Clear signs you’re not eating enough vegetables
You know veggies are good for you. You may also think you’re eating enough. The truth is, you probably aren’t. Read on to discover the many ways in which your body is telling you that it needs more fruit and vegetables, and what nutrients it craves.
By Morgan DeBoest. All images: Getty.
How many veggies do you need to eat, anyway?
You may think you eat enough vegetables, but more than likely, you don’t. On average, we only get two servings of vegetables per day. The Australia Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat five servings of vegetables (one serve equals 75 g of vegetables, approximately half a cup of cooked or one cup of salad veg) and two servings of fruit (one serve equals 150 g, about one apple or two apricots) per day. Skipping key nutrients can seriously affect your overall health.
There’s a lack of colour on your plate
We’ve come a long way since the old meat and two veg. But there are still plenty of people that stick to the simple formula. However, “it isn’t very colourful or loaded with balanced nutrition,” says dietitian Abby Sauer. “And even though they may be favourites, pasta, rice and bread don’t add much colour or much nutrition to your meals in terms of essential vitamins and minerals.”
You bruise easily
Consuming too little vitamin C can cause you to bruise easily, as well as increase bleeding around gums and slow the healing process. Vitamin C can be consumed by eating red capsicums, kale, red chilli peppers, dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts and tomatoes.
You’re tired all the time
Deficiency in folate can cause fatigue and anaemia. This B vitamin can be found in dark leafy greens, legumes and starchy vegetables such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, asparagus and lentils.
That nagging cold won’t go away
“If you lack vegetables in your diet and the important vitamins they provide, your body may lack the defences it needs to release free radical fighters against viruses,” says Sauer. “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.”
Your memory is foggy
While occasional forgetfulness can affect all ages, if you find your brain’s processing speed and efficiency fading as you get older, a lack of nutrients could be the culprit. “Lutein, a nutrient which has been shown in early research to enhance learning and memory, can be found in a variety of vegetables, such as leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, corn and tomatoes,” says Sauer. “Adding a few or all of these vegetables to your weekly meals can provide a helpful and natural brain boost.”
Daily stressors are getting harder to handle
While stress is an inevitable part of life, how we eat and treat ourselves directly affects our body’s response. “Inflammation is your body’s natural response to stress, so if you’re not handling stress well, inflammation and its damaging effects could be taking place,” says Sauer. “Foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as unsaturated fatty acids [like salmon and tuna], antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids [like green leafy vegetables and bright-coloured capsicums] can help lower the levels of inflammation in the body and increase your mental capabilities to handle life’s curveballs.”
You’re prone to muscle cramps
Fruit and vegetables contain potassium that may prevent muscle cramps, especially if you exercise regularly or spend a lot of time outside in the hot summer months, says dietitian Dr Emily Rubin. “One medium banana has 422 mg of potassium.”
Your scales won’t budge
“Fruit and vegetables have fibre, which makes you feel full so you eat less,” says Rubin. “Most fruit and vegetables are low in kilojoules. Fruit may also help with those sweet cravings. Choosing a bowl of strawberries instead of ice cream can save you 800 kilojoules.”
Eat more veggies: keep them on hand
According to medical weight-loss specialist Dr Adrienne Youdim, prep is everything. “Spend a Sunday grilling your favourite veggies. Make them in abundance so that they can be incorporated into your salad or lunchbox,” she says.
Eat more veggies: get one serving per meal
“Adding colour and variety to your daily meals with at least one serving of fruit or vegetables per meal can be as easy as thawing out a bag of frozen green beans, slicing up an apple or adding a bowl of colourful berries,” says Sauer.
Eat more veggies: buy frozen
“Many people avoid fresh vegetables because they go off before they get a chance to eat them,” says clinical oncology dietitian Crystal Langlois. “Buying frozen vegetables is a great alternative that is convenient and easy. If all the prep work and chopping scares you, many supermarkets carry pre-chopped items in both the frozen and fresh produce areas.”
And if you still have that inner-kid kicking and screaming to avoid eating your veggies, blend your veggies into shakes or smoothies. “The taste of vegetables is easily masked in shakes or smoothies by using fruit and fruits juice,” says Langlois. “Small diced mushrooms can be incorporated into hamburgers or Bolognese, as well.”