It’s surprisingly easy to fall into an eating habit that leaves you low on nutrients, even if you’re dieting for fat loss. Think about it: almost every weight loss plan revolves around workouts, calories, and macronutrients (that’s protein, carbs, and fat).
And it’s actually totally possible to lose weight and look good by focusing solely on those three things, even if you’re falling way behind on your intake of fruits and vegetables and missing out on important nutrients which can seriously impact your health.
So, how can you tell if your body is craving more plants?
There’s an endless amount of vitamins and minerals you can be missing out on if your fruit and veggie intake is low, but here are some of the most common signs you need to load up on greens.
1. You’re always hungry
The standard American diet is high in refined grains, sugars, and processed foods that are, in some ways, designed to be a little addictive.
We’re not just talking about the artificial flavors that make fast food and snacks so compellingly tasty; we also tend to eat more of foods that are low in fiber, since they’re less filling.
That’s great news for the Frito factory foreman, but bad news for your belly: low fiber foods keep you hungry.
Fruits and vegetables couldn’t be further from junk food. They bulk up your meal with a lot of fiber and very few calories, and they keep you satisfied when you’re not eating.
You can increase your fiber with plenty of broccoli, brussels sprouts, berries, avocados, and pears.
There are also some nutrients that may be connected to appetite control: vitamin C and B6 are linked to better serotonin production, which is a hormone that aids in hunger control.
Eat a lot of citrus and avocados to maintain your own levels.
2. You’re tired
Let’s not forget that if you’re staying away from fruits and veggies, you may simply be running low on carbohydrates, the body’s main source of energy.
If you keep reaching for coffee, try stocking up on plenty of fruit and carb-rich vegetables like potatoes and yams.
The high amount of B-complex vitamins in fruits and vegetables also play a key part in warding away brain fog, confusion, and mental fatigue.
Normally, people hear “B vitamins” and they think “meat,” and it’s true that animal products have an abundance of the stuff. But it’s important to eat plenty of leafy greens and bananas to maximize your intake of B vitamins, since they’ll also increase your intake of antioxidants, phytochemicals, and immunity-boosting vitamins.
Speaking of which…
3) You keep getting sick
If you’re under the weather more often than your friends and coworkers, it’s a sign that your immune system isn’t humming along as well as it should be.
Immunity is an extraordinarily complex aspect of your body, and it’s affected by more than your diet – exercise and sleep in particular have been shown to control how well you fight disease.
But food plays an important role as well. Plenty of immunity-boosting nutrients, like zinc and B6, are mostly found in animal products, but it’s a good idea to load up on citrus fruits as well. Not just because of their vitamin C content (the jury is still out as to whether that’s actually good for the common cold), but because they’re high in flavonoids, which can boost the immune system.
The same goes for mushrooms, which are high in healthy selenium, and cruciferous vegetables like kale and cabbage, which have also been linked to higher numbers of disease-fighting cells in the skin and the intestines – two places where the body is exposed to bacteria galore.
4) Pooping is no fun
Going number two should be a relatively enjoyable, relieving experience, not one that’s fraught with discomfort, odor, or pain.
It also shouldn’t take a lot of time to get in and out of the john: healthy poop isn’t watery or hard, it doesn’t pollute the surrounding area with stench, and it should slide out with relative ease.
If that doesn’t sound like your restroom routine, you might not be getting enough plant matter in your diet.
One reason is the aforementioned fiber, but vitamin C, folic acid, and magnesium are all linked to improved pooping. Leafy greens are a good source of all three.
While you should be getting a majority of your vitamins from whole foods, it can be challenging to tick all your micronutrient boxes in one day.
If keeping track of various vitamins and minerals doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, it’s a good idea to invest in a high quality greens powder to keep your nutritional bases covered.