We should eat three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit daily. Unfortunately, this advice isn’t always followed. Some people simply don’t like the taste and others prefer processed carbohydrates and meats. Vegetables also take time and preparation. According to the CDC, a whopping 90 percent of Americans don’t eat their daily doses of fruits and veggies.
“Consuming enough fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity,” the CDC team reported.
Study after study supports the effectiveness of fruits and vegetables in preventing diseases, staying trim, and enjoying overall health and wellness. The lack thereof can cause the following problems:
1. You’ll Develop Digestive Problems
Fruits and vegetables are a major source of fiber, which is essential for smooth digestion.
“[Fiber] helps to alleviate or prevent constipation, stimulates the GI track muscles so they retain their strength and resist bulging out into pouches called diverticula, and reduces pressure on the lower bowel, making it less likely for rectal veins to swell [which causes hemorrhoids],” explains Laura Moore, a registered dietician at the University of Texas Health Science Center, in a Reader’s Digest Article.
“Fruits and vegetables contain cellulose, which increases stool weight, eases passage, and reduces transit time,” Moore continues.
These nutrients are essential for healthy digestion. Without them, you may have pain, swelling, diarrhea, gas, nausea, and other digestive issues.
2. You’ll Probably Gain Weight
Although skipping these healthy foods won’t cause weight gain directly, the foods you likely replace them with might. Those who don’t eat fruits and vegetables tend to eat foods high in carbohydrates and calories.
“Most often the diet containing foods that are high in energy density—meaning more calories per gram—leads to overeating and weight gain,” Moore says. “Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and low in energy density. Therefore, one can eat more and feel more satisfied with fewer calories.”
3. You’ll Have Vitamin Deficits
Vitamins and minerals create energy, assist with wound healing, promote the immune system, support blood clotting, increase metabolism, and contribute to the general health and wellness of every system in your body. Avoiding fruits and vegetables creates deficits.
If you’re not eating your fruits and vegetables, at least take vitamins to boost your immune health. You could also focus on consuming superfoods (such as kale, spinach, and beets), which contain a higher number of vitamins and nutrients.
4. You’ll Be Tired All the Time
B vitamins and folate, found in dark leafy greens and starchy vegetables, give you energy. A deficiency can make you feel tired and unmotivated, which will reflect on your health and quality of life.
You might not realize that you’re tired due to a lack of fruits and vegetables because you’ve been living without them for so long. To see the difference in your energy levels, try consuming your recommended portions of fruits and vegetables every day for two weeks and compare the difference in energy.
5. You’ll Get Sick Easier
Although fruits and vegetables are often less fresh during the winter, that’s the most important time for you to eat them so they’ll protect you during flu and cold season.
“If you lack vegetables in your diet and the important vitamins they provide, your body may lack the defenses it needs to release free radical fighters against viruses,” says Abby Sauer, RD, MPH, a dietician at Abbot. “Stock your fridge with dark leafy green vegetables, an excellent source of vitamin C, to give your immune system a boost and help shorten your recovery time.”
6. You’ll Have Muscle Cramps and Bruising
Bananas, squash, sweet potato, white beans, and other starchy fruits and vegetables are an essential source of potassium for your body. When you don’t get enough potassium, you’re prone to muscle cramps, especially if you live a fairly active lifestyle. At a minimum, try to eat one banana every couple of days.
People who don’t get enough vitamin C from citrus, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, and Brussel sprouts are also more likely to bruise easily. The bruising won’t heal very well until you replenish your vitamin C stores.
7. You’re at a Higher Risk for Depression
Your mental health will also be at risk. A study performed in Spain showed that those who regularly eat their fruits and vegetables are less likely to experience symptoms of depression, most likely because of the pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and D vitamins found in these healthy foods.
Without unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, polyphenols, and carotenoids often found in brightly colored and green, leafy vegetables, you’re more likely to experience stress, which can be harmful to your mental and physical health.