Benefits of Vegetables
The health benefits of vegetables usually show in long run by improving your overall health and keeping the internal system in perfect condition. Consumption of vegetables takes care of your digestive system, excretory system, skeletal system (bones), blood pressure levels etc. With a diet rich in vegetables you are being benefitted with abundant antioxidants that keep away diseases like cancer, cardiovascular problems and stroke. Moreover, vegetables deliver ample vitamins, such as folate, vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B6, and also carotinoids like beta carotene from carrots, lycopene from tomatoes, zeaxanthin from greens, lutein from spinach and collard greens. Vegetables also help in keeping your weight controlled and promote healthy skin and hair. There have been innumerable researches all over the world that strongly suggest having fresh green vegetables on regular basis than going for supplementary tablets (unless critical condition) to get the wholesome nutrition.
Nutrient value of vegetables
Antioxidants: Did you know that, including vegetables in your diet is probably the easiest way to stay healthy, trim and nourished. Since vegetables are low calorie yet nutrient rich foods, they help you to stay in optimum health in long run keeping your weight checked.
As said earlier vegetables have abundant antioxidants that prevent the growth of cancers. The dark green vegetables have lots of phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants and minerals. These vitamins and mineral are essential for proper functioning of your body. Deficiencies of these vitamins and minerals can lead to serious deficiencies of bones, teeth and vital organs. Moreover, antioxidants boost body immunity and keep you away from infections and diseases. Leafy green vegetables have a bioflavonoid known as ‘Quercetin’. This is responsible for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of vegetables along with the unique anticancer properties. Quercetin, the natural compound effectively cuts down the flow of substances that lead to allergies. This compound plays the role of an inhibitor of mass cell secretion, thereby decreasing the release of interleukin-6. Most of the green, yellow and orange vegetables also have high percentage of calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B-complex, vitamin A, vitamin-C, vitamin K, zea-xanthins, α and β carotenes and crypto-xanthins.
Dietary fiber: Vegetables are great options for consuming dietary fiber. Owing to this high percentage of fiber level in vegetables, your digestive track stays well-toned. Vegetables are abundant in soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber, known as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP). This dietary fibre absorbs the extra water in your colon and thereby retains the moisture content in the fecal matter. Thus aiding in digestion, preventing chronic constipation, hemorrhoids and rectal fissures. Your digestive system becomes sleeker and its functioning of processing foods gets smoother keeping many ailments away. More fiber rich foods keep your digestive system clear and healthy, helping you to avoid problems like constipation and bowel irregularity, colon cancers and even polyps. Since they have high fiber, vegetables also tend to make you feel full for longer, and stops unnecessary snacking.
Anti-Cancer: Cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli have high content of indoles and isothiocyanates. These components have protective properties against colon cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer and other types of cancers. Broccoli sprouts has immensely high sulforaphane than the matured broccolis, which is a cancer-protective substance. Furthermore, as said before vegetables being great anti-oxidants also alleviates the chances of fatal diseases like cancers.
Proteins and amino acids: If you eat less animal products in your diet ensure that your diet is rich in protein-rich vegetables to compensate the proteins that you are missing. Once you make a combination of vegetables in your meals, you gain ample amount of amino acids that is required to live healthily. Eat plenty of beans, spinach, along with whole grain rice for a balanced meal.
Water content: Vegetables naturally have high levels of water structurally, this is the reason why they are generally fat free and low in calories. You can be rest assured of both your weight and health once you start with vegetable rich diet. The more you consume vegetables, the more is the water intake that flushes out waste products from your body.
Minerals: Green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium content and have low glycemic index, thus they prove to be helpful for patients with type 2 diabetes. If you add at least 1 serving of green leafy vegetables each day, it will considerably lower the risks of diabetes. Green vegetables are also rich in iron and calcium, except for Swiss chard and spinach (since they are high in oxalic acid).
Vitamins: In general vegetables have high vitamin content, however vitamin K is usually prevalent in almost all vegetables. The high level of vitamin K in green vegetables makes them an ideal natural way out to prevent bone problems. Vitamin K is necessary for the production of osteocalcin, a protein mandatory for proper bone health. In a survey, addition of green leafy vegetables considerably decreased the chances of hip fracture in middle-aged women.
Lycopene and beta carotenes: Green vegetables have high beta-carotene, which when converted into vitamin A improves immune function. Tomatoes have lycopene which protects your eyes from sight problems. A diet deficient in green vegetables often leads to the possibilities of blindness, and other illnesses in children.
