Vegetables are an important part of human diet. The number of plant families we used to eat thousands years ago was greater than the restricted range we eat today. Ayurveda has dealt with vegetables under the classification of 'shaka-harita varga' in the eatables category, whereas the modern science incorporates every type of cereals, roots, tubers, leaves and nuts under the major head of vegetable food. The green vegetables consist of leaves, buds, young shoots and often the entire plant. They contain plenty of vitamins, certain proteins, cellulose and water. Roots and tubers can be stated a source of nutrients for the plant itself and may have different nutritional value for humans. Though some of the vegetables can be eaten raw, cooking of vegetables with reasonable amount of oil, ghee and the common kitchen spices is an established practice in most parts of the world.
Vegetables are a delightful way to lighten up a meal and they combine well with most other food items like cereals and grains. Being in general light and moist, they are some of the easiest food to digest when properly prepared. Like other eatables, ayurveda classifies vegetables as cool or warm and light or heavy. It means they can be used in a variety of ways to heal. The warming vegetables tend to be most advantageous for 'vata' and 'Kapha' and the cooling ones for 'Pitta'. Researchers have found that regular and more use of vegetables can help in preventing serious health hazards like cancer, heart disease and obesity.
Not only vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and many other essential nutrients, they are one of the natural foods for mankind which act as a good anti-oxidant agent. Iron is an essential constituent of our blood chemistry and is needed to maintain a healthy level of hemoglobin. Some of the vegetables like spinach (palak), lettuce (chukander), tomatoes and peas are a good source of natural iron and their regular use especially by women is a great nutritional help. Since vegetables are low in calories and to loose weight, one should while increasing the level of activity, escalate their consumption. Using them in main dishes and snacks in place of fried and fast food cuts the gain of calories.
Vegetables contain sufficient amount of fiber to keep the gut clean and healthy and it is best to get it from natural sources than taking in the form of pills and other supplements. Vegetables are also very low in the kind of fat linked to heart disease and they do not raise the cholesterol. Health scientists have shown their concern that due to the change in life style; the average Indian is now more prone to heart disease. An easily digestible diet made of simply boiled or freshly cooked vegetables with minimum amount of oil is the recommended way to keep body fit and healthy. Deep frying and using too much of oils negate many of the health advantages offered by vegetables. Frozen and canned vegetables should also not be consumed so frequently.
Cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin, capsicum, broccoli, green beans, spinach, mustard leaves, peas and tomatoes are some of the vegetables which have very good nutritional value. Apart from their consumption as a dish, some other of these like onion, garlic, coriander, mint, reddish and cucumber are also used as household health remedies. Due to the increased usage of the pesticides, all the vegetables should be sufficiently washed before cooking. Eating of salads and raw vegetables require more careful cleansing.