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A nutritious and varied diet is a critical means by which good health can be maintained. Consumption of less than 300 g of vegetables per person per day in many countries is common today and this low amount, often in conjunction with poverty and poor medical services, is associated with unacceptable levels of mortality and malnutrition in present school children and other vulnerable groups. The diversified and highly nutritive vegetables are of great importance in alleviating malnutrition. The scientific community is ready to play its role in battling malnutrition and hunger, but unless the political resolve can be found to support the causes of both food and nutritional security together, it is unlikely that the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved in a timely fashion.

 

Presently the two major concerns of the developing countries are to overcome hunger and malnutrition. Therefore, the food security and nutritional security are the important issues in national development programmes. According to latest report of Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation (2012), 48 % of the countries children under the age of five years are stunted, which indicates that half of the India’s children are chronically malnourished. The worst performing states with underweight children under five years of age are M.P., Jharkhand and Bihar. The rated of malnutrition among India’s children are almost five times more than in China.

The highly nutritive vegetables are of great importance in alleviating the malnutrition. The dieticians advocate intake of 125g leafy vegetables, 75g other vegetables and 100g root and tuber vegetables everyday to make our diet balanced. Vegetable are rich source of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, hence called as protective foods.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are chief source of energy in the food. It is also called as protein sparing food. Daily requirement of CHO is 400-500 g. Vegetables like potato, sweet potato, cassava, elephant foot yam, taro, garlic, pea and onion are good source of carbohydrates. In fact, sweet potato is cheapest source of calorie.

Proteins

Proteins are complex nitrogen containing organic compounds. They constitute a major part of protoplasm. Daily requirement of proteins is 60-70 g. Vegetables contain less protein compared to the product of animal origin. Although sulfo-amino acids (methionine and cystine) are most of the time limited in vegetable proteins. Peas, beans and leafy vegetables are good source of proteins.

Flavonoids

Like quercetin, kaempferolother flavonoids are present in vegetables. Quercetin is present in onion. The flavonoids containing vegetables help to prevent high blood pressure.

Folates

Folates reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes and colon cancer. Their deficiency causes anaemia in infants and pregnant women. Leafy vegetables are rich source of folic acids.

Vitamins

Vitamins are biologically active compounds and are essential for normal physiological process. Specific vitamin deficiency produces characteristics symptoms.

 

Name

Main occurrence

Effectiveness

Deficiency

Vitamin A(Retinol)

Provitamin A in carrots, muskmelon, tomato and leafy vegetables.

Normal growth, function and protection of skin, eyes and mucous membrane.

Growth stop, night blindness and xerophthalmia in infants.

Vitamin B1(Thiamine)

Palak, Pea is good source.

Important for the nerve system, liver damage, inefficiency, pregnancy, mosquito protection (high-dosed), production of energy,

Heavy muscle- and nerve disturbances, tiredness, cardiac insufficiency, beri-beri

Vitamin B2(Riboflavin)

Green leafy vegetables like palak, curry leaves, radish leaves, chilli, spinach etc.

Important for body growth, well for skin, eyes and nails, important energy bringer, oxygen transport.

 Skin inflammation, brittle nails, anaemia, callus attrition.

Vitamin B3(Niacin, Nicotine acid)

peas, palak, amaranth and gourds.

Building and degradation of fat, protein and carbohydrates, good sleep.

Skin and mucosa inflammation, headache, trembling, sleep disturbance, depressions, pellagra.

Vitamin B5(Pantothen acid)

 asparagus, leafy vegetables

Against turning grey, hair loss, hair and mucous membrane illnesses, necessarily for the dismantling of fat, proteins and carbohydrates

Nerve malfunctions, bad healing of wounds, weakened immune system

Vitamin B6(Pyridoxin)

potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, carrots

Travel sickness, neuralgia, liver damage, premenstrual syndrome, digestion of protein, most important hormone in pregnancy together with folic acid,

Intestine problems, bad skin, tiredness, rough corners of the mouth.

