You’ve been hearing the advice to “eat more fruits and vegetables” for as long as you can remember — and for good reason.
Produce is a key part of a balanced diet — in fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fruits and vegetables should fill up half your plate.
But there are even more reasons to eat your greens (and reds, and yellows, and oranges) than you might realize.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of eating fruits and vegetables:
1. They’re Full of Nutrients
For most of us, this is probably the first benefit that comes to mind: Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
A diet rich in fruits and veggies can help you get the nutrients your body needs, including (but definitely not limited to) vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, folate, and potassium.
Different fruits and veggies are nutritional powerhouses for different reasons, so you’ll often hear the recommendation to “eat the rainbow.”
In other words, fill your plate with a colorful mix of fruits and veggies to make sure you’re getting the widest possible variety of nutrients.
2. They May Benefit Heart Health
“Think of fruits and vegetables as a way to optimize the function of this system, as well as every other system in your body,” says dietitian Maggie Ward, R.D., nutrition director of The UltraWellness Center in Massachusetts.
3. They’re Good for Your Skin
Antioxidants such as vitamin C can play a role in skincare strategies, according to Chesahna Kindred, M.D., dermatologist at Kindred Hair & Skin Center in Maryland.
While you’ll find them in many skincare products, it’s also helpful to get them through nutrition — and that includes plenty of fruits and veggies, Kindred adds.
4. They Boost Your Fiber Intake
Fruits and veggies provide fiber, which supports a healthy gut. “The link between beneficial fiber and good gut function can’t be overemphasized,” says dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman, R.D., who specializes in digestive health.
“That’s not just because fiber helps move food through your system, but also because it feeds the good bacteria in your microbiome,” she explains.
Dietary fiber also helps you feel fuller, which can help with weight control.
Just be sure to increase your fiber intake gradually.
“It can be challenging for your system if you ramp up too quickly,” Freuman says. “That can be particularly true if you overdo it on certain vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.”
5. They Can Pinch-Hit for Refined Carbs
One major benefit of vegetables is that they can replace refined carbs in your favorite recipes, helping you lower your calorie intake.
Cauliflower is incredibly versatile: Try cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, mashed cauliflower, or buffalo cauliflower bites. Or if you’re craving pasta, sub in spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead.
6. They Can Help With Weight Loss
Eating more fruits and veggies may help with weight loss or maintenance. Fruits and veggies are filling, thanks to their fiber and water content — and research suggests fiber may also keep you satiated long after you eat.
Just be sure you’re eating fruits and veggies instead of high-calorie, processed foods — not in addition to them.
7. They’re Delicious!
There are so many tasty ways to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet. Even if you’re not a vegetable fan, there are so many creative ways to cook vegetables and include them in all your meals.