Thursday, March 6, 2014

Good Health: Role of Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Proper nourishment is must for good health and vitality. Human happiness is linked to physical & mental health and employment. Productivity targets can only be achieved if we have good health. Balanced food or diet is must for building strong and fortified bodies. The best preventive medicine is nutrition. Only the individuals with strong immunity would have long lifespan. Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is must to acquire vigor and vitality. Fruits are unique in their flavors and taste. Fruits are known to attract eyes and enhance production of digestive juices.

Biological definition of fruits is different from the general notion. Fruits are produced from flowers or flower and are tissues of ripened ovaries or ovary along with adjacent tissue too. Fruits are eaten fresh or dry whereas majority of the vegetables are cooked. Fleshy, pulpy or juicy parts of fruits are eaten raw or used in food preparations. Let us look at the nutritive value of fruits:

Carbohydrates are energy constituents of fruits. The important fruit carbohydrates (sugars) are sucrose, fructose, dextrose and glucose. The water content in fruits is around 85%. A small amount of protein and traces of fat are also present in some fruits. Fruits are rich is indigestible fibre, minerals and vitamins. The caloric value of fruits is very high as compared to vegetables.

Fruits are rich source of vitamin-C. We know that vitamin-C boosts our immunity and saves us from scurvy. Vitamin-C is very strong anti-oxidant and protects us from ionizing radiation. It is known to heal bleeding gums. The citrus fruits are most dependable source of vitamin-C and are available around the year. Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica, Amla) is the richest known source of vitamin-C. The fruit pulp of Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica, Amla) has been reported to have 0.6% vitamin-C (i.e. 600 mg per 100 grams of fruit pulp).

The B-vitamins are in very low concentration in fruits. However fruits like grapes, pineapple, banana and custard apple have fairly good amount of B-vitamins. Deep orange and yellow colored fruits are an excellent source of b-carotene (precursor of vitamin-A). Vitamin-A is an essential nutrient for our optic nerves. So, consumption of fruits containing b-carotene (precursor of vitamin-A) would protect us from nutritional blindness. Papayas and mangoes are the best source of b-carotene (precursor of vitamin-A). Oranges, musk-melons, cape gooseberries, carrots and tomatoes are also a good source of b-carotene.

Calcium and minerals act as building materials of our skeleton as well as soft tissues. These are also regulators of metabolic functions. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin. Iron, calcium and phosphorus are found in fairly good quantity in fruits. Apples, guavas, watermelons, raspberries, apricots, black grapes, dates and figs may contribute appreciable amount of iron to our diet. Fruits are also a rich source of cellulose and hemicelluloses which are also called complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides). Cellulose and hemicelluloses contribute to the indigestible bulk in the diet. Due to their fibre content fruits act as natural laxatives.

Aromatic compounds like methylbutyrate, higher esters or phenol derivatives give characteristic flavour and odour to fruits. Tannins present in some fruits have bitter taste and astringent action. Fruits containing tannins like gooseberries (Phyllanthus emblica, Amla) and Terminalia chebula (Harad or Haritaki) are good for our digestive system. Tannins are most commonly found in large number of raw (immature) fruits and some vegetables too. One must eat around 200gm fruits daily for good health and vitality.

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