Allyl sulfides: Garlic, onions, chives, leeks and scallions are rich in allyl sulfides that help in lowering high blood pressure and protect the stomach and the digestive tract from fatal disease like cancers.
How much vegetable should we eat in our daily diet?
It is said the more vegetables we have, more are the benefits to our health. You should consume fresh vegetables at least 2.5 to 6.5 cups every day. Also, make sure you eat 4-5 different types of vegetables. The more variety and colors of vegetables you include in your diet, the more extensive are the benefits. Also include seasonal vegetables in your diet. You can write more about seasonal vegetables here. Seasonal vegetables have higher nutrient value if taken in proper time of the year. They keep you protected from many seasonal health disorders.
Given below is a list of some vegetables. Click on them to find their health benefits in detail:
Do vegetables help to lose weight?
It is a well-established fact that eating veggies is a healthy way to lose or maintain weight. Moreover, vegetables are storehouses of vitamins, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients that keep you fit and upright. In fact, vegetables are called ‘negative calorie foods’ because it actually helps to lose weight by spending more amount of energy to digest foods.
You will find two types of vegetables, namely starchy and non-starchy. You can include both of these in your diet, however the non-starchy varieties can be consumed in unlimited quantities, however starchy selections have more sugar, thus you need to keep the quantity in check. Starchy vegetables include peas, plantains, squash, potatoes, and yams; rest are the non- starchy ones including cauliflower, asparagus, artichokes, beets, carrots, broccoli, onions, cucumber, leeks, eggplant, tomato, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, salad greens, and zucchini.
However, if you are on strict diet, then consider the so called 'free foods'; these vegetables contain minimal calories with high in nutritional value. They are carrots, radishes, celery, cucumbers, fresh green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.
To lose weight, it is not necessary to turn into a vegetarian, but if you simply start taking abundant of fruits, legumes, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds. The diet when combined with other exercise plans, your weight reduces drastically keeping you fit and healthy. Most of the plant foods are low-calorie, low-fat and also keeps you filled for longer time. As they are fresh and whole, you will slowly get declined to fast foods or processed food items.
Skin care with vegetables
Since ages, our mothers and grandmothers have carried on the natural methods to keep their beauty intact for ages. On the other hand, our skin are usually pampered with loads of expensive creams, toners, cleanses and ointments, but they definitely lack the glow and suppleness our predecessors had. As it is said, nature knows the best ways to keep us in perfect track, be it our organs, limbs, skin or hair. The fruits and vegetables that we often tend to forget in our diet are the real medicines for a bright, glowing and healthy skin. The vibrant pigments in fruits and vegetables have immense disease fighting capabilities. Rich in a host of useful nutrients and powerful antioxidants, vegetables should be necessarily included in daily diet if you are looking for a healthy skin. Both fruits and vegetables can be divided into four color groups; each of them having specific benefits.
- ‘Oranges and yellows’ include sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, apricots etc. They have lots of vitamin C that is highly beneficial to skin, aiding in the growth and protection of collagen. Collagen retains the elasticity to your skin, thus delaying the appearance of wrinkles.
- The group of ‘reds’ include tomatoes, red peppers, red onions, papaya all of them are lycopene-rich that effectively protects your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. However, this should be noted that cooked tomatoes offer you more lycopene than raw ones, thus now you can get more of tomato sauce for your snacks.
- The next group is ‘greens’ including broccoli, kiwi, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, green bell peppers, collards, romaine and spinach. These vegetables are gain rich in vitamin C.
- The ‘blues’ include plums, beets, eggplant, red grapes, and purple cabbage. They are rich in anti-oxidants, which is again needed for a healthy, radiant skin. Any combination of vegetables works wonders for skins, it not only delays the ageing signs, but also keeps the skin bright, fresh and prevents drying and other skin disorders.
Nowadays, many natural treatment salons opt for vegetable facials and have started using vegetable toner by mixing chopped cucumber flesh, lettuce leaves, lemon juice and chopped tomato. You can make this toner in home as well to gain a bright complexion. Vegetable peelings are also done in many salons that ensure blemish free, bright skin.
Vegetables promote hair growth
You will be surprised to know that a healthy diet with many vegetables gives your hair a greater health and boost than the most expensive shampoos in the market. Only a proper diet can assure you of hair growth as it’s something that is affected from within. Proper nutrient supply ensures strong, healthy and lustrous hair. Vegetables are undoubtedly the powerhouses of nutrition, packed with the vitamins and minerals that your hair needs. As discussed before, if you categorize vegetables in terms of color and include at least one serving of each in your diet, you will get ample benefit for your hair.
