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Plants synthesize foods necessary for animal life. Vegetables are our source of life either directly or through animal intermediaries. Nutritionists recommend choosing a wide variety of vegetables, both raw and cooked, including that are richly colored orange, red, yellow, green vegetables, vegetables from the cruciferous family, vegetables from the allium family such as onion and garlic. Vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and a disease fighting compounds known as phytochemicals. Most vegetables are an excellent source of fibre, folate and potassium. They are low in fat and calories.

Root and tubers like beet, carrot, potato, sweet potato, turnips are stores of food thus good sources of complex carbohydrates.
Vegetables with dark green leaves including vegetables from the cabbage family are rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and B vitamins. Vegetables rich in water like gourds and pumpkins and other vegetables like ladies finger, brinjal, etc are not only rich in B vitamins but also abundant in minerals.

Colour is a useful guide to the vitamin content of foods. The larger and darker the leaves are higher is the vitamin C content. Deep yellow, orange or dark green derive their colour from carotenes that is converted to Vitamin A in the body that is an antioxidant. Because this vitamin is fat soluble it is well preserved during baking, sautéing or boiling.

Soluble and insoluble fibre in vegetables keeps bowel function regular, reducing colon exposure to toxins. Soluble fibre keeps blood sugar and cholesterol especially LDL under check.

Vitamin A, C and E inactivate free radicals that cause cellular damage. Some phytochemical found in plants help prevent, stop or retard tumor growth.

The nutrient content, color, and texture are affected by the method of preparation, cooking time and volume of water used for preparation. Carotene pigments are fat soluble but Vitamin B and C are water soluble so leach out into cooking liquid. Thus when vegetables are cut and washed, or the water in which the vegetable is boiled is thrown away most of the Vitamin B and C is lost. Thus vegetables should be washed thoroughly and then cut, cut vegetables should not be soaked in the water for too long. Vitamin C is also lost by cooking this is because an enzyme that destroys Vitamin C becomes more active as temperature rises, but gets inactivated at boiling point. So if the vegetables are added to water at boiling point (Blanching) the Vitamin C lost is lesser. Steaming or cooking in small amount of water reduces loss of vitamin C. Vegetables nutritionally best if they are consumed as salads but they need to be cooked they should be steamed, blanched, sautéed, stir fried.

How much ‘Fruits and Vegetables’ do I need?
A minimum of 5 – 7 servings of fruits and vegetables should be consumed where the portion size is 100g of the raw ingredients.

Fruits = 100-200 g / day (preferably whole fruits)
Vegetables = 450-500g/ day
Green leafy vegetables: Methi, palak, dhaniya, pudina, cabbage, etc= 100g
Roots: carrot, beetroot, raddish, onion, etc= 50-75 g
Tubers: Potato, Sweet potato, Yam, Colocasia, etc = 25-50 g
Vegetables with excess water: Lauki, Gilki, pumpkin, cucumber, etc= 150-175g
Other vegetables: Brinjal, Ladies finger, capsicum, beans etc =50-75 g
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