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Sunday, December 1, 2002

Health Bites

Colours that are a must in your diet
Sukhdeep Kaur

Did you know?

  • An average serving of peas contains as much fibre as one-and-a-half slices of wholemeal bread.

  • The outer leaves of green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, contain the highest level of Beta-carotene, iron and calcium, but the inner leaves contain the highest level of vitamin C.

  • Boiling vegetables in lots of water can destroy 70% of the Vitamin C, to preserve vitamins, use cooking methods that require little or no water.

  • One kiwi fruit will provide almost 100% of the recommended daily amounts of vitamin C.

  • Research has shown that lycopene ó the natural pigment that gives tomatoes their red colour ó can reduce the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.

  • Spinach, alongwith dark green leafy vegetables such as Watercress, Cabbage, provide good amounts of several antioxidant which help to protect against illness and the effects of aging.

  • Fresh pineapple contains a substance called bromelain, a digestive enzyme that can break down proteins and can be used to tenderize meat. New research that Asparagus may help protect against heart disease.

  • Sweet potatoes contain more Vitamin E than any other low-fat food.

  • Cranberries or cranberry juice can help guard against urinary tract infections.

  • An average serving of broccoli contains over four times as much as Vitamin C as the serving of courgettes, aubergine or turnips.

PEOPLE who eat five portion of fresh fruit and vegetables a day stay healthy than those who donít. Thatís why health experts are encouraging us to eat more of these vital foods.

Eat five servings

The thought of fitting five servings of fruit and vegetables each day can be daunting because it sounds such a lot, but youíll be surprised how easy it can be to reach your daily target. A serving is only 80 g. Thatís roughly 30 g, half a cup or 3 tablespoonfuls of sliced or chopped vegetables. A piece of fruit ó for example a banana or half a grapefruit ó or a glass of freshly squeezed juice counts as one. Then if you eat a pear, apple or orange as a snack, thatís two servings sorted already. Award yourself three points for a side salad with your main course. Salad as a main course means a massive three points ó so youíve made it to five already.

Other ideas? A small head of broccoli or cauliflower counts as one. So does an onion or a couple of small carrots. A large jacket potato or a bowl of vegetable soup notches up two points each.

Fresh is best

Vitamins and minerals are easily lost if food is processed, canned, stored for too long or allowed to wilt. To get the best deal from your diet, make sure your food is fresh as possible.

Bright ideas

Colourful foods such as apples, oranges, bananas, blackberries, carrots, strawberries, broccoli and watercress are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids ó nutrients that help protect and repair our cells and tissues. The more colourful the diet, the less risk of heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. Scientists are checking out the recent finding that people who eat red foods several times a week have far lower rate of cancer. Remember the more colours there are in a meal, the nearer you will be to your five-a-day target. Fruitful action ó eat snacks of fruit and vegetables throughout the day to reach your goal.

Red and orange power

Tomatoes contain Vitamins C and E and small amounts of most B vitamins. They also contain the antioxidant lycopene and the flavonoid known as quercitin. Red kidney beans are good source of dietary fibre, folic acid (an important vitamin for pregnant women) and the antioxidant mineral. Selenium is necessary for a strong immune system and healthy arteries. Beetroot is a good source of folic acid and has long been used as a blood tonic, probably because of its iron content.

Strawberries have been found to destroy a number of nasty viruses; so a drink made with fresh strawberries might speed up recovery from colds and flu. They can also help reduce cholesterol, and may prevent formation of cancer ó causing chemicals called nitrosamines. Oranges are best known to be rich in vitamin C but also contain carotene and potassium. Recent study shows that an orange a day can be of real benefit in cutting risk of heart diseases.

Glorious green

Greens are great for goodness and there are plenty of appetising ways to prepare them. Broccoli and brussels sprouts are tops for beta-carotene, a type of Vitamin A associated with a lower risk of cancer. They also contain Vitamins B, C and E, and iron. Cauliflower isnít as rich in carotene as its green relations but still has plenty going for it, specially if you use the green leaves and stalks as well as florets. Courgettes are rich in Vitamin C and also provide iron, which is good for the blood and potassium, which helps with water balance. Leeks are a great fibre provider, helping to keep cholesterol down and maintain regular function. Leeks score well with iron, Vitamin C and E, carotene and folic acid too. Peas have plenty of Vitamins B needed for energy, and zinc which is essential for the immune system. They also contain iron and Vitamin C. Iron is absorbed more efficiently if Vitamin C is there to help.

Apples contain pectin, a gentle type of fibre that is good for digestive system and helps lower cholesterol. A kiwi fruit is even higher in Vitamin C than is orange and it also has iron and dietary fibre.

Golden yellow

Yellow foods such as lemon, sweetcorn, yellow capsicum, pumpkin and pineapple give good Vitamin C value to the diet. Try to include sweetcorn which, apart from its Vitamin C content, has plenty of Vitamins B and first class dietary fibre. This juicy vegetable is also used as a cereal. In some parts of the world itís known as maize or Indian corn. Pineapple is packed with Vitamin C, thereís twice as much in fresh pineapple as in the canned fruit and contains natural enzymes, which can help in digestion.

Colour tips

Red is healthy colour for food but, say psychologists, if we have a weight problem, we should avoid red or orange kitchen utensils or equipment and red napkins and plates and donít eat in restaurants painted red or orange. This colour encourages us to eat more, which is why some burger bars and cafes choose them.

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