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The many wonders of fruits and vegetables

HEALTH is wealth, so do everything possible to stay mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy.

It is pleasing to see the growing consciousness about health in Malaysians.

I visited friends and neighbours for Hari Raya and saw fruits and vegetables served by the hosts. When dining out, you can choose to eat vegetables.

But alas, not everyone knows the wonders these fruits and vegetables can do. They are rich in nutrients, have a positive impact on blood sugar, keep appetite in check and help us manage weight.

They also reduce digestive and eye problems, lower blood pressure, prevent some types of cancer and reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke.

Some fruits and vegetables are richer in some nutrients than others. The key is to eat a variety of them.

To put these wonders in another context, take the role of oxygen in our life.

The metabolism of oxygen and other physiological reactions in our body forms free radicals. Interestingly, we have an internal mechanism to fight them.

In biology, we call these endogenous antioxidants. Catalase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase are examples of endogenous enzymatic antioxidants.

We have another category called endogenous non-enzymatic antioxidants like albumin, bilirubin, metallothioneins and uric acid.

Our body, however, cannot single-handedly remove the increasingly generated free radicals using its endogenous antioxidants battalion.

This underpins the oxidative stress that is responsible for the majority of maladies, such as ageing, atherosclerosis, arthritis, brain stroke, cancer, diabetes, immunological and incompetence as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

This is where fruits and vegetables come in handy. They are a good source of exogenous antioxidants to support our internal endogenous factors to protect against free radicals.

These exogenous antioxidants can be found in fruits and vegetables, which contain vitamins C, D, E and K, as well as B-carotene, flavonoids and minerals.

A high intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of death from cardiovascular diseases, according to the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, involving 110,000 respondents whose health and dietary habits were followed for 14 years.

Consulting a dietitian is a good step, especially for diabetics.

About Author

Dr. Idris Adewale Ahmed is a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Natural Products Research and Drug Discovery (CENAR), University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

By Dr. Idris Adewale Ahmed

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