(The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your Physician or other health care professional. These are the forgotten recipes compiled by the author H.K. Bakhru an expert naturopath of India.)
Vegetables are important protective food and highly beneficial for the maintenance of health and prevention of diseases. They contain valuable foods ingredients which can be successfully utilized to build up and repair the body.
Vegetables are important in maintaining alkaline reserve in the body. They are valued mainly for their high vitamin and mineral contents. Vitamins A, B and C are contained in vegetables in fair amounts. Faulty cooking and prolonged careless storage can, however, destroy these valuable elements.
There are different kinds of vegetables. They may be edible roots, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds. Each group contributes to diet in its own way. Fleshy roots are high in energy value and good sources of vitamin B group. Seeds are relatively high in carbohydrates and proteins. Leaves, steam and fruits are excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, water and roughage.
It is not the green vegetables only that are useful. Farinaceous vegetables consisting of starchy roots such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, the tubers and legumes are also valuable. They are excellent sources of carbohydrates and provide energy to the body.
To derive maximum benefits of their nutrients, vegetables should be consumed fresh as far as possible. Most vegetables are best consumed in their natural raw state in the form of salads. An important consideration in making salads is that the vegetables should be fresh, crispy and completely dry. If vegetables have to be cooked, it should be ensured that their nutritive value is preserved to the maximum extent possible. The following hints will be useful in achieving this:-
- The vegetables, after thorough wash, should be cut into as large pieces as possible.
- The cut pieces should be added to water which has been brought to boiling point and to which salt has been added. This is necessary to avoid loss of B-complex vitamins and vitamin C.
- Only bare minimum water necessary to cover vegetables should be used. Spinach and other tender greens need no water.
- Vegetables should not be exposed to atmospheric air, they should be covered tightly while cooking.
- They should be cooked for a short time as possible, they should be cooked till they are just soft to the touch for easy mastication.
- They should be served hot.
To prevent loss of nutrients in vegetables, it would be advisable to steam or boil vegetables in their own juices on a slow fire and the water or cooking liquid should not be drained off. If the vegetables are boiled hard and for long time in a large quantity of water, they would lose their nutritive and medicinal values.
No vegetable should be peeled unless it is so old that the peeling is tough and unpalatable. In most root vegetables, the largest amount of minerals is directly under the skin and these are lost if vegetables are peeled. Soaking of vegetables should also be avoided if taste and nutritive value are to be preserved.
Finally, vegetables should not be cooked in aluminum utensils. Aluminum is a soft metal and is acted upon by both food acids and alkalis. There is scientific evidence to show that tiny particles of aluminum from foods cooked in such utensils enter the stomach and that the powerful astringent properties of aluminum injure the sensitive lining of the stomach, leading to gastric irritation, digestive and intestinal ailments.
An intake of about 280grams of vegetables per day is essential for maintenance of good health. Leafy vegetable should constitute 40 per cent, roots and tubers 30 per cent and other vegetables 30 per cent.
Many vegetables contain a substance known as carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and vitality, for good eye-sight and healthy skin and for protection against diseases, especially of the respiratory tract. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to eye infection, poor vision, night blindness, frequent colds, lack of appetite and skin disorders. Generally, deep green yellow and orange coloured vegetables such as green leaf vegetables, carrots, papaya, tomatoes and yellow pumpkin are rich sources of carotene.
Several leafy vegetables like fenugreek leaves, turnip greens and beet greens contain riboflavin, a member of the vitamin B-complex. This vitamin is essential for growth and general health, of the eyes, skin, nails and hair. A deficiency can lead to cracking of the angles of the mouth, premature wrinkles and eczema.
Vitamin C is contained in good amounts in several vegetables such as bitter gourd, tomatoes, and leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage and drumstick leaves. Generally fresh vegetables are better sources of vitamin C than dried, stale or withered ones. Vitamin C is essential for normal growth and maintenance of body tissues, especially those of the joints, bones, teeth and gums and for protection against infections. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to scurvy, tooth decay, bleeding gums, anemia and premature ageing.
