Healthy vegetables rich in nutrients and phytonutrients are an integral part of our plate of a balanced diet. When we say green vegetables, it is not just confined to leafy vegetables but include other green colored, nutrient dense vegetables as well.
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Still remember that aversion to green vegetables, while being a kid. Majority of us do have it. But as we grew, it’s not the taste but the health benefits that draws the attention.
A Doug Larson said “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds, if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon’, they might not smell as tempting but they are excellent sources of phytonutrients, possessing nutritional and therapeutic benefits.
Therefore, it is essential to opt for healthy vegetables and fruits of different colors to extract the best out of it.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Asparagus or commonly known as ‘Shatavari’ is a vegetable originally from Europe but now grown and cultivated across the globe. It belongs to the Asparagaceae family and it’s basically the shoot portion which is been used for consumption.
In India, it is cultivated in cooler regions near the Himalayas with Himachal Pradesh, the main asparagus growing state because of high demand in the nearby metro cities of Delhi and also villages like Chamba and Mandi for culinary and revenue purposes.
As per the USDA, Nutrient Database, the nutrient content of Asparagus is mentioned in Table 1.
Table 1: Nutrient content of Asparagus, per 100 gram edible portion (USDA, National Nutrient Database)
Long back in 5 BC, Hippocrates used to advise Asparagus intake for treating Diarrhea, dysentery and even urinary problems. It is indeed a good source of therapeutic benefits like-
Low calorie in nature-
Half a cup of cooked Asparagus provides a little amount of 20 cals. Thus, it can be consumed without any guilt extracting the maximum of health benefits and adding variety to the dishes.
Asparagus is known to be the highest source of glutathione, a protein that has the tendency to bind with heavy metals and assisting in its excretion through urine.
This helps in the removal of toxic substances and fastening up of the body metabolism.
Anti- Cancer properties-
Asparagus is a rich source of a unique protein known as Inulin, that does not get digested until reach the large intestine.
There, it is been utilized by the gut bacteria for its growth and flourishing. This gut microflora has been seen in preventing the risk of cancer by affecting the genes, producing Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA’s) and also, affecting tumor growth.
Good for Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT)-
As Asparagus contains a good amount of fiber and Inulin, it is responsible for:
1. Maintaining the healthy gut microflora
2. Improving the peristaltic movement of the GIT and also, the bowel movement.
Antihyperglycemic and Antihyperlipidemic effect-
Asparagus has a good amount of fiber that helps in the absorption of cholesterol and regulates blood sugar level as well from the body.
Similarly, Asparagus also has a good amount of bioactive compound- quercetin as well B vitamins that regulate the level of homocysteine (an amino acid) that can lead to heart diseases.
Asparagus is the treasure of innumerable bioactive compounds that help in reducing the risk of oxidative stress and associated disorders like diabetes and hypertension.
Some of them are glutathione, flavonoids. Also, vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E- which are natural antioxidants.
Good source of Folic acid-
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is an essential vitamin and crucial for brain development as well as functioning.
Asparagus has 52 mcg of folate which when consumes by expecting mothers, can help in avoiding the condition of neural tube defects in infants and improving the transmission process and better cognitive functioning with the formation of serotonin.
Use in forms like
It can be used as a salad or with pasta. It is also preferred in sauteed form as a side dish with meat dishes.
Green Peas (Pisum sativum)
These sweet, little pearls are also known as English peas, garden peas and ‘Matar’ in layman language. It is a common vegetable cooked in every house.
This green vegetable belongs to the Fabaceae family and is a good source of macronutrients like protein and fiber.They are also a good source of phytonutrients like carotenoids which imparts therapeutic properties.
Unlike other vegetables, green peas are a good source of protein due to its role in nitrogen fixation. Also, a rich source of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals as depicted in Table 2, that assist in regular functioning and sustainability of the body’s metabolism.
Table 2: Nutrient content of Green peas, per 100 gram edible portion (USDA, National Nutrient Database)
Assist in weight loss-
Green peas have considerably less amount of calories with 81 Kcal per 100 gram of raw form. Therefore, its consumption does not affect the calorie intake.
Also, it is a rich source of antioxidants that help in detoxification by removal of free radicals and hence, boost up the metabolism. The protein content of green peas is considerably high providing satiety value and preventing overeating.
