as your age, sex, level of physical activity, weight, and height. According to the MyPlate Plan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the daily recommended amount of vegetables are:

  • Toddlers: 2/3–1 cup
  • Children: 1–2½ cups
  • Tween and teen girls: 1½–3 cups
  • Tween and teen boys: 2–4 cups
  • Women: 2–3 cups
  • Men: 3–4 cups

This means that during a week, a woman, for example, should have between 14 and 21 cups of vegetables. The MyPlate Plan defines a cup of vegetables as 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw leafy salad greens.

Summary

A balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits is key to maintaining good overall health and managing health conditions.  

Vegetables have a wide range of benefits for our bodies, including:

  • lowering the risk for certain cancers
  • lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • improving gut health
  • supporting the immune system

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