The highly soluble minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, copper and potassium contained in the vegetables maintain the acid-base balance of the hydrogen concentration of the body tissues. They help the complete absorption of vitamins, proteins, fats and carbohydrates of the food. They also help the body to eliminate excess of liquid and salt. The diuretic action of vegetables like potato, beans, spinach, radish, turnip and brinjal are especially important in cases of swellings, kidney and heart conditions.
Two important minerals, calcium and iron, found in vegetables are especially useful.. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. Iron is needed for blood formation. It is essential constituent of hemoglobin, which helps to carry oxygen to the cells in the various parts of the body. Calcium and iron can be obtained in plenty from leafy vegetables like spinach and fenugreek leaves, carrot, bitter gourd, onions and tomatoes are also fair source of iron.
The juices extracted from fresh raw vegetables are highly beneficial as they furnish all the cells and tissues of the body with the elements and the nutritional enzymes which they need. It is true that the body can derive these elements from whole vegetables. But the fresh juices can provide them in the manner in which they can be most easily digested and assimilated. A vitamin and mineral deficiency can thus be made much more quickly by drinking fresh juices than by eating raw vegetables.
Practically all vegetables make good juices, but some better than others. Vegetable juices may be divided into three main types. These are i) Juices from vegetable fruits, that is, tomatoes and cucumber ii) Juices from green leaf vegetables such as cabbage, celery, lettuce, spinach and parsley iii) Juices from root vegetables like beetroot, carrot, onion, potato and radish.
In most cases it is desirable to use juice individually and in no case more than three juices should be included in any one mixture. The broad rules applicable to combination
of vegetable juices are that juices from vegetable fruits may be combined with those of the green leafy vegetables but not juices of root vegetables. Juices of green leafy vegetables may be combined with those of the root vegetables.
Vegetable juices soothe jaded nerves and gently carry away toxic matter and accumulated waste products. They are best taken at least half an hour or more after meals.
They should not be taken before meals or near the same time as fruit juices. Many common ailments respond favorably to raw vegetable juices.
Vegetables contain various medicinal and therapeutic agents. There area large array of laxatives, sedatives and soporifics or sleep inducing in the vegetable kingdom. Vegetables like onion, radish and celery exercise a tonic effect and are excellent for the nerves.
Certain vegetables are highly beneficial in the treatment of various diseases. Carrots are good for the blood. White crisp juicy stalks of celery serve a much better medicine in case of rheumatism or nervous dyspepsia, it relives nerve disorder. A dish of spinach or dandelion will be beneficial in the treatment of kidney troubles. Lettuce can be used as a food remedy for insomnia. Onion can be used with advantage in the treatment of cough, cold, influenza, constipation, scurvy and hydrophobia. The leaves of fenugreek are highly valuable in the treatment of indigestion ,flatulence and sluggish liver. Garlic can be beneficially used in heart diseases, hypertension, hypoglycemia, diabetes and even in fatal form of meningitis. It has been effectively used in lowering blood cholesterol and preventing blood clotting.
Fibers in vegetables act as the mechanical intestinal expanders draw more water and proteins in them and help easy expulsion of the waste in the form of stool. They prevent habitual constipation and keep the entire intestinal tract free from harmful germs. Fibers in the form of cellulose help the elimination of cholesterol. Beet root, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers ,green peas and beans are extremely important. They are useful in case of arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and constipation. But when there is inflammation in the intestines, vegetables having less cellulose content such as tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and vegetable juice should be taken.
Pectin found in vegetables such as brinjal, radish, pumpkin and beet root absorb water, kill certain bacteria and toxins and eliminate them from the body. Garlic, onion, radish and mint contain pectin as well as anti-microbes qualities.
Vegetables also supply trace elements which are necessary for the human organism. Iodine, for instance, is essential for thyroid hormone which regulates much physical and mental activities, cobalt for increasing the number of blood corpuscles and zinc for proper growth.