Whether we are healthy or somehow indisposed, we've learnt from the kindergarten that to maintain good health, we must eat daily portions of fruits and vegetables. Indeed, 'Eat your fruits and vegetables' is one of the nursery rhymes the average child learns once he starts school, and rightly so.
This is because regular consumption of fruits and vegetables leads to superior health.
Nutritionists also say diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancers, stroke and other chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and, perhaps, heart disease.
Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fibre and other substances that are important for good health. Better still, most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling. As such, it is virtually impossible to get fat on a diet of fruits and vegetables.
A specialist in diabetes, Dr. Afokoghene Isiavwe, recommends that half of your plate during each meal should be fruits and vegetables. She also says your age, sex and activity level will determine how many calories you need each day; while your calorie needs determine how many fruits and vegetables you should eat.
The America-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating fruits and vegetables of different colours, which it says gives the body a wide range of valuable nutrients like fibre, foliate, potassium and vitamins A and C.
For the ageing brain, fisetin, a unique flavonoid compound found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, is very useful. According to a publication in the journal Neuroscience Letters, fisetin is present in strawberries, blueberries and the skin of cucumbers. A wealth of scientific research says a diet packed with raw fruits and vegetables can help prevent amyloid plaque formation (which contributes to memory loss) in the ageing brain and helps to maintain normal memory processes.
For the beauty conscious, a University of St. Andrews, UK, study reveals that fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with healthy glowing skin. According to the research published in the American Journal of Public Health, carotenoids in the fruits are responsible for the healthy skin glow. Carotenoids are the red, yellow and orange pigments found in fruits and vegetables. They deposit under the skin and provide several health benefits.
Again, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health reveal that individuals who consume antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables on a regular basis are also more optimistic about the future.
The study assessed the blood concentrations of nine antioxidants in 1,000 male and female participants between the ages of 25 and 74. During the assessment, the participants completed a questionnaire about their attitudes on life.
The scientists found that the most optimistic participants each had up to a 13 per cent increase in blood concentrations of carotenoids, compared to those who were less optimistic. Moreover, they also found that the participants who consumed fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables per day were considerably less optimistic than those who consumed more than three servings per day.
Again, a series of studies co-authored by Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown at the University of Warwick showed that individuals who consumed the most fruits and vegetables were least likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental issues. They also tended to be more satisfied with their lives.
'Wonderful news!' you dare exclaim. And for those who daily load up on fruits and veggies, it's time to give yourself a thumb-up.
Perhaps not so quickly! This is because nutritionists have also expressed concerns about certain unethical practices that go with planting and harvesting of fruits, especially in the laboratories where all sorts of experiments are carried out in the name of increasing yields. At the end of the day, foods including fruits turn out to be what they ought not: dirty. Dirty, not in the sense of soiled with dirt, but because they are unsafe.
These days, it is common to encounter 'seedless' fruits on supermarket shelves. They are mostly imported from the Middle East, the United States and sundry other places. They are engineered in the laboratories and are generally referred to as 'genetically modified.'
Those that are not genetically modified are saturated with pesticides in the process of planting, tending and harvesting. Worse still are fruits shipped across the continents. They may be infested with different bacteria that can cause serious health risks.
In fact, experts say different types of dangerous bacteria are the single highest cause of food-borne illnesses, as they can cause the spread of salmonella, a bacterium that causes food poisoning and typhoid fever in humans; or shigella, a bacterium that causes dysentery.
Nutritionists give a list of fruits usually called the 'Dirty Dozen,' and they include apples (which contain more than 40 different pesticides, as fungus and insect threats prompt farmers to spray various chemicals on their orchards); celery (more than 60 pesticides); strawberry (nearly 60); peaches (nearly 60); spinach (nearly 50); grapes (more than 30); bell peppers (nearly 50); potatoes (more than 35); blueberries (more than 50); and lettuce (more than 50). Cucumber, runner beans, and cabbage also feature in this category.
How to go about it, since you must eat fruits and veggies daily? Nutritionists advise that we eat organic fruits and vegetables. We are also advised to wash them thoroughly before eating.
For clean fruits, vegetables
Make sure your kitchen sink is clean or place a large mixing bowl in the sink.
Add the produce to the sink and cover with cold water (don't overcrowd the sink).
Add 1-2 cups of plain white vinegar and soak for 10-15 minutes. Rinse well
For washing lettuces and other greens, soak for a minute or two and then rinse very well.