girl not eating broccoli

What Happens When You Stop Eating Fruits + Vegetables

Spoiler alert: nothing good. 

September 10, 2015

Of course eating your greens (and reds and yellows) ranks high on your list of “must dos” each day, along with flossing and wearing your seatbelt. But what would it look like if you were to throw caution to the wind and forget about fruits and veggies? Here are the six things that could happen if you went cold turkey on eating from the rainbow. 

You’ll Be Hungry
Produce is high in fiber and water—a winning combination that helps promote satiety (a fancy way of saying it helps fill up your belly so you stop eating sooner), according to research from Penn State University. By skipping out on fruit and veg, you’ll lose some of the best sources of satisfying fiber. And in case you think you’ll make up the difference by adding in one of those fiber-fortified bars and a glass of water: So-called “functional fiber” doesn’t have the same hunger quelling capacity as the fiber found naturally in foods, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Skin Goes Sallow
Students’ complexions seemed less healthy and attractive when they were skipping out on produce, according to a study from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. When the same students increased their intake by around three servings per day, their skin seemed healthier and more attractive. Researchers say the sallow skin may be due to a lack of carotenoids, naturally occurring pigments that give plant foods much of their bright color. 

Blood Pressure Jumps UP
People who are stingy on produce are more likely to have high blood pressure, according to a study from Imperial College London that tracked nearly 5,000 adults from Asia, the U.S., and the U.K. Giving up salad may have even more of an impact than dropping the side of steamed broccoli, since researchers linked raw veggies with more blood pressure benefits than cooked . 

You’ll Be On Edge
College women who ate fewer fruits and vegetables were more likely to feel depressed and on edge, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal. While researchers weren’t sure if that means produce prevents depressive symptoms or that when someone is down they’re less likely to eat produce—but either way, keeping up on your greens certainly can’t hurt.  

Future Health Risks Increase
Older adults who ate few fruits and veggies were more likely to have mild cognitive impairment compared with those who ate loads of produce, according to a 2015 Korean study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Researchers say the protection likely comes from polyphenols, compounds in plants that function as antioxidants .

Life Expectancy Plummets
Harsh but true: People who eat less produce are more likely to die from any cause, and specifically from heart disease. Of course we’ll all go at some point, but avoiding fruits and vegetables may make the end more imminent according to a recent review published in the British Medical Journal. Want to reverse the trend? Each additional serving of produce decreased risk of death by 5 percent.