Clear Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Vegetables

You know veggies are healthy for you. You also know you should probably eat more. Here are obvious clues you need to up your produce game.

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How many veggies do you need to eat, anyway?

You may think you eat enough vegetables—but more than likely, you’re wrong. Although the updated Canada Food Guide no longer includes daily recommended servings, the previous version set adult Canadians the goal of seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. According to Heart and Stroke, more than half of us are falling significantly short, getting fewer than five daily servings. And those aren’t just numbers; skipping those key nutrients can seriously affect your overall health. Read on to find out ways your body is telling you what it needs, and how to give it the nutrients it craves.

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There’s a lack of colour on your plate

“The typical American meal of meat and potatoes may taste good, but it isn’t very colourful or loaded with balanced nutrition,” says Abby Sauer, RD, MPH, a dietitian at Abbott. “Even though they may be favourite foods, plain pasta, rice, and bread don’t add much colour to your meals and don’t add much nutrition in terms of essential vitamins and minerals either.”

Find out why you need to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day.

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Top view close up man's hand dipping cucumber stick in hummus on the kitchen. Hummus served with raw vegetables on the plate. Healthy food lunch. Vegetarian and vegan food diet. Soft selective focus
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You’re bruising easily

Consuming too little vitamin C can increase your risk of bruising—some research suggests that getting enough through your diet can help. You can find vitamin C in red peppers, kale, red chili peppers, dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.

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Five bean salad
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You’re tired all the time

Deficiency in folate can cause fatigue and anemia, explains Sauer. This B vitamin can be found in dark leafy greens and starchy vegetables such as black eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, navy bean, asparagus, and lentils.

Here are 10 anemia symptoms you might be ignoring.

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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 defenses 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.”

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A woman carrying a basket of fresh vegetables in garden
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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.”

Follow this MIND Diet meal plan to feed your brain.

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Baked salmon garnished with asparagus and tomatoes with herbs
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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 peppers] can help lower the levels of inflammation in the body and increase your mental capabilities to handle life’s curveballs.”

Find out the healthiest fish you can eat.

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Healthy pineapple, mango smoothie bowl with coconut, bananas, blueberries and granola. Top view scene on a bright background.
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You’re prone to muscle cramps

Fruits and vegetables contain potassium that may prevent muscle cramps, especially if you’re exercising or outside in hot summer months, says Emily Rubin, RD, registered dietitian in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals. “One medium banana has 422 mg of potassium.”

If you’re not eating a banana every day, this might convince you to start.

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Ripe red strawberries on white bowl, over white background
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Your scale won’t budge

“Fruits and vegetables have fibre that makes you feel full so you eat less,” says Rubin. “Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories. Fruit may also help with those sweet cravings. Choosing a bowl of strawberries instead of ice cream can save you 200 calories.”

Here are more high-fibre foods worth adding to your cart.

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How to eat more veggies: Keep them on hand

According to Adrienne Youdim, MD, of Beverly Hills’ Lasky Clinic, prep is everything. “Spend a Sunday grilling your favourite veggies in a grill pan,” she says. “Make them in abundance so that they can be incorporated into your salad or bagged lunch.”

Don’t miss our ultimate guide to healthy grocery shopping.

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macro shot of a plate of freshly sauteed summer vegetables on an old barn wood table
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Aim for at least one serving per meal

“Adding colour and variety to your daily meals with at least one serving of fruits or vegetables per meal can be as easy as unthawing a bag of frozen green beans, slicing up an apple, or adding a bowl of colourful berries to your meal,” says Sauer.

Find out the healthiest fruits you can buy.

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Frozen vegetables
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Buy frozen

“Many people avoid fresh vegetables because they go bad before having a chance to prepare them, they don’t like the chopping involved, or they’re not quite sure how to prepare them,” says Crystal Langlois, RD, clinical oncology dietitian at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. “Buying frozen vegetables is a great alternative that is convenient and easy. If all the prep work and chopping scares you, many grocery stores carry pre-chopped items in both the frozen and fresh produce areas.”

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 fruits and fruits juices,” says Langlois. “Small diced mushrooms can be incorporated into hamburgers or meatloaf, as well.”

Next, brush up on the impressive health benefits of avocado.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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