Importance of Vegetables in Diet

Vegetables are the power house of nutrients. They are high in vitamins and minerals. Vegetables are low in calorie, fat but high in dietary fiber. It is also rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phytochemicals (a non-nutritive, bioactive plant substance beneficial to human health). Vegetables are also rich in antioxidants. It protects the body from diseases, cancer, gives energy to the body to fight against the diseases and boost the immunity. It also provides insoluble fiber - (NSP) Non Starch Polysaccride, lignin, cellulose, hemicelluloses, plant gums, pectin and mucilage. Fiber adds to the diet and increase transit time in the gut. Vegetables can broadly be classified into 3 groups:

Green leafy vegetables:

Rich source of calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamin C, riboflavin and folic acid. These green vegetables are inexpensive and it should be included everyday in diet. Example of GLV are-spinach, methi, cabbage, cauliflower, amaranth, bathua leaves, bottle gourd leaves, curry leaves, celery stalk, carrot leaves, mustard leaves, lettuce leaves, mint, radish leaves, turnip greens, parsley, knolkhol Brussels sprouts and betel leaves.

Roots and tubers:

Rich in carbohydrates and form an important source of energy in diet. Carrots and yellow varieties of yam are rich in carotene and potato, also provides a significant source of vitamin C. Tapioca and yams are rich in calcium. Examples of roots and tubers are beet root, colocasia, onion, radish, sweet potato and turnip.

Other vegetables:

Vegetables which do not come under leafy vegetables, roots and tubers are also termed as other vegetables. Examples are brinjal, ladies fingers, french beans, different types of gourds, tomatoes, bottle gourd, brinjal, broad beans, ash gourd, bitter gourds, jackfruit, french beans, figs, radish fingers, lotus stem, papaya, pumpkin, ridge gourd, snake gourd, tomato, sword beans, cluster beans, cucumber, capsicum and jackfruit.

While buying vegetables, focus on freshness. They will be bright in color, flavor, free from blemishes, spots and signs of insecticide spray. It is better to buy organically grown vegetables.

While cutting the vegetables, hold the vegetables under running water to remove dirt and dust. Cutting vegetables into small pieces and exposing them to air before cooking may result loss of vitamins particularly vitamin C. It is advisable to cut in larger pieces and put into boiling water and cook for shorter period. Steaming prevents loss of nutrients and proteins may lose if vegetables are cooked in salted water. If the cooking water is thrown away there is a considerable loss of minerals particularly, sodium, potassium and calcium due to leaching. It is therefore advisable to cook in minimum amount of water or use the cooking water as vegetable stalk in soups and gravies. Roots and vegetables do not suffer much loss when it is dried or followed wet method of cooking.

Cereal based diet is most dominant due to its agricultural output. Initiatives should be to be taken to encourage cultivation of vegetables in gardens to have the availability throughout the year. Once you start eating healthy diet with lots of vegetables and coupled with exercise, you will notice a lot of positive changes in your body. You will lose weight, feel more energetic, sense of happiness, look better and healthier too.


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Text book on nutritive value of Indian foods

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