Why should we eat vegetables? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 07, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:38 PM, November 07, 2017

A note on nutrition

Why should we eat vegetables?

It would not be easy to find a child who hasn't questioned the need to have fruits. Most fruits are sweet and possibly, the reason for being such favourites. 

However, the tables turn when it comes to vegetables. Parents are bombarded with arguments against vegetables, and it is quite understandable. 

No matter how despised vegetables are among children (and some adults), it should be a part of any healthy diet. 

Vegetables serve an important protective function and are highly beneficial for the maintenance of good health. They are also responsible in maintaining the right reserve of alkalinity in the body. An intake of about 280 grams of vegetables per day per person is considered essential to maintain good health. Of this, leafy vegetables should constitute 40 percent, roots and tubers 30 percent and the others like brinjals, okra the remaining 30 percent.

Deep-green, yellow and orange vegetables such as leafy vegetables, carrots, papaya, tomatoes and yellow pumpkin contain a substance known as carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to eye infections, poor vision, night blindness, frequent colds, lack of appetite and skin disorders. 

Several leafy vegetables contain riboflavin, a member of the vitamin B-complex. A deficiency can lead to cracking of the angles of the mouth, premature wrinkles and eczema. 

Vitamin C is contained in ample amounts in several vegetables such as, bitter gourd, tomatoes and leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage and drumstick leaves. Vitamin C is essential for preventing scurvy, tooth decay, bleeding gums, anaemia and premature ageing. 

Highly soluble minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, copper, and potassium contained in the vegetables maintain the acid base balance of the body tissues. They help the complete absorption of vitamins, proteins, fats and carbohydrates of the food. They also help the body to eliminate excess liquid and salt. 

Carrot, bitter gourd, onions and tomatoes are also fair sources of iron. Vegetables contain various medicinal and therapeutic agents. There is a large array of laxatives, sedatives and soporifics or (sleep inducing) in the vegetable kingdom. 

Vegetables like onions, radishes and celery exercise a tonic effect and are excellent for the nerves. Carrots are good for the blood. Spinach will be beneficial in the treatment of kidney troubles. Lettuce can be used as a food remedy for insomnia. Onions can be used with advantage in the treatment of cough, cold, influenza, constipation, scurvy and hydrophobia. Garlic is known to be beneficial to fight against heart diseases, hypertension, hypoglycaemia, and diabetes; even in near fatal forms of meningitis it has been effectively used in lowering blood cholesterol and preventing blood clotting. 

Beet root, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, green peas and beans are especially useful in case of arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and constipation. 

Pectin found in vegetables such as brinjal, radish, pumpkin and beet root absorb water, kill certain bacteria and toxins and eliminate them from the body. Garlic, onion, radish and mint contain pectin as well as antimicrobic qualities. 

Vegetables also supply trace elements like iodine, for instance, which is essential for thyroid hormone which regulates much physical and mental activities, cobalt for increasing the number of blood corpuscles, and zinc for proper growth. 

Photo courtesy: Chowdhury Tasneem Hasin


HERE ARE SOME HINTS TO PROTECT THE NUTRITION OF VEGETABLES 

When there is inflammation in the intestines, vegetables having less cellulose content such as tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and vegetable juices should be taken.

Vegetables, after thorough wash, should be cut into as large pieces as possible.

The cut pieces should be added to water, which has been brought to boiling point and to which salt has been added. This is necessary to avoid loss of B-complex vitamins and vitamin C.

While cooking vegetables in mind, one must take care that only the bare minimum of water is used; spinach and other tender greens need no water.

Vegetables should not be exposed to atmospheric air; they should be covered tightly while cooking. 

They should be cooked for as short a time as possible. They should be cooked till they are just soft to the touch for easy chewing. 

They should be served hot.

It would be advisable to steam or boil vegetables in their own juices on a slow fire and the water or cooking liquid should not be drained off. 

No vegetable should be peeled unless it is so old that the peeling is tough and unpalatable.  The largest amount of minerals lay, directly under the skin and these are lost if vegetables are peeled. 

Soaking of vegetables should also be avoided if taste and nutritive value are to be preserved.

Finally, vegetables should not be cooked in aluminium utensils, as it reacts with both acids and alkalis. 

A WORD OF CAUTION

To derive maximum benefits of their nutrients, vegetables should be consumed fresh as far as possible. Faulty cooking and prolonged careless storage can easily destroy the valuable nutritional elements. 

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