Good source of Vitamin K-
It is seen that 100 gram of green peas contain around 44.2 mcg of Vitamin K, specifically phylloquinone. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient required for healthy blood circulation, preventing blood clotting. Also, it is a crucial vitamin required for healthy bone growth.
Antioxidant and Antiinflammatory property-
Green peas are loaded with antioxidants like flavonoids (catechin and epicatechin). Also, phenols like ferulic acid and caffeic acid. Green peas are also a rich source of Vitamins like E and C- which are natural antioxidants in nature.
All these compounds are responsible for removing free radicals, lowering the risk of oxidative stress, related inflammation and associated inflammatory diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, and arthritis.
Support blood sugar regulation-
Green peas are considered good for diabetics as these are low in glycemic index and therefore, slowly release sugar into the blood.
Also, being a rich source of Vitamin B complex and mineral like Magnesium, green peas assist in the efficient regulation of sugar metabolism in the body.
Use in forms like
It can be used as a side dish in various recipes like soups, salads, and sauces. Also, it is commonly used as a main dish in form of curries.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Italica)
Majority of us may disguise this vegetable because of its taste but its health benefits are undebatable giving it a place as a superfood. It is a green, branched vegetable with edible flower buds and belongs to the Cruciferous family to which also belong vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, brussels sprouts and collard greens.
Broccoli is considered one of the rich source of protein among vegetables. Along with that, being the concentrated source of phytonutrients and micronutrients, broccoli is considered the Powerhouse of nutrient and health benefits.
Table 3: Nutrient content of Asparagus, per 100 gram edible portion (USDA, National Nutrient Database)
This low-calorie vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients and bioactive compounds which imparts health benefits like
Assisting in weight loss-
A cup of broccoli contains around 2.3 grams of dietary fiber. Similarly, it is a good source of protein. Both of these nutrients are the key factors providing satiety value, that feeling of fullness which prevents overeating and also, speeds up the rate of energy expenditure in the body.
Anti Inflammatory properties-
Belonging to Cruciferae family, broccoli possesses the anti-inflammatory properties due to the high content of Isothiocyanates (ITCs), compounds made from glucosinolates which work at the genetic level, suppressing inflammation.
Also, broccoli is rich in flavonol known as Kaempferol, that reduces the impact of allergy-related reactions. Therefore, preventing chronic inflammation.
Broccoli possess good antioxidant properties due to
1.The high content of Vitamins like C, E and A
2. Minerals like selenium and zinc- that act in eradicating the oxidative stress procedure
3. Bioactive compounds- contain flavonoids like Kaempferol and quercetin. Also, concentrated source of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.
The compounds present in broccoli have been found to play the most crucial and active role in the phase-2 of the detoxification procedure. Here, these bioactive compounds and their components combine with the toxins for further excretion.
As above, we saw that broccoli exhibits the unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification process, it also reduces the prevalence of cancer especially prostate, colon, breast, bladder and ovarian cancer.
Promotes digestive health-
Studies have shown the healthy effect of broccoli on digestive health as
- Contains a good amount of fiber- that improves the peristaltic movement and bowel movement.
- Contains glucosinolates- that gets converted to ICTs, specifically, sulforaphane, that help protect the health of stomach lining by preventing harmful bacterial growth.
Use in forms like
It can be consumed in steamed, sauteed and baked form as well. Can be used as side dishes, soups or salad
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
A leafy vegetable of Compositae family is a cool- weather crop with sensitivity to extreme cold and hot temperature. It is an annual plant whose stems and seeds are also consumed along with the main leafy portion.
Originally, it has been cultivated in Egypt with the objective of oil extraction from its seeds.
Nutrient composition of Lettuce
Lettuce leaf is major water constituting a total of 92 percent. Along with that, it is a good source of micronutrients viz., minerals, vitamins and bioactive compounds as depicted in Table 4.
Table 4. Nutrient content of Lettuce (National Institute of Nutrition, 2017)
Rich source of Vitamins-
Lettuce leaves are the good source of micronutrients like
Vitamin C– a natural antioxidant thus strengthening the immunity. Also, ample amount of ascorbic acid is essential for healthy collagen synthesis.
Vitamin K– needed for healthy bone formation as well as blood circulation by preventing clot formation.
