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Arugula Salad with Garlic Croutons, Gruyere and Eggs

The results of a recently-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study demonstrate the critical role that vegetables play in healing the body.

The CDC collected data from approximately 15,000 Americans over a period of 14 years, specifically tracking the amounts of alpha-carotene in their blood.

This study reported that participants whose blood contained had a higher amount of alpha-carotene lived longer and healthier lives than those with lower amounts of alpha-carotene.

The CDC also found that incidents of heart disease and cancer decreased as alpha-carotene levels increased. These diseases are linked to cell damage. Researchers believe that the lower risks of cancer and heart disease reported in this study are related to the fact that alpha-carotenes stop oxygen-related damage to protein, DNA, and fat cells.

In fact, participants with the highest amount of alpha-carotene were 39% less likely to die from any cause than those with a regular amount of alpha-carotene in their blood. This highlights the fact that the average American does not absorb an effective amount of alpha-carotene through their diet.

The best source of alpha-carotene for the human body is vegetables. Yellow-orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash as well as dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and peas are rich in alpha-carotene.

According to a Time article by Meredith Melnick, a recent CDC survey found that only 25% of adults eat 3 servings of vegetables each day.

Traditionally, the CDC has recommended that Americans eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. At Americans can learn exactly how many servings they need based on their age, sex and activity level.

Participating in Meatless Monday is the perfect way to bring awareness to how many vegetables you actually eat throughout the day and gives you the opportunity to try new recipes that will add more vegetables to your diet.