Getting children who are overweight to regularly eat even just a helping or two of the right vegetables each day could improve their health in critical ways, according to a new study in the November edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The study found that making nutrient-rich vegetables (including leafy foods such as spinach or broccoli and orange vegetables such as carrots) even a small part of a child’s daily diet reduced bad fats in the body. It also improved insulin levels in a group of overweight Latino children monitored by a research team from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and from the University of Texas at Austin.
Children who regularly consumed one or two fist-size servings of these non-starchy vegetables reduced their risk for liver problems, Type 2 diabetes and other complications of obesity. Although the children, who ranged in age from 8 to 18, continued to eat fewer nutritious vegetables than what’s recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the improvements to their health were significant.
“For a lot of at-risk children, intake of vegetables is really low,” said Jaimie Davis, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UT Austin and one of the authors of the study, which notes that fewer than six percent of children eat the USDA-recommended multiple servings of nutrient-rich vegetables most days.
“We found, though, even eating less than a full serving of these vegetables can really have a pronounced effect on children’s health. One large leafy green salad as a regular part of lunch is enough to make a difference,” she said.