Fruits and vegetables play important role in our healthy life. They are very good sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber. There are many varieties of naturally available fruits and vegetables. Most of the fruits and vegetables are affordable and can be readily grown in home gardens. We can eat fruits and vegetables in natural forms as well as cooked forms. Each fruits and vegetable have different taste and different micronutrient composition. But fruits and vegetables are low in calories. According to the food-based dietary guidelines for Sri Lankans number of fruits and vegetable servings per day are 2-3 and 3-5 servings respectively
Consumption of wide variety of fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of obesity, reduce the risk of heart disease, and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower the risk of eye and digestive problems and reduce the risk for diabetes. Dietary fiber can lower the cholesterol levels, help to maintain bowel health, normalize the bowel movement, control the blood sugar level, aids in achieving healthy weight, reduce the colon cancer, and remove the wastes and carcinogens.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the body functions such as growth, metabolism, and immune function and maintain proper health of body. Vitamin C supports normal growth and development and helps the body to repair damaged tissues involving cartilage, bones, and teeth. It assists the production of collagen, which is necessary for the healthy skin, ligaments, cartilage, tendons and blood vessels. Vitamin C maintains the immune function and essential for the wound healing. It enhances the iron absorption (especially in green leaves) and act as an antioxidant, and reduces the oxidative damages and protect biological molecules.
Vitamin A is important for vision, skin, bones and other tissues in the body. Fruits and vegetables have provitamin A (beta carotene) which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Fruits and vegetables are green, dark yellow or orange in colors which are rich sources of vitamin A. Vitamin E essential for the proper functioning of a number of processes in our body and it even helps prevent oxidative stress. It is also important for maintaining proper skin, hair, eyesight and immunity.
B vitamins are an essential part of our diet. Folate is a type of B vitamin. It is essential for neural tube development of fetus, making new cells such as red blood cells and important for the function of nerve cells. Vitamin K is an essential vitamin required for protein modification and blood clotting.
Iron is an essential mineral used to transport oxygen to all parts of the body. It is an important constituent of hemoglobin. It improves the physical and intellectual capacity. Iron deficiency causes anemia. Potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for normal functioning of muscles, nerves and some glands. Magnesium is essential for healthy bones and is involved with more than 300 enzymes in the body. Inadequate levels may lead in muscle cramps and high blood pressure.
The antioxidants are beneficial for the body through neutralizing and removing the free radicals from the blood stream. Vitamin A, C, E and selenium are found as antioxidants in foods. Antioxidants prevent many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, inflammatory joint disease, diabetes and asthma. It is better to take antioxidant from the diets rather than from supplements.
Some of the nutrients can be lost or destroyed during the washing of cut vegetables and also during the cooking process. Extracting juices from fruits may result in substantial losses of provitamin A and vitamin C. We can preserve nutrients by always cleaning before cutting, minimum storage time and shorter cooking time before the consumption, using the boiled vegetable water for soups and vegetable juice drinks, use as little water as possible when cooking, eat fruits and vegetables in raw form whenever possible in salads and smoothies or as whole fruits and vegetables. Avoid cutting vegetables into very small cubes
So, consumption of variety of fruits and vegetables is important to fulfill most of the micronutrient requirements.