Eat Green for Improved Health—Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients, making them a good source of nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, fibre, folic acid and vitamins A, E and C among others. It is important to make healthy eating a lifestyle choice because much of local Ghanaian diets hardly provide all our daily nutritional requirements.
Increasingly, Ghanaians are being diagnosed with blood pressure or heart-related diseases. By eating potassium rich foods, one can maintain a healthy blood pressure. While there are dietary supplements for potassium, the best way to get requisite amounts of potassium, vitamins A, E and C is to eat fruits and vegetables such as—tomatoes, avocado or local pear, banana, spinach and beans.
The dietary fibre from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, may lower risks of heart diseases, helps flush out waste and gastric irritants and prevents constipation by keeping the digestive tract moving. Potassium and water in vegetables also help flush excess sodium out of the body while restoring the body’s normal fluid balance.
Though, vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, shallots, okra, eggplant, hot pepper, spinach and other leafy vegetables form part of Ghanaian diet, the portions are negligible for maximum nutritional benefits. To derive maximum nutritional benefits, one must eat fruits and vegetables in appreciable quantities and on a daily basis. This is necessary given the high carbohydrate content of local Ghanaian foods.
Healthy eating equals disease prevention; that is to say, eating volumes of fruits and vegetables helps prevent diseases occurring from nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, while it may be difficult initially to adopt a healthy eating habit or expensive in some cases, eating healthy certainly pays off in many ways than one.
For healthy living therefore, incorporate fruits and vegetables such as kontomire (cocoyam leaves), cassava leaves, moringa leaves, Aleefu ( Amaranthus leaves), Ayoyo (jute leaves), Bra leaves, cabbage, local spinach, water leaves (bokoboko), bitter leaves, baobab leaves, bean leaves and sorrel leaves (sobolo), oranges and banana. These widely available and relatively cheap from our local markets, but their contribution to your overall health is immeasurable.
Ingrid Adams of the University of Kentucky finds that dark green leafy vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids that act as antioxidants in the body. An antioxidant is very important to human health as it works to inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer principally, breast, skin and lung.
Other studies have found the benefits of fruits and vegetables to include the maintenance of healthy eyes or vision, boost immune health, reduce the risk of cancer and heart diseases, cataracts and muscular degeneration among others.
Given the benefits, the obvious challenge is not access or availability of fruits and vegetables perhaps; cost may be a challenge to some. But the biggest challenge is making the conscious lifestyle choice to eat more fruits and vegetables, yet we must. To be a healthy eater, you must become critical of the food on your plate.Therefore, healthy eating means becoming not only the “eater” of (consumer) what tastes good but also the analyzer of the nutritional content of what you eat.
By Victoria Awuni