The immense benefits of fruits and vegetables in our diets

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Diets which are rich in fruits and vegetables are widely recommended for their health-promoting properties. They are necessities which should be embraced by everybody as part of his/her life.

It is said that low intake of fruits and vegetables is among the top ten factors of mortality in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, where there is nutrient insufficiency from animal and diary sources, fruits and vegetables consumption is proposed as alternative source of micronutrients. They are recommended for their essential vitamins such as Vitamin A, B and C, key minerals like iron and fibre, among others.

Fighting diseases

Low consumption of fruits and vegetables accounts for increased chronic diseases such as heart diseases and strokes. The Wealth Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 2.6 million deaths could be averted by adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables.

When you visit our hospitals and health centres, most of the diseases that are prevalent can be attributed to low intake of fruits and vegetables. Many people are dying due to diseases such as high blood pressure, heart diseases, stroke, cancer, among others. This is said to be mainly due to the high intake of fatty and junk foods.

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We now have many fast food joints in our communities, which have made many people lose interest in ‘homemade’ nutritious foods.  Of late, many people, especially the youth, prefer manufactured foods to ‘homemade’ foods, and this is the cause of the high rate of diseases among them. It is therefore important for us to include fruits and vegetables in our everyday diet.

Some common fruits that come handy in our part of the world include apples, citrus, bananas, mangoes, berries, melons and avocados.

Vegetables also come in many forms and include leafy green ones such as lettuce, cabbage, kontomire, among others. Other forms of vegetables include onions, garlic, shallot, pumpkin, among others. Legumes such as beans and peas are also good examples of food known for their high nutritional values.

Fruits and vegetables are essential for our health because they are low in fat, salt and sugar. They are good sources of fibre that helps one reduce obesity and maintains a healthy weight. Their high fibre content lowers caloric intake and weight, manages and reduces risk of diabetes, constipation and colon cancer. They also help to normalize one’s cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

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Since vegetables and fruits contain phytochemicals or plant chemicals, they offer innumerable protective benefits to life.

Guidelines

Undoubtedly, different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients. The Australian dietary guidelines recommend that adults eat at least five kinds of vegetables and two kinds of fruits each day. While it does not attach specific number to how much fruits children should eat, it encourages that children be made to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.

The reason being that children have a smaller stomach capacity and higher energy needs than adults. They cannot eat the same serving sizes as adults. However, they need the minerals in fruits to help them get the energy they need to play, concentrate better, learn, sleep better and build stronger teeth and bones.

One’s safety in the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables in Ghana depends on how clean they are from farm to plate. As a result, I would like to encourage individuals to grow their own vegetables and fruits at home using container-gardens, where land is not available. In the same vein, fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before consumption.

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The WHO recommends per capita intake of 400g per day. This is equivalent to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. For adequate intake, in any state of health, guidance must be sought from a registered dietician.

Continuous efforts to monitor, identify, encourage and promote the multiple importance linked to adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables will go a long way to address the numerous health problems and improve the health of the nation. Let’s cultivate the habit of including fruits and vegetables in our diets and avoid the high intake of meats and fatty foods. This attitude will ensure that a healthy lifestyle is promoted so as to contribute our quota to the socio-economic development of the country.

The author is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). dorisawilliams212@gmail.com

 

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