Health benefits of vegetables and fruits are plenty. To name a few, they
► lower blood pressure
► reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer
► have a mellowing effect on blood sugar
► lower risk of eye disease
► reduce digestive problems
Leafy Greens - Spinach and Lettuce are among the top five veggies for a healthy diet. Both are low calorie, high fiber food. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C and B6. It is also rich in folate, iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Both, spinach and lettuce are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin that defend the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
The cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts) contains antioxidants, vitamin and minerals that are important for healthy living. In addition to having a great flavor and texture, broccoli is rich in vitamins A, C and K. It also contains bioflavonoids that have protective effects against certain cancers. A study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that cruciferous vegetables decrease the risk of both stomach and colorectal cancer.
Okra (Lady's Finger)
Viscous vegetables such as okra contain antioxidants that are excellent for maintaining healthy mucous membranes and lungs. Okra is high in vitamin C content, which protects the body from infections and cold causing virus. Moreover, a study found that okra extract and its derivatives (quercetin and rutin) have neuroprotective effects and could improve learning and memory deficits in experimental animals.
Another viscous vegetable, yam is a good source of vitamin B6 that helps protect the blood vessel walls from damage. Yams are also said to be a natural alternative to hormone replacement in menopausal women. Complex carbohydrates and fiber in yams help in blood sugar control. This is supported by a Japanese study that showed that viscous vegetables reduced the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Dietary intake of carrots has cardiovascular benefits and anti-cancer benefits as well. For example, a study published in the Nutrition Journal found that drinking carrot juice may protect the cardiovascular system 'by increasing total antioxidant status and by decreasing lipid peroxidation' even in people who didn't modify their eating habits. So, make it a part of your everyday diet and stay healthy.
Eat it as a fruit or serve it like a vegetable, tomato is a rich source of lycopene that helps decrease total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Although some studies have reported risk reduction of some forms of cancer through tomato intake, the FDA found no credible evidence to support this.
Apples are a rich source of phytochemicals (anti-oxidants) such as quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid. Consuming one or more apple a day reduces risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes and promotes weight loss. Storage has little to no effect on apple phytochemicals, but processing can greatly affect apple phytochemicals, according to a review published in the Nutrition Journal.
Banana is very high in potassium content that is necessary for heart health. With 422mg of potassium and 1mg of sodium in a medium sized banana, it is one of the best fruits to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis. It is also a very good source of vitamin B6 and high in dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese. Avoid bananas if you have kidney disease.
Berries such as cranberries, blueberries and strawberries are a good source of polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, and dietary fiber, and they are an essential fruit group in a heart-healthy diet. Berries have proven cardiovascular benefits in healthy people as well as in people with existing metabolic risk factors. An Oklahoma study reported that although low-energy cranberry juice did not improve blood pressure or lipid profiles significantly, two cups a day of cranberry juice did significantly reduced risk factor for cardiovascular disease and increased anti-oxidant capacity in women with metabolic syndrome.
Since oranges are low glycemic index (42) and low glycemic load fruit, they do not cause a sudden spike in blood glucose levels. Moreover, oranges are full of dietary fiber and vitamin C (116 percent Daily Value) that helps fight infection and build a good immune system. Orange juice has also been found to reduce the risk of formation of kidney stones.
Eat fruits the way nature provided - fresh and whole. Whole fruit contains fiber that helps you feel full and contains much less calories as compared with its dried version. . For example, one-fourth cup of raisins is equivalent in calories to a cup of grapes.
Vegetables too, are a rich source of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, dietary fiber and phytochemicals. The World Health Organization recommends eating at least 400g of fruits and vegetables per day to lower the risk of serious health problems.
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