Fruits and Vegetables – Overall Importance and Individual Benefits/Uses
The Importance of Fruits and Vegetables
Growing up, we were all encouraged by parents and guardians to eat our fruits and vegetables. We were always told they were important and beneficial to us. However, while we all may know that fruits and vegetables are a crucial aspect of our diets, how many of us know why this is so? Below lists the reasons why fruits and vegetables are important and thus should be made a vital aspect of our diet:
1. They are low in unhealthy fats, calories, salt and sugar but are great sources of fibre and thus it keeps the body healthy.
2. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained in fruits and vegetables are such that regular consumption of them can reduce the risk of contracting diseases including certain types of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
3. Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables also helps to reduce and control persons’ blood pressure and cholesterol.
4. Fruits and vegetables, due to their high fibre content, are good for relieving and preventing constipation.
5. They aid in the prevention of cataract and macular degeneration (two common eye conditions), thus meaning they are good for our eyes.
6. They keep the skin, gums and teeth healthy.
7. Fruits and vegetables make it easier for individuals to manage their weight, as after consumption, they leave you feeling full, thus reducing your intake of other food.
8. They provide great boosts to the immune system.
Individual Uses and Benefits of Fruits
The above section provided the general reasons why fruits and vegetables are important. However, in this section, the individual fruits and their benefits will be presented, enabling persons to see the benefits of their favourite fruits as well as to show what needs to be eaten more! Please note that the lists may include both common and uncommon fruits but not every detail about each individual nutrient is presented. Fruits contain a wide variety of nutrients and minerals and this section a condensed and simplified version to illustrate the specific health benefits of each item. Also, before reading this article, have a look at our Vitamin and Mineral Guide, so you can be familiar with some of the vitamins and minerals mentioned in this article. Additionally, there may be certain unfamiliar terms within this article, so use the Glossary of Terms while reading this article.
ü Apples – good for heart and lung health and also prevent certain types of cancer. They improve digestion, help in the regulation of blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Apples are rich in Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and folic acid and also have antioxidant properties. The high mineral content in apples makes them great for healthy hair, skin and nails.
ü Avocados – contain oleic acid which helps to lower cholesterol; also high in Vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant. They also help to regulate blood pressure and are great for those on a plant based diet, as they are a good source of protein. Avocados are rich in Vitamin K which has been said to be good for bone health in elderly persons.
ü Apricots – can protect the heart and eyes and fight numerous diseases and are good sources of fibre. Apricots are great for those who suffer with anaemia due to its high iron content. They can also aid in the healing of wounds, getting rid of worms in the body and can treat various skin issues such as eczema and sunburn. They contain most of the B-vitamins, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
ü Ash gourd (better known as winter melon) – good for metabolism and is therefore used in treating obesity. It can also aid in treating urinary dysfunction and constipation. It is alkaline and maintains the ph of the body, while negating the effects of acidity in the body caused by acidic foods.
ü Baobab fruit – contains Vitamin C, calcium, iron and fibre, the latter of which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. This fruit also has antioxidant properties.
ü Bananas – high in potassium and help to maintain a good blood pressure. Also said to be good for the heart and high in energy (due to its Vitamin C, magnesium and potassium content). They are a good source of B vitamins which may help with insomnia and mood swings.
ü Blackberries – berries are the highest source of antioxidants in all fruits. These berries are excellent sources of Vitamin C, fibre, iron, calcium, manganese and potassium. Their rich potassium content helps to regulate blood pressure.
ü Blackcurrant – helps in the production of collagen in the body, which is the protein responsible for healthy skin. It is used to prevent varicose veins and to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Also contains anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties.
ü Blueberries – useful in the prevention of eye disorders (e.g glaucoma, cataract), heart disorders, varicose veins, peptic ulcers and cancer. The high flavonoid content means that blueberries have been associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. They also contain significant amount of tannin that can kill bacteria.
ü Cantaloupe – high in Vitamin A and rich in potassium, the latter of which helps to regulate blood pressure. Cantaloupe is also very low in calories which means it is great for weight management and it can also help those who suffer from eye disorders. Contains good levels of folic acid, Vitamin C and the B vitamins.
ü Chayote (also known as Christophene) – contains folate, Vitamin C and K, copper, zinc, potassium and manganese. It aids in lowering blood pressure, helps prevent bone loss and maintains healthy skin and thyroids.
ü Cherries – have anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They contain iron which helps to build blood and are also rich in Vitamins A and C.
ü Chokeberries – aid in circulation and in the strengthening of the heart and also protect the urinary tract. They have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties, the latter of which may help fight/reduce the risk of neurological diseases, diabetes and bacterial infections. Chokeberries contain folate, along with Vitamin A, C and E. They can also protect the eyes from age related macular disease in the elderly.
ü Cranberries – aid in relieving urinary tract infections and other inflammatory diseases. They are a diuretic fruit which means they can help flush out excess water from the body. The high Vitamin C content also gives cranberries antioxidant properties. Cranberries contain phytonutrients such as flavonoids that have been shown to be successful in protecting the body from heart disease, cancer, gum disease, stomach ulcers, liver diseases and other diseases.
ü Cupuaçu – contains a wide range of vitamins including the B vitamins. It helps stimulate the immune system, aids in healthier skin and hair, while also regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is good for the brain and the libido as well and has antioxidant properties.
ü Dates – good for overall well being, they revitalize the body and provide energy immediately upon consumption. Dates are rich in many of the B vitamins, offer protection against cardiovascular diseases and also have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties (specifically against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial lung and pancreatic cancer).
