1. They make you happier.
In a study released on Jan. 24, 2013, researchers had 281 young adults fill out food and mood diaries for 21 days. On days when the subjects ate lots of fruits and vegetables, they reported feeling calmer, happier, and more energetic. They needed about seven to eight servings (about a half-cup each) to get the full benefit, though, so start mainlining spinach now.
2. They improve fertility.
Here’s how MSNBC summarized the results of a 2006 study: “The more produce a man consumed, the less sluggish his sperm.” The study authors speculated that poisonous-sounding yet healthy compounds glutathione and cryptoxanthin, found in leafy greens, oranges, tomatoes, and peppers, might improve sperm motility and thus make men more fertile.
3. They make you more attractive.
A 2012 study found that even a modest increase in fruit and vegetable consumption over a six-week period made people more attractive to others. The study authors credit carotenoids, red and yellow pigments found in veggies that give the skin a healthy glow. They also note that all their subjects were white, and further research is needed to determine if fruits and vegetables have the same effect on other skin tones.
4. And more immortal.
You might not live forever — but several studies have shown that eating a lot of vegetables can get you closer. In a study completed in 2010, researchers found that people with high blood levels of an antioxidant associated with vegetable consumption had a 39% lower risk of dying during the 14 years of the study than those with lower levels. And another study found that women in their seventies who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables (and got regular exercise) were eight times as likely to live another five years than women who shunned veggies.
5. They protect your brain.
According to a 2012 review of the available research, eating lots of vegetables is associated with lower risk of dementia and can slow the declines in brain function that occur with age. Sadly, fruit didn’t appear to have the same effect.
6. They make you stronger.
A 2012 study found that nitrate, a chemical abundant in spinach and other vegetables, made mice significantly stronger. To get the same effect, humans would have to eat 200 to 250 grams of spinach a day, which the study author called “a very easily obtained amount.”
7. And faster.
Last year, researchers found that runners who ate baked beets ran a 5k faster than competitors who ate a cranberry relish with the same amount of calories. The active ingredient: nitrate, again. The study author wrote, “Because whole vegetables have been shown to have health benefits, whereas nitrates from other sources may have detrimental health effects, it would be prudent for individuals seeking performance benefits to obtain nitrates from whole vegetables, such as beetroot.”
8. They give you X-ray vision.
OK, not really. But a 2010 study found that women who ate lots of colorful vegetables developed cataracts later in life than women with more meat-heavy diets did. Fruits and vegetables also protect against macular degeneration — and eating lots of carrots can improve your night vision.