We all remember it: ‘Eat Your Greens!’ Anyone who has brought up children will recognise the struggle to get toddlers, and sometimes teenagers, to do this.

We know that we need our green vegetables – but do we really know why?


While dietary fibre doesn’t give us any nutrition, it is an essential part of our food intake. Fibre keeps the gut working well, which is vital for our health as well as our general comfort. To make the most of your fibre, serve your vegetables lightly cooked, or raw if they work that way. Remember that a smoothie only counts as one of your five a day, however many vegetables are in it.


Preserving their vitamin content is another reason not to overcook your veg. Green vegetables contain a whole alphabet of vitamins and minerals. These include vitamin K for bone health, vitamin A for immune function and vitamin C for maintenance and repair of body tissues.

Vegetables also contain the vital trace minerals that we need. These include potassium, magnesium and iron. Deficiency in any of these causes health problems.


The antioxidants in green vegetables have been investigated for possible general health benefits, particularly protection against cancer. There has been particular interest in cruciferous vegetables, which includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts and pak choi.

The carotenoid compounds found in dark-green leaves are essential for eye function. Regular consumption reduces the chances of macular degeneration, by acting as a natural sunscreen for the eye.

Like all these studies, the results cannot be classed as definite due to relatively small numbers of participants. There are some indications that in some people, green vegetables do indeed provide some reduction in cancer risk.

The good news is that unless you eat gigantic amounts, there’s no evidence of harm from green vegetables. So the best bet seems to be to eat as much as you want.

Vegetables are low in fat and relatively low in calories. That means that they should be a core part of any healthy diet. With all that and flavour too, there’s every reason to eat your greens!

The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Charlie M.
27 July 2017

Charlie M.

fruit does contain sugar, although the body handles it differently IF the fruit is eaten whole. Mash it as a smoothie or drink it is a juice and you're quite right, just sugar and usually lots of it.

Helen P.
27 July 2017

Helen P.

There never seems to be anything wrong with eating leafy greens. That's the one thing I can eat in abundance and not worry about any new research disclaiming its benefits!

george h.
27 July 2017

george h.

5 a day should refer to vegetables, rather than fruit and veg. The sugar in fruit is insane-much better off eating plenty of veg and avoiding fruit except as a treat

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