Vitamin B7(Biotin, Vitamin H)

 cauliflower

loss in growth of hairs, liver damage, assists metabolism,

States of exhausting, skin inflammations, muscular pains, hair loss,

Vitamin C(ascorbic acid)

potatoes, paprika, tomatoes, collard, spinach, vegetables, radish

Inflammation and bleeding-restraining, assists the body's defences, protects cells against chemical destruction, activates enzymes, structure of connective tissue, bones and dental enamel, faster healing of wounds, stabilisation of psyche

Gum-bleed, tiredness, joint pain and headache, bad healing of wounds, lack of appetite, scurvy, inefficiency

Vitamin E(Tocopherole)

Sunflowers salsify, peperoni, collard,

Stabilization of the immune system, anti-inflammatory, cell replacement, protection from radicals, modulates cholesterol level and hormone household,

(rarely) amblyopia, tiredness, amyotrohia, dislike, reproduction problems

Vitamin K(Phyllochinone)

green collard, green vegetable, bulbs, tomatoes, cress

Necessary for formation of the blood clotting factors

High doses of vitamin A and E work against vitamin K.

Minerals

Minerals play major role in functioning of physiological activities. They are components of various vital body constituents. As for example:

Calcium is essential component of bones and teeth. Iron is important component of hemoglobin. Phosphorus along with C, H, O and N are the components of DNA. Iodine is vital constituents of thyroid hormones, thyroxin and triidothyronine. Mg is required for cellular metabolism. Zinc is cofactor of many enzymes and performs a range of functions in body.

Nutritive value of vegetables 

Vegetable

Moisture

(g)

Protein

(g)

Calcium (mg)

Phosphorus (mg)

Iron (mg)

Ash gourd

96

0

30

20

1

Bitter gourd

92

2

20

70

1

Bottle gourd

96

0

20

10

0.7

Potato

74

1.6

10

35

0.7

Tomato

94

1.2

48

26

0.4

Chilli

85

2.9

30

80

1.2

Sweet pepper

92

1.3

10

0

1.2

Cabbage

92

1.4

46

38

0.8

Cauliflower

91.7

2.4

30

76

17

Muskmelon

95.2

0.3

32

14

1.4

Watermelon

95.8

0.2

11

12

7.9

Carrot

82.2

0.9

48

30

0.6

Onion

86.8

1.2

180

50

0.7

Garlic

62.8

6.3

30

310

1.3

Pea

72

7.2

20

139

1.5

French bean

91

1.7

50

28

1.7

Dietary Fibre

Plant cell walls comprising of cellulose, pectin, xylan are main source of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre provides protection against some cancer, lower blood cholesterol etc. Gums and pectin reduce the post parandial level of glucose in blood.

Conclusion

Finally, vegetables are a vital source of nutraceuticals that promote health by playing a protective role in the body. Vitamin C, previously discussed, is part of the family of terpene compounds that protect cells from free radicals and ionizing radiation. Some terpenes are very protective of vaginal, uterine, and cervical tissues. Glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables and allyl sulfides from onions and garlic have important functions in building and regulating the immune system. These compounds, along with isoflavones, flavonoids, indoles, and other nutraceuticals improve and protect the circulatory system, enhance detoxification activity in the liver, and prevent or suppress various kinds of cancer. While much remains to be discovered about many of these compounds and their function in preventing disease, their value as a component of a healthy diet is clear.

Vegetables are a valuable component of any diet, contributing minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients which may otherwise be lacking. These compounds can enhance human growth and development, improve general health, and strengthen immune responses to combat disease. In situations where dietary choices are limited, or when immune systems are compromised, vegetable consumption may make the difference between normal health and life-threatening disease.

References:

Anonymous (2012). Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Report 2012.

Hazara P. and Som MJ. (2010). Vegetable Science. pp 3-17.

Swarup V (2006). Vegetable Science and Technology in India. Pp: 30-40.

 


Authors:

Saurabh Singh

MSc. Agriculture, CSK Himachal Pradesh krishi Vishvavidyalya, Palampur-176062 (H.P.)

*Corresponding author Email id: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.