Decades of studies have documented the link between eating a diet rich in vegetables and multiple health benefits, yet nearly eight out of 10 people worldwide fall short of the daily recommendation. Research presented at the International Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables suggests the best approach may be to focus on the factors that are often behind this vegetable gap: convenience and enjoyment.
Two studies presented at the symposium found that the addition of vegetable juice in people's diets was a successful strategy to help them reach the vegetable guidelines (at least 4 servings per day). In fact, the addition of a portable drink, such as V8- 100% vegetable juice, was more successful than an approach that focused solely on nutrition education, or offering dietary counseling on ways to increase vegetable intake.
Researchers at the University of California-Davis conducted a 12-week study among adults ages 40-65 years. All of the people in the study who drank at least two cups of vegetable juice met daily vegetable recommendations, yet only seven percent of the non-juice drinkers met the goal. The participants in the study with borderline high blood pressure who drank one to two servings of V8 juice lowered their blood pressure significantly.
According to the research, the vegetable juice drinkers said they enjoyed the juice and felt like they were doing something good for themselves by drinking it.
"Enjoyment is so critical to developing eating habits you can stick with for the long-term," said study co-author Carl Keen, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at the University of California-Davis. "Health and nutrition professionals must help people find simple ways for people to get their vegetables or they simply won't do it, and that means they won't reap the benefits of a vegetable-rich diet. Vegetable juice is something that people enjoy, plus it's convenient and portable, which makes it simple to drink every day."
Research conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine revealed that drinking vegetable juice helped overweight individuals with metabolic syndrome lose more weight compared to non-juice drinkers. In the study, participants who drank one to two servings of Low Sodium V8- 100% vegetable juice a day as part of a balanced diet increased their vegetable intake and lost an average of four pounds over the 12-week study period. Those who did not drink juice lost only one pound.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes that includes excess body fat in the midsection, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and elevated blood cholesterol.
"Heart disease and obesity are two major global health issues today, so if we can provide people with actionable, small steps in reducing risk factors, that's a big win in promoting good health" said study co-author John Foreyt, PhD, Director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine. "We're encouraged to see that something as easy as drinking vegetable juice can help people increase their vegetable intake and have significant health benefits."