Worldwide surveys have been done with regard to have a link between diet and health. A human diet rich in fruits and fresh vegetables is closely linked with a lowered incidence of diseases such as cataract, heart attacks, respiratory problems and even the cancers.
Vegetarians used to be considered as second rate humans as well as inferior in health status to non-vegetarians. But now a days vegetarian diet has been considered to be healthy compare to non-vegetarian. Life expectancy of vegetarians exceeds because the vegetarian diet (rich in vegetables and fruits) provides anti-oxidants which offer protection against free radicals. Vegetables and fruits also supply vitamins and minerals. Lack of vitamins produce deficiency diseases like night blindness, beri-beri, Parkinson's disease etc. Similarly, lack of minerals like iron and iodine cause anemia and goiter respectively.
Research in the field of nutrition suggested that minerals and vitamins play much vital role in promoting health and vitality. Important minerals are calcium, iron, copper, sodium, potassium etc. Their main sources are vegetables, (especially green vegetables), fruits, milk, carbohydrates, etc. Thirteen vitamins that can be consumed in food, play a vital role to regulate the biochemical reactions within the body cells in converting food into energy and living tissues. Some vitamins are manufactured in human body and remaining are supplied through food. Important vitamins are Vitamins A, E, C, D, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin K, Folic Acid, etc. Their sources are green leafy vegetables – carrots, amla, chillies, yellow fruits, citrus fruits. Vitamins are also found in sprouted grams, dals, milk, butter and other milk products, cod liver oil and fish oil.
The aim of present perspective is to highlight a wise strategy to consume plenty of vegetables including leafy vegetables and fruits, that have a number of health benefits and medicinal values.
Nature has bestowed upon us with a variety of vegetables to fulfill our seasonal requirements. Some such needs are met by "Cucurbitaceae" plant family mostly during summer season. Many vegetables like bottle gourd (lauki or ghiakadu), red gourd (kanshiphal), bitter gourd (kerala), wax gourd (petha), long melon (tur or kakri) and fruit crops like watermelon (tarbooj) and musk melon (kharbuja).
1. Bottle gourd or lauki
Embraces medicinal values and is a good source of mineral matter (Ca - 0.02%, P - 0.01%, Fe - 0.007%), vitamins (vitamin A in traces and vitamin B - 10 international unit per 100 g) as well as carbohydrates (2.9%) and to some extent proteins (0.2%) and fat (0.5%). It is used, for cooking as vegetable, preparing rayata in curd, pickles, pudding (halwa), pakora, kofta and pranthas. Lauki possess cooling effect and prevents constipation. Being easily digestible, it is prescribed during convalescence. Leaves in the form of decoction with sugar are used for jaundice. Its soil (prepared from seeds) forms an emollient application for the head and relieves headache. The pulp of the lauki can be rubbed on the soles of the feet and palms of hands to diminish the effect of the heat caused due to high fever.
2. Red gourd or kanshiphal
Is round or long in shape. Used for preparing pudding, pickle and pakoras particularly during Navratras and other days of fasting. It is one of the main vegetables used in marriage party and other occasional feasts especially in northern India as special dish known as khata or ambal. Seeds of red gourd are given to tape worm patients with sugar at night followed by a dose of castor oil. They are also being used with sugar and honey as diuretic in gonorrhoea and urinary diseases. Its pulp is often used as poultice for boils, carbuncles and unhealthy ulcers. The dried pulp is a remedy in haemorrhages from pulmonary organs.
3. Long melon
Either being used in salad or is consumed raw. This variety resembles with cucumber and forms an important article of food during hot weather. Long melons are nourishing and useful in quenching thirst. They are demulscent and cooling in effect. Locally, long melon are popular as tarh.
4. Bitter gourd or bitter melon (karela)
Is known all over India for its bitter and immature rigid fruits. Bitter gourd serves as a tonic, stomachic, stimulant laxative, wormicidan and good in rheumatism. Pulp, leaf juice and seeds are anthelminitic. Leaves act as galactagogue. The root is astringent. Consumption of atleast one tablespoon of bitter gourd juice daily helps to reduce blood sugar. One table spoon of amla juice with a cup of fresh bitter gourd juice if taken daily for about 2 months. Help to secrete insulin from pancreas. Juice of bitter gourd is also administered with little of common salt in small pox and chicken pox. Two teaspoons of juice with two teaspoons of white onion juice daily is helpful in preventing cholera. A cup of fresh juice with a teaspoon of lime juice taken empty stomach daily for 4-6 months is found helpful in blood disorders like boils, scabies, itching, ring worm and fungal diseases.
Three teaspoons of leaf juice with a glassful of butter milk should be taken every morning a month to reduce piles. Taking a teaspoon of root paste with teaspoon of honey every night for a month is beneficial in reducing bronchitis, asthma and pharyngitis, etc.
Can be eaten raw or cooked with any vegetable dish. Mild flavoured bulbs of onion are often preferred for salads. Onions have many uses as folk remedies. Recent information suggest that onions play an important part in preventing heart diseases and other ailments. These are good sources of carbohydrates (11.6%) and proteins (1.2%), as well as calcium (0.2 to 0.5%), phosphorus (0.05%) and traces of iron, copper, zinc and manganese. Carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, nicotinic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are also present in small amount. Onion is a rich source of phenolics, flavonols and sulphur containing compounds.
Studies suggest pungent onions can be harsh on social life but have a great potential for fighting cancer. Onion with the strong flavour are found to have the highest antioxidant activity. An excess amount of free radicals are believed to increase the risk of cancer. Onions are rich in 'quercetin' – a potent antioxidant that has been linked to protection against cataract and heart disease as well as cancer.
Onions are diuretic and emmenagogue in raw state. Roasted or otherwise, it is applied as poultice to indolent boils, bruises and wounds. Onion is also known to possess insecticidal, antibacterial, antifungal and hypoglycaemia properties. Onion oil is used to treat stomach ulcers, eye disorders, gastrointestinal disturbances, high blood pressure, intestinal worm and malarial fever.
Are excellent source of vitamins A and C, and good source of vitamin B1. Tomatoes also contain lycopene which makes the human bodies immune to the risk of diseases.
1. Ex-Associate Dean-Cum- Chief Scientist, KVK,SKUAST-J
2. MBBS ( Gold Medallist ), MS ( PGI Chandigarh), DNB, FICO and Advanced ICO (UK), FAICO
(All India Award Winner )