VEGETABLES AND FRUITS RICH DIET
Why should we eat fruits /vegetables?
Fresh Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of micronutrients and macronutrients. The micronutrients present are minerals (like iron and calcium) and vitamins (like vitamin C, folic acid, B complex vitamins and carotenoids) whereas, the macronutrients present are complex carbohydrates/ fibre. Some vegetables and fruits provide very low calories, whereas some others such as potato, sweet potato, tapioca and yam as well as fruits like banana are rich in starch which provides energy in good amount. Therefore, vegetables and fruits can be used to increase or decrease calories in our diet.
What functions do these nutrients and special factors in vegetables/fruits perform in our body?
It is an essential element necessary for the formation of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin plays an important role in the transport of oxygen to the tissues. Reduction in haemoglobin in blood leads to anaemia.
It is necessary for clear vision in dim light and for maintaining the integrity of epithelial tissues. Vitamin A also has a role in maintaining resistance of the body to common infections.
It is an essential nutrient required for healthy bones and teeth. It also promotes iron absorption. Vitamin C deficiency is characterized by weakness, bleeding gums and defective bone growth. Vitamin C is abundantly available in fresh amla, citrus fruits, guava, banana and certain vegetables such as tomatoes.
It is a haemopoietic vitamin essential for multiplication and maturation of red cells in our body. Its deficiency leads to megaloblastic anaemias. Folic acid intake during pregnancy protects the foetus from developing certain congenital defects. It also promotes the birth weight of infants. Folic acid deficiency increases homocysteine levels in blood, thereby increasing the risk for heart disease
Vegetables provide phytochemicals and considerable health significance to the human body. Among these, dietary fibre, antioxidants and other bio-active constituents require special mention. These special factors are required for delaying ageing and preventing the processes which lead to diseases such as cataract, cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
They delay the intestinal transit of the food consumed. Dietary fibre is important for proper bowel function, to reduce chronic constipation, diverticular disease, haemorrhoids coronary heart diseases, diabetes and obesity. They also reduce plasma cholesterol.
These restrict the damage that reactive oxygen free radicals can cause to the cell and cellular components. Some of the diseases that have their origin in deleterious free radical reactions are atherosclerosis, cancer, inflammatory joint diseases, asthma, diabetes etc. Raw and fresh vegetables like green leafy vegetables, carrots, fresh fruits including citrus and tomatoes have been identified as good sources of antioxidants. Different colored vegetable provide different antioxidants like orange colored provide beta-carotene, red provide lycopene, deep red provide betalines, blue and purple provide anthocynins.
The Expert Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research, taking into consideration the nutrient requirements, has recommended that every individual should consume at least 300 g of vegetables (GLV : 50 g; Other vegetables : 200 g; Roots & Tubers : 50 g) in a day. In addition, fresh fruits (100 g) should be consumed regularly.
POINTS TO PONDER
Eat as much of other vegetables as possible daily.
Eat vegetables/ fruits in all your meals in various forms (curry, soups, mixed with curd, added to pulse preparations and rice).
Consume raw and fresh vegetables as salads.
Grow the family's requirements of vegetables in the kitchen garden if possible.
Green leafy vegetables, when properly cleaned and cooked are safe even for infants.
Let different varieties of vegetables and fruits add color to your plate and vitality to your plate.
Beta-carotene rich foods like dark green, yellow and orange colored vegetables and fruits (GLVs, carrots, papaya and mangoes) protect from vitamin A deficiency.
Include green leafy vegetables in daily diet.
(Source – Dietary Guidelines for Indians, NIN)