ü Figs – have been found to be effective in shrinking cancer tumours. They are high in potassium and fibre, which makes them good for regulating blood pressure. Figs have anti-seizure, anti-diabetic and anti-tumour properties and can also lower cholesterol. This fruit also promotes good sleeping habits.
ü Gooseberries – provide good sources of Vitamin A, C and other vitamins and minerals. They can help prevent constipation, colon cancer and heart diseases as they promote normal function of nerve cells, muscles and the heart (due to its high potassium content). Gooseberries are high in calcium, which makes it a good fruit for maintaining good bone and teeth health.
ü Grapefruit – high in vitamin C and thus is excellent in fighting symptoms related to the cold. It contains fibre and limonene, the latter of which may protect against breast cancer. It also contains Vitamins A, B5 and B6 and aids in boosting the immune system. Grapefruits have antioxidant properties can help to lower cholesterol.
ü Grapes – useful in protecting the good cholesterol in the body and prevents harmful blood clotting. They are also good for blood pressure and the heart. The skin of red grapes may help in resisting the development of cancer in the body. They provide a fantastic source of Vitamins A, B and C, are high in antioxidants and also contain potassium, calcium and iron.
ü Guava – has many health benefits. Contains Vitamins A and C, omega 3, dietary fibre, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
ü Honeydew melon – contains Vitamins B6 and C, potassium and fibre. It helps to regulate the blood pressure and is good for eye and skin health. Also has antioxidant properties and is good for pregnant women as it strengthens the immunity of both the mother and the unborn child.
ü Kiwi – contains Vitamins C, E and K, potassium and fibre, and the seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids. It can protect against respiratory disorders, reduce the risk of cancer, and also act as a detoxifying agent for the blood.
ü Lemons – are anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea and aid in digestion. They are very high in Vitamin C and may help to prevent breast cancer.
ü Limes – rich in Vitamins B6 and Cm folic acid, potassium and flavonoids. They have anti-cancer and antibiotic properties.
ü Mangoes – great source of Vitamins A and C, potassium and flavonoids. They are useful in maintaining a strong immune system and the regulation of heart rate and blood pressure. Mangoes also protect against certain types of cancer for example, colon, breast, leukaemia, and prostate. In addition to this, they help to maintain the alkalinity in the body, lower cholesterol, aid in digestion and they also have antioxidant properties.
ü Melons – have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties; also reduce the likelihood of strokes.
ü Olives – high in Vitamin E, olives protect against heart disorders and diseases, while also aiding in gastrointestinal health.
ü Oranges – high in vitamin C, they regulate blood pressure due to being rich in magnesium and potassium. They are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, provide a boost to the immune system and also contain calcium making them great for the bones and teeth. Oranges are also good for the skin and blood.
ü Papayas – have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, aid in digestion and can help reduce constipation. They are also high Vitamins A and C and potassium.
ü Passion fruit – this fruit can act as a pain reliever and sedative and can also treat constipation, cough, sore throat and diarrhoea. Passion fruit can aid in the recovery of those who have suffered from liver and kidney disorders, provide a boost to the immune system and increase the strength of antibodies in the blood. They also contain a variety of the essential vitamins and minerals and have anti-cancer, anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory properties.
ü Peaches – have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They are high in Vitamin A and potassium as well as niacin (Vitamin B3).
ü Pears – provide an excellent source of fibre, Vitamin C and potassium. They are effective in promoting colon health, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer. Pears are also good for energy and they have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
ü Persimmon – rich source of fibre and protects the eye from diseases. This contains Vitamins A and C, folic acid and potassium and also has antioxidant and anti-tumour properties.
ü Pineapples – aid in digestion and have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. They provide a good source of potassium, Vitamin C and iron and can also be used to rehydrate the body.
ü Plums and Prunes – contain Vitamins A and C as well as calcium. They act as a natural laxative and thus can aid in relieving constipations. Also, they have anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties.
ü Pomegranate – aids in reducing the risk of prostate cancer. It acts as an antioxidant and is very high in tannins and flavonoids.
ü Raisins – relieve constipation and aid in good brain, heart, eye, skin, dental and bone health. These can also help those who are aiming to gain weight. Raisins contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for good health including the B vitamins and have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties (specifically against colon cancer). They can also be used to stimulate the libido and induce arousal.
ü Raspberries – boost the immune system and act as a great antioxidant; contains iron, Vitamin C, potassium and niacin (Vitamin B3).
ü Rosehips – provide a rich source of Vitamins A, C, D and E, iron and calcium. These can aid in the reduction of pain caused by osteoarthritis and also have antioxidant properties. When used in tea form, it can help with cold symptoms. The seeds of the rosehip should not be eaten as they can irritate the stomach and mouth.
ü Strawberries – rich in antioxidants and protect against cellular damage in the body.
ü Tangerines – anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and also act as a diuretic and decongestant. Great for symptoms of the cold, aid in detoxification (due to its sulfur content) and also provide a good source of calcium, iron and protein.
ü Watermelon – rich in Vitamin C and A, potassium, magnesium and other antioxidants. They have a very high water content and also have anti-cancer properties.
As you can see, fruits are even more important than many of us realized. It is no coincidence that those who eat healthily tend to live longer and more fruitful lives (pardon the pun). If we have missed any fruit from our list, please let us know so we can include it in any future updated versions of this article.
©Article of Caribbean Dreams Magazine
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