Reduces risk for chronic disease
Vegetables help reduce your risk for many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
In one recent study, eating just over one extra serving of leafy greens a day reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.8
Part of this benefit is due to the fiber content.
The fiber in vegetables is broken down into health-promoting short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) by your gut bacteria, and SCFAs have been shown to lessen your risk of inflammatory diseases.9
Boosts healthy immune function
Researchers have discovered10 that a gene called T-bet — which is essential for producing critical immune cells in your gut — is activated by leafy green vegetables.
These immune cells, called Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), reside in the lining of your digestive tract, and ILCs are thought to be essential for:11
Maintaining balance between tolerance, immunity and inflammation in your body
Producing interleukin-22 (IL-22), a hormone that can protect your body from pathogenic bacteria
Maintaining healthy intestinal balance by promoting growth of beneficial bacteria and healing small wounds and abrasions in the gut
Helping resolve cancerous lesions and prevent the development of bowel cancers
Preventing food allergies, inflammatory diseases, and obesity
The Health Benefits of Purple Foods
Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else. Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA integrity. Many of the benefits associated with vegetables are due to the natural pigments in the food.
While it’s advisable to eat all the “colors of the rainbow,” purple foods tend to stand out above the crowd, courtesy of their potent antioxidants called anthocyanins.12 Research has linked anthocyanins to a reduced risk for a number of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological dysfunction and decline.
They also help prevent obesity and diabetes, in part by inhibiting certain enzymes in your digestive tract, and by supporting healthy blood sugar control. They also have potent anti-inflammatory effects, which helps explain their protective effects against chronic disease. Deep red and blue foods — including all berries and cherries — are also loaded with beneficial antioxidants. Vegetables high in anthocyanins include:
Cruciferous Veggies Are an Important Part of an Anti-Cancer Diet
Vegetables are also a key component if you want to reduce your risk of cancer.13,14 Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, appear to be particularly important, and have been repeatedly shown to help prevent certain cancers by inhibiting cancer cell growth and promoting apoptosis (cell death). According to Olga Azarenko, a scientist at the UC Santa Barbara laboratories, whose research shows how the healing power of these vegetables works at the cellular level:15
“Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower. These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables.”
Broccoli, and even more so broccoli sprouts, contain the highest amounts of isothiocyanates. Other vegetables containing isothiocyanates include the following:
The isothiocyanates in these vegetables sparks hundreds of genetic changes, activating some genes that fight cancer and switch off others that fuel tumors.16 According to one recent study,17 “research suggests that cruciferous vegetables are not only an important source of nutrients, but perhaps a key to eliminating cancer as life threatening disease.” Besides breast cancer, studies have confirmed the protective benefits of these vegetables for other types of cancer as well, such as:
Bladder cancer – Researchers found that the higher the intake of cruciferous vegetables, the lower the risk of bladder cancer in men by as much as 50 percent18
Lung cancer – Researchers found that men with detectable amounts of isothiocyanates in their bodies had a 36 percent lower chance of developing lung cancer over 10 years19
Prostate cancer – Just a few additional portions of broccoli each week was found to protect men from prostate cancer20
Liver cancer — Recent research suggests eating broccoli three to five times per week can lower your risk of liver cancer, and help prevent the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)21,22,23