Vegetable food refers to a group of related plants with similar edible parts as well as reproductive parts like seeds, leaves and roots. Most vegetables are parts of green plants, which are consumed by human beings or other small animals. The original sense is still widely used and is now applied collectively to plants together with other edible vegetable matter to indicate all edible vegetable part, irrespective of their type. These edible vegetable parts are broadly categorized into three:
Raw Vegetables: These vegetables are cooked and serve as essential ingredients in so many dishes. The vegetable content may range from a few seconds to about 3 minutes. The most important nutrient for example is the vitamin A. Other important nutrients include Folic Acid, Iron, Carotene, Copper, Zinc and Selenium.
Dry Dishes: The dry form of these vegetables is known as sauces or gravies. The commonest forms of these foods are potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and corn. They are low in carbohydrates and high in protein and other nutrients. The popular American variety of potatoes is the red or white potato, which can be either boiled or fried and used as a vegetable in vegetable dishes.
Beans: This is another member of the legume family and constitutes about half of the total vegetable subgroup. There are two kinds of beans namely the red or kidney bean and the black bean. Both varieties are used both in soups and in stews. The black bean is considered better than the red bean in terms of nutrition and contains higher levels of antioxidants. Both the varieties are rich in protein, iron, folic acid, carotene, calcium and potassium.
Lentil: This is yet another legume group vegetable and accounts for about a quarter of the total group. It forms up to 70% of the beans and pulses category and has a very mild flavor. The main vegetable bean in this vegetable subgroup is the red or black bean. Lentils are low in fat and have a high level of dietary fiber. They also contain protein, iron, folic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium.
In brief, all the three main vegetable groups constitute nearly a quarter of all the calories consumed by people globally. More importantly, they supply a wide range of nutrients which can help in fighting health problems like obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer. Including more of these vegetable subgroups in the diet can therefore not only help in the control of health issues but also improve general well being. It is time that we collectively included more of these plant-based foods in our daily diets and reap the benefits of a longer life.