We are in the 21st century when seems the world is turning back to nature for answers to all her questions. It is amazing that after centuries of technological advancements and improvements made in the aspects of pharmacology and general health care we have turned back and returned to seemingly natural means of solving problems. With this boom in the use of all things natural and healthy, the demand and consumption of fruits and vegetables are at an all-time high. In this article, I would be discussing the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables because it is important to understand this trend and why you are encouraged to join this moving train. In this case a full understanding of the importance of fruits and vegetables cannot be over emphasized as a full understanding would help you stick more strongly to your resolve to live a healthier life by incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
What are fruits and vegetables?
I mean what are these fruits and vegetables everybody nagging about? Tomatoes, are they fruits are they vegetables? Potatoes? Vegetables? Really? What are do you mean when you say fruits and vegetables?
Look no further, I have a comprehensive answer right here.
Biologically, fruits are the part of the plant which contains the reproductive part of the part ‘’seed’’ after fertilization has taken place. It is formed by the ovary of the flower. If you have any basic knowledge of biology it won’t be difficult to accept when I tell you that all plants produce flowers and when the ovum in these flowers become fertilized the flower most times loses its decorative part and begins to increase in size. When the decorative part of the flower is shed and the other accessory parts begin to increase in size and encapsulate the seed often shielding it from the outside world.
Now, to the plant, the fruit is meant to serve as a source of nourishment to the seed if it happens to end up in a conducive environment and begins to germinate. Because of this original intent plants store a lot of food substance in the form of carbohydrates and some absorbed micronutrients absorbed from the soil within these fruits. This accounts for fruits being rich in food nutrients because plants, like any living thing, like to take care of their young. Now having this in mind, we also know that fruits are classified based on their biological features into subgroups.
These subgroups, more often than not have similar dietary components and as such are important to us.
- Achene – a basic example of these is a strawberry. In this fruit numerous seeds are found studding the surface of the fruits. Fruits of this category are soft and supple. They are naturally divided into 2 with a succulent centre.
- Capsule – typical example is the brazil nut. It has a hard shell and a soft fibrous centre.
- Caryopsis – wheat
- Fibrous drupe – typical example is a coconut. This has a very hard and fibrous outer covering that is not edible but helps protect the fruit and seed from harsh weather conditions. It even contains water within this fibrous and shell like coat to provide for all the needs of the seed.
- Legumes – Yes, you are right. I meant beans, peas and everything in-between are also fruits.
- Samara – includes ash, elm, maple.
- Schizocarp – carrots
- Silique – radish
- Accessory fruits – pineapples
- Citrus – oranges, tangerine, lemons, lime
- Drupes – mangoes.
Vegetables are biologically made up of other parts of a plant that are edible but are not the fruit of the plant. This is a lot less complicated than fruits with their shapes, sizes, parts and general features. Vegetables are composed of the leaves, stem and roots of a plant as long as they are edible. In this part of the world however, mostly leaves are referred to as vegetables. However, food items like cucumber and eggplants are also vegetables even though they contain the seeds of these plants. They do not originate from the flower of these plants and as such cannot be referred to as fruit.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DAILY CONSUMPTION OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
All the numerous benefits of fruits and vegetables sung about like an anthem are often better experienced when the consumption of fruits and vegetables are consistent and taken up daily. Some of these benefits include;
- They help in weight loss.
Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables help individuals lose weight. This is achieved if fruits are used as a substitute for snacks and vegetables make up the bulk of the main meal. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and as such they do not lead to accumulation of excess calories in the body and also encourages the body to burn fat when it is in need of glucose, there by depleting the body’s store of adipose tissue and hence bringing about weight loss.
- It helps reduce blood pressure.
Potassium plays a role in regulation of blood pressure in the human body. As such foods that are rich in potassium go a long way in maintaining a healthy blood pressure by regulating heart rate and the vascular consistency of peripheral blood vessels. Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, spinach, broccoli, mushroom, sweet potatoes, are rich in potassium and are great for maintaining cardiovascular health.
- They improve digestion and general colon health.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibres and other micronutrients including water. These substances help the digestion of food, improves intestinal motility, ensures health of intestinal flora and increases fecal bulk. When intestinal motility is increased, food digests faster and because most this said ‘’food’’ is made up of natural fibres which are great for intestinal flora, they function more effectively, aid digestion, prevents constipation indigestion and maintains good health of the gastrointestinal tract. Individuals who consume fruits and vegetables almost never complain of gastrointestinal discomfort due to either heart burn or constipation.
- They ensure healthy blood.
The vitamin B12 is very essential to the blood because of its numerous functions in the blood. Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of new red blood cells for the circulation of oxygen and also for the ability of the blood to clot when a blood vessel is injured, to prevent blood loss. Fruits and vegetables rich in this vitamin include almonds and coconuts. A daily consumption of these fruits builds the body’s stores of vitamin B12 for use by the body whenever necessary for the process of erythropoiesis and clotting. Knowing that blood has major roles to play in the body we know that when your blood is healthy then you are healthy.
- It helps in healing of wounds and oral health.
For this effect fruits rich in vitamin C should be consumed at regular intervals. It may be necessary to consume fruits rich in vitamin C daily since the body does not have a store for vitamin C but utilizes it as it comes along. Vitamin C goes a long way to help in healing of wounds by helping in rapid cell replication and discouraging the formation of scar tissue over an affected area. Vitamin C also helps the body in maintaining health in the oral cavity by maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
- They have an anti aging effect.
The main cause of aging and its visible effects are oxidative by products. There is no scientific way of preventing the body from producing these oxidative waste products because the body requires oxidation to survive. That is to say that even a mere act of breathing in and out causes the body to undergo oxidation and when the body undergoes oxidation these by products are formed and they tend to store up in the body and lead to visible and invisible signs of aging on the skin and other organs in the body. Fruits like apples and some berries, vegetables like cucumbers, mushrooms and spinach have antioxidants helps the body get rid of these oxidative wastes and stay healthy. Studies have shown that a daily consumption of these fruits over a period of time visibly reduce signs of aging. These effects are shown in studies that a vegetarians have a relatively higher life expectancy and tend to appear younger than their purely meat eating counter parts.
- They improve the immune system.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and numerous minerals and these help to improve the body’s immune system. I wrote above about the antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables but they do not only ensure that you look younger. These antioxidant features ensure general body health and fitness of the white blood cells so they are healthy and strong enough to fight off infections that may attack the body. If these white blood cells were previously weakened by oxidative by-products, then they may be unable to fight the infections that might attack the body as they are meant to.
When talking about the body’s immune system it is easy to ignore the body’s first line of defence which is the skin. When fruits improve the health of the skin it’s not merely for aesthetic purposes, a healthy skin is more effective in protecting the body from any organisms that might try to infect the body.