The term vegetable generally means the edible parts of plants. Any plant part like fruit (tomato), seeds (bean), roots (beet), tubers (potato), stems (asparagus), leaves (spinach), or flower (cauliflower) can be used as food. Mostly vegetables are low in fat and calories, high in fiber except starchy vegetables like beet and potato are very high in sugar. Now the question is why vegetable are essential to live a perfect healthy life?
Vegetables are essential for well-balanced diets. About 3 billion people in the world are malnourished due to imbalanced diets.Vegetables can contribute to the prevention of malnutrition disorders. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of the body. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. What are the health benefits of eating vegetables? There are so many health benefits of eating food rich in vegetables some of them are: Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, such as potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E. Here I would like to discuss some important functions of all these nutrients to stay healthy.
Eating vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risks for heart diseases, including heart attack, stroke and may also protect against certain types of cancers. Vegetables with high potassium concentration may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato and various tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens and spinach. Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake. Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories so having no cholesterol.
Vegetables containing dietary fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart diseases. Fiber is important for proper bowel function and helps to reduce the constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Vegetables containing high fiber are spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, red potato, red cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, turnip greens, and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin A is a good antioxidant and associated with healthy eyes i.e. prevent nighttime blindness, eye inflammation, and dry eyes. Vitamin A containing vegetables include kale, carrots, cantaloupe, red pepper, peas, spinach, tomatoes, turnip green, sweet potatoes, mustard green and paprika. Vitamin C as a powerful antioxidant helps reduce oxidative stress to the body and is thought to lower cancer risk. Vegetables containing high vitamin C include bell pepper, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, peas, and papaya. Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy also aids in iron absorption. Folate is essential for the formation of red blood cells. Pregnant women should consume adequate folate from food; because it may reduces neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development. Folate is present in spinach, broccoli, asparagus and turnip green.Vitamin E is a group of 8 fat-soluble vitamins which help prevent oxidative stress to the body.
Adequate amounts of vitamin E protect against heart disease, cancer, and eye damage. High vitamin E containing foods include squash, pumpkin, broccoli, plant oils, shellfish, fish, and spinach. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin required by the body for the proper absorption of calcium, bone development and proper functioning of immune system. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to rickets, a disease in which bones fail to develop properly. Vitamin D is present in mushrooms. All these vitamins are required by the body on daily basis. The daily intake of vegetables is quite low in Pakistan – about 100 gm per day while the recommended is 285gms per day.
To conclude, the problem of malnutrition and ultimately various chronic diseases which are basically due to lesser consumption of vegetables can be overcome by fulfilling our daily requirement of vegetables as vegetables are the major source of proteins, essential vitamins and minerals which are needed for proper functioning of the body.
The aurthors are from Department of PBG and CABB, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
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