Food & Nutrition

8 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Veggies

You might not love ’em, but here’s why you should eat your fruits and veggies anyway.

You could become deficient in vitamins and minerals

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Fruits and vegetables contain some of the most vital nutrients for our health, but a study from Johns Hopkins University showed that only 11 percent of adults ate the USDA-recommended three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. A recent study from the CDC found similar results. So what can happen if you don’t get enough? Eating too few fruits and veggies can result in nutrient deficiencies. According to Laura Moore, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health, many deficiencies can have unpleasant side effects. Although you could get many nutrients from other foods, fruits and veggies contain high concentrations and are therefore great sources of them. These are the ways your body is trying to tell you you’re running low on vitamins.

You could develop digestive problems

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Without fruits and veggies, you’re more prone to digestive ailments such as constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. “Fruits and vegetables contain cellulose, which increases stool weight, eases passage, and reduces transit time,” Moore explains. In addition, they contain fiber, which Moore says “helps to alleviate or prevent constipation, stimulates the GI tract 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].” A study from Harvard Medical School showed that a diet high in dietary fiber, which fruits and veggies provide, reduces the risk for diverticular disease. Here are the easiest ways to get more fiber in your diet.

Your risk of cancer increases

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According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), no one food can protect you against cancer—but a diet filled with plant-based foods can help lower your cancer risk. “Antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotenoids may reduce cancer risks by protecting healthy cells from free radicals,” says Moore. “Carotenoids—pigments including beta-carotene, which can be found in spinach, other dark leafy greens, deep orange fruits, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots—may protect against cellular damage and have been associated with lower rates of cancer.” In addition, consuming too much fat has been linked to cancer; so replacing those unhealthy foods with a diet high in fruits and veggies will lower your risk. These foods can actually lower your risk of getting cancer.

You may gain weight

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If you’re not eating fruits and veggies, you’re probably eating foods with a higher fat content and caloric density. A study led by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that overweight and obese portions of the U.S. adult population ate fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than normal-weight groups. “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.”

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