Vitamin A– lettuce leaves are an especially rich source of pro carotenoids- beta-carotene, which is a strong antioxidant. Also, contains a good amount of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Also, Vitamin A is essential for proper night vision as well as skins’ epithelium growth.
Heart protective properties-
Studies have suggested that lettuce leaves are very helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol from the blood due to folic acid content that diminishes the homocysteine level from the blood and preventing heart attack and strokes.
Also, lettuce is considered as one of the richest sources of omega 3 fats with the ratio of omega 3: omega 6 as 1:2, that helps in preventing plaque formation and hence, maintaining proper blood flow, viscosity and oxygen supply.
The extracts of lettuce leaves are found to contain enzymes- Lipoxygenase and Carrageenan, that helps in suppressing the ongoing inflammation reactions in the body.
Nerve-cell protecting property-
The consumption of lettuce leaves has shown to prevent disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, insomnia and reduce anxiety. This is due to its content of a compound called Lactucarium, which is similar to opium without any side effects.
Also, extracts from lettuce leave also help in preventing the destruction of the nerve cell by its role in Glucose/Serum deprivation.
There are plenty of vegetables around you that can make difference, providing you with health and protection against diseases.
Opt for different colored vegetables which are the rich source of pigments, bioactive compounds and health benefiting properties to have a disease-free life ahead.
Use in forms like
It can be consumed in forms like salads, in sandwiches, wraps and with soups. Also, it can be grilled with other vegetables.
Bitter gourd (Momordica charantia)
Also known as bitter melon, wild cucumber, karela, it is an edible pod, widely cultivated in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean islands.
It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family and derives its name from its taste which increases as it ripens.
While we have been abominating its taste, we’ve overlooked its nutrient treasure and therapeutic benefits.
The bitterness of bitter gourd can be reduced by
- Scraping off the outer, rigged surface
- Removing big seeds
- Treatment with salt, sugar, yogurt or tamarind pulp
It is a rich of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, that makes it a rich agent of health and therapeutic benefits.
Also, it is very low in calories and high in fiber that makes it a guilt-free food option, facilitating the feeling of fullness and avoiding overeating.
Table 5: Nutrient content of Bitter gourd, per 100 gram edible portion (USDA, National Nutrient Database)
Hypoglycemic property- Since ages, bitter gourd holds the renowned place for treating diabetes. This is because of the excellent content of phytonutrients.
A bioactive compound known as Polypeptide-P, which is considered as a plant-based insulin hormone, lowers the blood glucose level.
Also, it is a rich source of Charantin- a hypoglycemic agent which assists in glucose uptake and glycogenesis inside cells.
Rich source of Micronutrients– Bitter gourd is rich in vitamins that help in regulating various body functions-
Bitter gourd is a rich source of folates that improve the brain functioning and also, prevent the incidence of neural tube defects in infants. But it should be taken in moderation by expecting mothers as it stimulates the muscles if urinary bladder, that may result in preterm labor as well.
Bitter gourd has a good amount of ascorbic acid content which results in strengthening the immunity as it acts as a natural antioxidant, removing free radicals. Also, helps in keeping skin health intact and maintained, as Vitamin C is responsible for collagen synthesis and therefore, also helping with quick wound healing.
Vitamin B complex-
Contains a considerable amount of Niacin, pyridoxine and pantothenic acid, that assist with various enzymes and helping in smooth and normal metabolism.
Antioxidant property- Being a good source of phytonutrients like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, it possesses excellent antioxidant property. Also, vitamins like Vitamin C and minerals like Zinc and Selenium.
These compounds all together help in removing free radicals and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) from the body that prevents the hazardous consequences of oxidative stress like hypertension, diabetes, and Cardiovascular diseases.
Regulates blood pressure- Bitter gourd is rich in Potassium that helps in balancing excess sodium mineral and consequently, its excretion.
Eye health– Bitter gourd contains a good amount of Vitamin A and beta-carotene which strengthens vision, preventing eye-related problems like cataract.
Aids in digestion- Due to the high content of fiber, Bitter gourd assist in healthy digestion by stimulating peristaltic movement and bowel movement.
Use in forms like
Commonly, it is consumed in forms like stir-fry, soups, herbal tea. Also, in North Indian states, the Bitter gourd is consumed in veggie preparation and curries.