Almost everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are good for our health but the nutritional advantages of eating more fruit and vegetables are amazing.
As our population grows fatter, studies show that overall consumption of fruit and vegetables has decreased. At the same time, many people, especially children, are eating more junk foods. The best way to drop consumption of junk foods is to eat more fruits and vegetables – everyday. Let’s take a look at their virtues:
Fruit and vegetables are virtually the only sources of vitamin C. The only other foods that provide this essential vitamin are breast milk and some offal meats. Vitamin C helps the body defenses against infection and plays a vital role in bones, blood capillaries, cartilage, teeth and gums. It also functions as an antioxidant and the quantities present naturally in fruit and veggies are entirely safe which is not the case for vitamin C taken as a supplement. Vitamin C also helps the absorption of iron from plant sources.
All fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C.
Red capsicum, guava, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, citrus fruits, papaw, cauliflower, strawberries, mango, melon and cabbage are particularly rich in vitamin C.
This antioxidant vitamin protects many cells throughout the body, especially in the membranes around cells.
Vegetables: The dark outer leaves of cabbage, sweet potato, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, sweet corn, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and parsnips.
Fruits: Blackberries, mangoes and tamarillos are good sources, with smaller amounts in plums, pears and raspberries.
Most of our vitamin A is made in the body from compounds called carotenoids that are found in brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is the most important carotenoid for conversion to vitamin A.
Vegetables: Carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, capsicum, Asian greens, watercress, peas, tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, lettuce and broccoli.
Fruits: Rockmelon, apricots, persimmons, tamarillos, yellow peaches, guava, passionfruit and oranges.
There are eight different vitamins in this complex group and fruits and vegetables contribute to seven of them. The B vitamins play many roles in the repair of tissues, healthy blood and the body’s ability to produce energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6) and biotin are widely distributed in foods such as mushrooms, peas, sweet corn, sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, cauliflower, avocado, bananas and passionfruit. Green veggies are top sources of the B vitamin folate.
All vegetables and fruits provide a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre. This helps keep the intestine functioning well and slows down the rate at which foods are broken down to form glucose in the blood. Soluble fibre can also help control blood cholesterol levels.
All fruits and vegetables with the top sources being peas, sweet corn, spinach, celeriac, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and potatoes. Among fruits, the top sources include berries, passionfruit, pomegranate, quinces, pears, apples, plums, rhubarb, kiwifruit, bananas, figs and mangoes.
Antioxidants from fruit and vegetables can help boost the body’s own supply of these vital compounds that help keeps is healthy.
Well over a thousand different compounds have an antioxidant action within the body and help to prevent adverse inflammatory changes and gradual breakdown in the way body cells function. Some antioxidants also contribute to eye health and many have anti-cancer activity.
Fruits and vegetables contain many hundreds of these antioxidants. Studies now show that those who consume the most fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of many serious health problems. However, when antioxidants are isolated from fruits and vegetables and taken as supplements, they do not have the same protective effect. Some even work the other way and can be harmful. This is a clear case that nature knows best and is yet another reason why we should eat more fruits and vegetables.