- The dark green vegetables are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron that are essential for the production of sebum, an oily substance that is secreted from your scalp and acts as natural hair conditioner. Iron or calcium deficiencies can lead to excessive hair loss.
- Red vegetables have plenty of lycopene. You will find this nutrient in many hair products as well. Red peppers have plentiful lycopene and the shiny outer skin have high percentage of silica, a mineral required to maintain hair's thickness.
- The orange vegetables (especially carrots) have beta-carotene – the antioxidant necessary for healthy hair growth. They're rich in vitamin C also that protects your hair from free radicals. The orange veggies shield your hair from the harmful rays of sun and keep the moisture within.
- The yellow vegetables have similar nutritional value as those of orange ones. The white vegetables like onions are powerful antioxidants that shield your hair from root to tip. Moreover, they are rich in vitamin C - the anti-aging vitamin.
- Onion juice was recommended in earlier times to be applied topically, it helps in stimulating hair growth. Further studies are being done at different universities round the world regarding onion juice if applied to the scalp enhances hair growth.
Be careful during vegetable selection and storage!
It is needless to say that vegetables when consumed raw gives you maximum benefits, except few instances when you need to cook them for making the vegetable palatable (e.g. – cauliflowers, eggplants etc.). However vegetables can also be consumed after processing and cooking, it does take away little percentage of nutrients, but consuming it in either ways is good for health. Vegetables are enjoyable, convenient, and adaptable foods that are almost essential in diet to maintain a good health structure.
Flavors of vegetables: The green, leafy vegetables come in a variety of colors, starting from the bluish-green of kale to the vibrant kelly green of spinach. The leafy greens have random flavors, ranging from sweet to bitter, and again from earthy to peppery. Collards, bok choy, Swiss chard, and spinach have a mild flavor while mizuna, arugula and mustard greens have a peppery flavor. Bok choy is used mainly in stir-fries, as it remains crisp, even after cooking at a tender stage.
Check the color while buying: Always check the fresh lively green color of vegetables (or its respective color) while purchasing. The yellowish tinge indicates ageing of the vegetable and they will have an off flavor. The salad greens are a bunch of important nutrients and phytochemicals that does the maximum benefit to our day to day vegetable requirement. Frozen and canned vegetables can be healthy, but canned vegetables have the possibility of carrying excessive sodium. If you buy these, rinse them vigorously under cold water before use.
Look for spots, blemishes, fungal mold and marks of insecticide spray, do not buy such vegetables. Always purchase whole vegetables and not cut sections of the vegetable. Beware of food contamination and foodborne illness while buying vegetables.
Use them ASAP: Buy the vegetables in small quantities so that you can use them up faster. Certain vegetables have considerably short shelf life and also the health benefiting nutrients of a vegetable starts declining with time. After a certain time of storage, harmful bacteria start growing on vegetables. Moreover, with increased storage time vitamin C content in vegetables degrades rapidly, thus hampering the nutrient value. If you cut and leave vegetables, oxidation occurs as they are exposed to the air. Thus, the enzymes are released and this results in discoloration of the vegetable. However, the vegetables are still perfectly edible and you can also stop this oxidation by adding ascorbic acid to the surface areas or by refrigerating the vegetables.
Storing Tips: Do not keep vegetables at hot and humid places. Always keep them refrigerated and pre-cut pieces should be particularly refrigerated or enclosed by ice. Keep the vegetables in plastic wrappings or in zip pouches to retain the nutrition for short periods until you use them.
Make sure to rinse all vegetables before eating. In fact, after you have purchased the vegetable, immediately wash them, especially the green leafy ones as they may have insects or harmful pesticides on them. This extends their shelf life. If you rinse them in salt water for few minutes, it ensures their ultimate cleanliness. They are free from sand, dust and any residual chemical sprays if used.
Keep your vegetables completely separated from raw foods like poultry, meat, and seafood. Vegetables should also not be kept in contact with cooking utensils or surfaces like cutting boards etc. You can wrap the green leafy vegetables in perforated plastic or porous paper such as newspaper and then refrigerate, this increases their shelf life. If you use newspaper, take care that the vegetables are not wet so that ink from the newspaper does not stick on the vegetables.